Like so much of what we experienced and processed during the past year, our second issue of Pierless Bridges stands in defiant hope before all those challenges, illustrating how our communities have responded in faithful and intentional ways to the inescapable realities before us—the pandemic and the struggle for racial justice. Our offerings here align with the Lane Center’s bridging visions: Faith With Justice, Social Analysis With Reflection, and Contemporary Experience With Tradition.
We begin with examples of Faith With Justice and a reflection that illustrates the core work of the Lane Center and how we build bridges through our shared engagement in advancing Catholic social thought (CST). Written by Lane Center Executive Director Erin Brigham and Grace Salceanu, director of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center at St. Agnes Church in San Francisco, “Encounter, Discern, Respond: Enacting Catholic Social Thought Amidst COVID-19” describes how they came together with other laywomen in leadership roles at Jesuit institutions (University of San Francisco, St. Ignatius College Preparatory, St. Ignatius Parish, and the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center at St. Agnes Parish). The joined forces to build a weekly reflection series to encourage those connected to Jesuit parishes and schools to imagine justice amidst COVID-19 in the context of San Francisco and informed by CST. Here they offer insights gleaned from their journey accompanying each other.
We also lift up the work of the Lane Center’s affiliated faculty and fellows who take our work out to the world of viruses and racial injustice and bring it back to us transformed. Joe Nguyen, SJ, our Lo Schiavo Faculty in Residence, writes on “Ignatian Discernment in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” offering us concrete ways to engage Ignatian spirituality to make sense of and find a path forward through our times. Expanding our perspective, Barwendé Sané, SJ, a USF Jesuit Graduate Fellow from Burkina Faso, offers us a glimpse of his work recently published in the book Manuel d’éducation à la paix, à l’usage des formateurs en Centrafrique (and translated for us by Barwende) in the essay, Peace Education: A Model in Africa by Africans. Elise Dubravec, our intern from the Graduate Theological Union, has been active all year developing and promoting the work of the Lane Center. In “Women’s Experiences and the Jesuit Mission: Discerning the Next 10 Years,” she looks at the Universal Apostolic Preferences and raises provocative and insightful questions about the barriers to and possibilities for how they might be realized. Finally, we recognize the difficulties faced by all who labor by offering a “Workers’ Blessing,” created by Kimberly Rae Connor and used by the University of San Francisco Faculty Association to guide its efforts on behalf of labor justice and to ground these efforts in faithfulness to our mission.
Social Analysis With Reflection is expertly illustrated by USF sociologist and 2020-2021 Lane Center Justice Scholar, Stephanie Sears, who points us to the opportunities and obstacles in applying Ignatian thought to the fight for racial justice in “A Reflection on Healing, Anti-Black Racism, and Cura Personalis.” This article represents a full year of reflection and community building that Sears led with her faculty colleagues whose work advances the mission of the university as a site for social transformation. As our inaugural Lane Center Justice Scholar, Sears created a space to honor the labor of Black women faculty doing the heavy lifting of mission-integration. Their ongoing conversations culminated in a roundtable discussion on anti-Black racism in Jesuit higher education.
The Annual Lane Center Faculty Fellowship continued on Zoom this year with remarkable success. We feature the work of four of our 2020-2021 Fellows who each, from their own disciplinary and experiential perch, has developed a remarkable project in which scholarship, pedagogy, and service align to support our mission. Andrew Hobbs, assistant professor of Economics, and his students, Airah Balogun and Mutiu Fakorede, describe a study Hobbs shepherded that was proposed by Balogun and Fakorede, both students in USF’s International and Development Economics (IDEC) Master’s program. The two are Nigerian and, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been based in Lagos for the first year of their studies at USF. In “Colorism and Economic Opportunity in Nigeria,” the scholars seek to measure how skin tone affects others’ perceptions of attractiveness, intelligence, and earning potential. Picking up the banner for environmental justice is Beste Yuksel, assistant professor of Computer Science, who developed a research project that focuses on carrying out scenarios in virtual reality that would empower or encourage the user to take action on environmental justice to mitigate the effects of climate change and protect the environment. She describes her efforts in “Encouraging User Action on Environmental Justice Through Virtual Environments.” The final contribution of our Fellows describes the work of Associate Professor Kate Lusheck and Assistant Professor Noopur Agarwal, both faculty in Art + Architecture. They built a program that engaged their entire department in visually responding to and commenting on the events of 2020 by creating a series of postcards. Quarantine Connections: A Student Postcard-Making Project to Build Empathy & Community represents their department’s desire to help connect with their students by asking them to respond to the question “Where Are You?” through the powerful medium of the visual arts. Through a physical postcard art project and related class assignment, this departmental initiative offered students a creative outlet to express themselves and reflect on or process where they are in any sense — physically, emotionally, intellectually, creatively, and/or spiritually — in the midst of our difficult, remote environment this year and the collective and personal traumas and hardships we all experienced. The brilliant works of nine student artists are featured on the cover and throughout this issue to illustrate our narratives.
Contemporary Experience With Tradition is illustrated by two companion articles that describe one of the activities that has grounded us during our time of isolation and disconnection. We offer perspectives on the history of and the effort behind USF’s creation of a mission statement. In the first, we feature a conversation with Evelyn Rodriguez, Christopher Brooks, and Monica Doblado, the trinity of scribes who responded to the call to bring to our prior mission statement a current articulation of our principles and foundation in “Attention, Reverence, and Devotion: Inscribing Our Mission.” Our scribes were building on a legacy researched by Alan Ziajka, University Historian Emeritus, in “Historical Threads in the Mission Statements of the University of San Francisco.” A fuller version of Ziajka’s article, its sources, and all of USF’s prior mission statements are included in this paper’s appendices, which is available in the University of San Francisco Gleeson Library Scholarship Repository. The new mission statement will be shared in the fall 2021 semester, so stay tuned!
We conclude this issue of Pierless Bridges with another Ignatian reflection that also draws our attention to the affective power of our imaginations. The essay, “The Exercises and ‘The Creation’ Work That Matters,” from our Faculty Chair for Mission Integration, Kimberly Rae Connor, revisits a classic African American poem through the lens of Ignatian spirituality and invites readers to consider how they can participate as co-creators in this moment when we are called upon to lift up what matters. We also include a copy of the original poem, The Creation, by James Weldon Johnson, for your benefit and enjoyment. We hope our offerings will inspire and sustain you.