Ignatian Colleagues Program Participants Share Their Experiences

Banner on the campus of Antonio Ruiz de Montoya University (Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya – UARM), the Jesuit university in Lima, Peru (March 2019).

MISSION AND MINISTRY | Each year, LMU sends a cohort of administrators and faculty to participate in the Ignatian Colleagues Program (ICP). The ICP is a national program of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) that educates and forms university leaders more deeply in the Jesuit and Catholic tradition of higher education. The goal of the ICP program is to provide a solid intellectual foundation as well as opportunities for participants to personally experience and appropriate their significance to better articulate, adapt, and advance the Jesuit and Catholic mission of their campuses.

Jennifer Belichesky-Larson, associate dean of students, and Martina Ramirez, director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and professor of biology, recently completed the ICP as members of Cohort 11. They share some of the fruits of their experiences as participants in this transformative, yearlong program.

Jennifer Belichesky-Larson, Ed.D., writes:
In reflecting on my time in the ICP the first words that come to mind are: grateful, transformative and lifelong. When I arrived at the orientation, I must admit I was overwhelmed by the experience. Spending three days in a room filled with 60 colleagues hailing from Jesuit universities from across the United States was a terrifying experience for an introvert like me! I would like to say that it got better over the next few days and by the end I was transformed, but it didn’t work that way. By the end of orientation, I had made a few wonderful friends, met many others, learned quite a bit about the AJCU, but I wasn’t feeling very Ignatian and I was worried that I was not cut out for this. My misgivings about my ability to succeed in the ICP were soon diminished because over the course of the next 18 months, my life and my approach to my work began to change.

One of the most impactful moments was the weeklong silent retreat. For those who know me, being silent is not an action often associated with me, but, in the silence, I found a sense of meaning and belonging steeped in reflection and discernment that I had yet to experience in my life. So much so, that when I am feeling unmoored, I look back and reflect on my writings from that week and use them to re-center myself and reflect on what is happening in order to understand a way forward. This experience has provided me with an ability to share what I have learned with the colleagues and students I am honored to work with, especially when they are in crisis or trying to discern their own way forward.

Between the readings, the retreat, the immersive experience in Peru, and the relationships I developed along the way, I began to realize this program was not meant to be a race to the end and poof, ‘I understand what it means to be Ignatian.’ Rather, this is a lifelong journey of knowing and understanding that I would forever be learning about myself and my work in relation to the Jesuit ethos that serves as the foundation and framework for Jesuit higher education.

Bike riding
At the Jesuit Retreat House on Lake Winnebago, Oshkosh, WI (June 2019). As shown, aside from three chapels and large grounds to explore, they also have cruiser bikes on hand for retreatants to take out on the nearby roads, which Professor Ramirez did every day the weather was good. Being able to be outdoors while pondering spiritual matters was a great supplement to reading books about the Ignatian charism and spending time in the chapels.

Martina Giselle Ramirez, Ph.D., writes:
While I’m an LMU alumna (1981) and have worked at LMU for 21 years, being part of the ICP was my first in-depth exposure to the many aspects of the Ignatian heritage in education. Among the diverse experiences which make up the ICP program, the highlights for me were the international immersion trip to Lima, Peru, and the weeklong silent retreat.

More generally, as a result of ICP, the Daily Examen is now part of my morning routine, which I usually do while working out on a treadmill with my eyes closed at the Culver City YMCA (and no, I’ve never fallen off!). I’ve also learned to bring Ignatian discernment into the mix as I make major decisions.”