Just two short academic years ago, a new campus team was organized at Wheeling Jesuit University. Not a sport or
other competitive team but a Jesuit IdentityTeam.
Photo courtesy of Wheeling
“The new team was called together by former Executive Vice President Jaimie Birge during our campus self-assessment,” explained Jamey Brogan, Director of Campus
Ministry. “The purpose was to raise awareness among employees about our Jesuit mission and identity. The idea was to help everyone to understand our common goals
and history, especially new employees and those not aware of the mission.”
Highlights have included lunchtime meetings on a variety of topics like “Being Jewish on a Jesuit Campus” or “More Than a Job,” drawn from articles in “Conversations”
and other Jesuit magazines. Another employee offering was a “Retreat in the Real World,” an Ignatian-style retreat, based on the Spiritual Exercises, for people working and
carrying out their regular professional duties.
The "Retreat in the Real World" is actually Creighton University’s Online Ministries Ignatian retreat in book form, published last year by Loyola Press. Retreat
participants met biweekly in small group (four groups total) for the entire academic year.
Employees appreciated the program and felt it built community, according to one of the facilitators, the Rev. Harry Geib, SJ. “The retreat was structured to purposely mix
up groups of employees with Jesuits, faculty and other staff that they would normally not be involved with,” said Geib. Participants appreciated the opportunity to meet
regularly in a small group to share their experiences. For many, this was their first exposure to Ignatian prayer.
Another Mission and Identity initiative has been advertising. The group designed and printed posters presenting key elements of Jesuit mission and thought in an
attractive, quick-to-read way. These are now prominently displayed across campus. The posters have elicited positive responses from students, employees, and off-campus
Melissa Rose, interim director of human resources, has been involved with the Mission and Identity Team since it began.
“I was excited to see this team get started and I am happy to be a part of it,” said Rose. “Employees benefit from the sense of community and shared mission that the
Jesuit identity brings to our campus and many employees have told me that this new initiative is a plus.”
St. Clairsville, Ohio, resident Jane Neuenschwander, Instructor in the Professional Education department, has worked at the university for about 14 years. She grew up
as a member of the United Church of Christ and became a Mennonite through marriage.
She took part in the summer 2010 Jesuit Saturdays book club, held weekly on the WJU campus. The summer meetings were offered to all employees as they
read the popular book of the same title written by William J. Byron, SJ. It attracted about a dozen readers who got together to chat about the book in a causal setting.
“Not being a Catholic myself, I had questions about what made things Catholic or Jesuit, and this book club helped me sort it out,” said Neuenschwander. “It’s kind of
like a square and rectangle, every square is a rectangle but not vice-a-versa and every Jesuit is a Catholic but not every Catholic is a Jesuit.”
“It was very interesting to see the fine line between the two and discover the similarity in all Christian faiths," continued Neuenschwander. "Truly the bottom line is that
following Christ binds all of us together in our Christian walk. It sounds simple but it isn’t. I especially enjoyed hearing Father Jim O’Brien’s experience. I can see why alumni
like visiting with him and students enjoy his class.
“It’s nice to know that this university is doing its mission, making men and women reconnect with what God has to do with their lives,” she said. “I enjoy the Mission and
Identity series because it made it clear what we need to be about here at WJU.”
Greg Sheperd, who has been employed for nearly 13 years in the university's Information Technology department is convinced the Mission and Identity team is a key
component to employee participation in the campus community.
"We work in an institution that teaches the importance of life-long learning," said Shepard. "Whether we are new employees or seasoned veterans, we are all still
growing as individuals, and as a community. This team provides a channel for that growth while at the same time keeping us all focused on the Wheeling Jesuit
"After being a part of this team, I feel more connected than ever to the campus community. I look forward to the continuing discussions on current topics that offer
employees a chance to reflect. This better prepares us to meet the challenges and distractions both in our jobs and our personal lives. The end result is a better educational
experience for our students."