Mission possible

Executive Dean of Education and Arts Professor Mary Ryan recently attended a seminar at the Institute for Administrators of Catholic Higher Education and was asked, “What have you done for justice today?” Here’s a reflection article:

Considering mission at ACU is a daily undertaking. It is a lens for decision-making and practice. However, trying to articulate what our mission means at ACU is not quite so simple. Maybe that’s because Catholicism has very different spiritual traditions or maybe it’s because Catholic moral teaching changes over time. Or maybe, it’s because part of the Catholic intellectual tradition is entering the world’s largest conversations with a diversity of perspectives and seeking ideas that lead to human flourishing.

These ideas prompted deep reflection when I had the privilege of visiting the Institute for Administrators of Catholic Higher Education (IACHE). Professor Andrew O’Neil, and I accompanied Fr Anthony Casamento to a week-long seminar for leaders and administrators in Catholic higher education which is hosted annually by Boston College in the USA and where Fr Anthony would be one of the presenters.

It was very intensive and covered a range of topics around faith, ethics, catholic intellectual tradition, and even the expression of emotion through music. Luckily, I wasn’t called upon to do an interpretive dance.

I was, however, asked, “What have you done for justice today?” This was a powerful question which I keep revisiting in my daily work.

Before attending the Institute, we had considered how to demonstrate mission in the Faculty and have worked with DVC Ethics, Professor Hayden Ramsay on how we place human flourishing at the centre of our strategic plans. This was a great start.

But I was reminded at IACHE, that mission happens through people not through documents… so I’ve been reflecting on ideas posed at the seminar about connecting with staff and students on mission. Some of those ideas included: meeting them in the place of their own questions; talking about issues that are relevant to them; asking nagging questions; confounding them; and sharing doubts.

It was wonderful to feel part of a very large network of Catholic colleges and universities grappling with the ways in which to enact mission in their context, sharing different approaches and discussing challenges. There is no blueprint for this work.

Some of the wider connections and partnerships made from visits at the NYC and Boston universities are already being put into place, with a planned visit to our Brisbane campus in January 2024 from the Dean of Education, Boston College. Fordham University (NY) is interested in establishing opportunities for their students at ACU, including those at our Rome campus.

We all have responsibility to contribute to our mission at ACU:  regardless of our faith, we can promote care, respect, human dignity, compassion, social responsibility and furthering the common good.  

So, “What have you done for justice today?”


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