University of Manitoba, St. Paul’s College rector Chris Adams

Ignatian principles drive St. Paul’s program

  • October 22, 2020

At a dinner honouring student leaders at the University of Manitoba, St. Paul’s College rector Chris Adams had a very Ignatian and Jesuit moment. Adams thought to himself, “What more should we be doing?”

“I realized we weren’t really (doing enough). We were letting down our students. The University (of Manitoba) was providing a secular leadership program, which is fine, but I realized we were letting down our students,” Adams told The Catholic Register. “I realized we weren’t doing anything in terms specifically relating to leadership.”

Thus was born St. Paul’s new Ignatian Leadership Program.

Jesuits and other followers of St. Ignatius of Loyola call Adams’ question about what more he and his Jesuit-affiliated college could do “the Magis.” Anyone who has completed the 30-day silent retreat known as the Spiritual Exercises will have confronted St. Ignatius’ question, “What more can I do for Christ?” It’s a question that can be applied to every aspect of life, and as a principle it will be one of the foundations of St. Paul’s Ignatian Leadership Program.

The other bedrock Ignatian principle at the centre of the new program will be Cura Personalis. It means care for the whole person, and it’s a concept which has driven five centuries of Jesuit education.

The leadership program at St. Paul’s isn’t an academic curriculum. Nobody will graduate with a certificate or diploma in leadership, even if one or two aspects of the program might involve for-credit courses. Rather, the program is a way of recognizing and boosting the many on-campus activities that foster and form future leaders.

“It’s all voluntary,” said Adams.

On graduation, students who have completed all aspects of the program will receive a “recognition document,” Adams said.

In this first year of its operation, Adams is hoping to attract six to 10 students.

“It’s starting small and it will probably remain fairly small,” Adams said.

“They will be in all different courses. There will be some engineering students; there will be political science students and things like that. So it’s to develop a peer community there.”

To complete the program students will have to either undertake the Spiritual Exercises under the direction of the pastoral staff at St. Ignatius Parish in Winnipeg or enrol in the Jesuit history course offered as part of St. Paul’s Catholic Studies program. If students enrol in one of the many service learning courses offered at St. Paul’s that will also count toward the Ignatian Leadership Program. Getting involved in student politics, joining the debating society or signing up for Toastmasters also counts. Taking up volunteer roles in student athletics, from athlete to organizer, is encouraged. Getting involved in campus ministry and volunteering with student organizations is expected of the future leaders. Volunteering with student media — the Paulinian student newspaper of St. Paul’s College, The Manitoban student newspaper serving the whole University of Manitoba campus or UMFM, the campus radio station — is also a possibility for students in the program.

Each term there will be a half-day workshop for participants in the program.

“Four years from now, I’m hoping there will be some students who come out of this program feeling ‘Job well done,’ ” Adams said. 

In the Ignatian tradition, the new program won’t be priming the pump of career success. Ignatian leaders will be people who serve and help others.

“We feel that it’s part of our mission as a college in the Jesuit tradition to be doing service for others,” Adams said.

There are about 850 students enrolled this year at St. Paul’s, down from their usual 1,100. COVID has played havoc with the college’s usual on-campus recruiting, but Adams is certain the college numbers will be back up soon. About 400 students are enrolled in the St. Paul’s Catholic Studies program. St. Paul’s is home to the Near Eastern and Biblical Archaeology Laboratory (NEBAL), established in 2010. The Arthur V. Mauro Institute at St. Paul’s runs one of the most extensive peace studies programs in the country. 

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