Its challenge for the next 100 years is to stay true to this mission while adapting to a world that is more and more a global village.
Marking its centennial in 2017, the only Jesuit undergraduate college in Canada will continue the 450-year Jesuit tradition of “forming men and women for others,” said Fr. John Meehan, the school’s president, but within the realm of the new global reality.
“We’ve always done that in Campion High School, Campion College here at the university, but what that looks like in the future is going to be a little bit different because of course now we’re in a global village and our students realize that,” said Meehan. “So the idea of forming global citizens is really important.”
A quick look around the U of R campus gives a glimpse of this reality. International students comprise about 14 per cent of the student population while another 13 per cent of students are from First Nations’ backgrounds. (One of the colleges federated with the University of Regina is the First Nations University of Canada, established in 1976 to serve the academic, cultural and spiritual needs of First Nations’ students.)
“The environment we function in is one of diversity,” said Meehan.
The key is to embrace that diversity, he said, and prepare students for that reality. It’s not a novel approach. The Jesuits have always sought out finding God in the other, and Campion is no different. But Campion has embedded in its strategic plan its aim to create community and to be a welcoming space for people of all backgrounds.
One program that has been successful is the monthly social hosted by the college. One evening a month, a different group is invited to share its experiences with fellow students. Muslims, Syrian refugees and First Nations’ students have been among the groups to open up about their experience.
“The people who have really taken to this are the international students,” said Meehan. “A lot of them are far from home, lonely, they have to deal with culture shock, make new friends, all the expectations they have from families back home. So they’ve really appreciated a place where they can come and find community.”
Pope Francis, a Jesuit, helps spread this idea of connecting to the wider community, both locally and worldwide, said Meehan. Francis’ way is new to a Church that has been seen as one preaching top down. This Pope, however, is entering into people’s lived experiences.
“Having a Jesuit pope helps because in a way Pope Francis lives out that mission by promoting a culture of dialogue and encounter.”
Connecting worldwide means Campion is also being more intentional as to what it is as a Jesuit institute of higher learning — finding God in all things, caring for the whole person and forming graduates with a genuine concern for the world in which they live. One of the ways Campion is promoting that is through collaboration with the worldwide Jesuit network, in particular the 120 post-secondary Jesuit institutes across the globe.
“We’re only just beginning to be part of that network in a meaningful way,” said Meehan.
Student and faculty exchanges will play a key part in these partnerships.
“The more we do that the more it will reinforce our identity here.”
Locally, Campion has always had a strong relationship with the Archdiocese of Regina — Campion’s legal name is The Catholic College of Regina. Archbishop Donald Bolen is a Regina native and part of the Class of ’82. He has also taught at Campion.
The college is also well-connected with the local Catholic school system, in particular Mother Teresa Middle School, which provides an enhanced education for Regina’s vulnerable inner city youth, most of whom are First Nations. Its first graduates will soon be of university age and the college is raising funds for scholarships, as well as hosting students regularly to give them a sense of university life.
Furthering its work with First Nations, Campion is a strong proponent of the Jesuit priority in seeking reconciliation, said Meehan.
“Reconciliation is one of those terms we rarely define,” he said. “People use it and it means many things but it seems to me the Catholic tradition has something to add to that discussion on what reconciliation is.”
So Campion has set up an advisory board to respond to the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that examined the Canadian tragedy that was the Indian residential schools system.
Meehan can’t stress enough this “Jesuit brand” of providing an academic vision with a focus on ethical values and being open to the other.
“If you can’t find that at university, where can you find that? University is the place to be exposed to this and that’s what we’re trying to provide to our students.”
(Conlon is a freelance writer in Regina.)