Mission Examen Assesses Seattle U’s Jesuit Values

Seattle University religious leaders are currently spearheading the Mission Examen, a report which will eventually make its way to the headquarters of the Vatican for analysis.


The university has been undergoing a review of its Jesuit mission along with four other Catholic institutions this year. Representatives from Loyola Marymount University, John Carroll University and Creighton University visited the Seattle U campus on Feb. 16 and 17 in order to assess our school’s mission.

A formal written report will be released in the next two weeks, but the representatives’ initial findings declared they were impressed with the amount of mission-centered activities our university has to offer.

You may have seen the term “Mission Examen” pop up in your Seattle U email recently, but many students remain unsure as to what, exactly, this means in tangible terms. Essentially, the Mission Examine determines whether or not Seattle U is fulfilling its Catholic Jesuit purposes.

As of now, five “mission challenges” have been identified: the university’s budget cuts, recognizing that the activism of the students and faculty is an expression of the mission, paying more attention when hiring staff that fit in with the school’s mission, maintaining commitment to the Catholic character and lastly, procedures of mutual listening.

Fr. Peter Ely, S.J. is the head of a committee, alongside thirteen other committee members in charge of this reflection process.

“It has been a very invitational process and an encouraging process. They want to help us be better at integrating our Catholic and Jesuit vision,” Ely said. “They’re not out to criticize us. I think they can see we’re making great efforts, and they know there are great challenges.”

The process will be completed around June. It will then be sent to Fr. Scott Santarosa, S.J., and after that, to the superior general of the Jesuits in Rome. Eventually, the report will reach the Congregation for a Higher Education of the Vatican.

President Fr. Stephen Sundborg, S.J, said the Examen helps put Seattle U in the context of other Jesuit universities.

There are 28 Jesuit universities in the U.S., and each partakes in this Mission Examen every five to seven years.

“I decided we wanted to do it this year because this is our 125th anniversary and therefore I thought it connected in with our being founded as a Catholic and Jesuit University and a good time to look at our mission,” Sundborg said.

He said it will also help Seattle U focus and give a better understanding as to where the school should be investing, whether that be campus ministry, leadership, orientation of faculty, the school of theology and ministry, or others.

“We’re always trying to weigh a little bit about what we should be investing in and where we should be putting more resources,” Sundborg said. “This should help us see where we need to be investing more financially in things that will make a difference for us.”

The Examen process will allow Seattle U to receive input from not just members on campus involved in the study, but other universities as well.

Seattle U’s Jesuit mission in large defines the school and all that it aims to represent. An event was held in the Campion Ballroom on Feb. 21 to discuss the successes and challenges of living the mission today. Students, faculty, leaders of the area and alumni were present to converse about how the university is living out its Jesuit Catholic Mission.

Hauxeen Newman is a graduate of Seattle U who attended the event.

“There’s the realization of no matter where you come from, you also bring the social teachings of the church. This just augments that and our ties back to Seattle University,” Newman said.

During the event, Jesuit community members discussed topics of consolation and desolation. While this event was not directly involved with the Examen process, it paralleled what was going on with the Examen.

“Out of this process should come three or four priorities which will be steps that we think we need to take in order to move forward,” Ely said. “And they will probably be the basis for some planning on the part of the university as it moves forward around integrating our Jesuit Catholic Mission into the life of the university.”

The university is known for its strong commitment to social justice, but it is seen as weak by some students and faculty when defining the foundation of that in the Jesuit Catholic values.

“People don’t understand how they come out of a Catholic and Jesuit value system. An area we could improve is to help make that connection for people,” Sundborg said. According to those involved in the Examen process, Seattle U upholds a strong reputation, but there is always room for further improvement.

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