Their Paths Entwined
Emerging from the Basque Country’s sun-drenched hills is the sprawling Sanctuary of Loyola. Dominating the broad façade, the great dome of its basilica, with its fenestrated lantern reaching toward the sky, heralds the treasure that lies just beyond. Before the triple portico, visitors congregate on an open plaza, while behind the complex, an expanse of green lawns and paved pathways stretches toward the hills beyond.
On the third floor of what is described as “the heart of the sanctuary” is a small room, converted into a chapel. A sign above the entrance reads AQUI SE ENTREGO A DIOS IÑIGO DE LOYOLA: “Here, Ignatius of Loyola surrendered himself to God.” This is the Chapel of Conversion, and it is the first stop on “the Pilgrimage” for the Boston College Board of Regents, an advisory group composed of leaders among BC’s alumni, parents, and friends.
The Pilgrimage, which traces Ignatius’ 1522 journey from his birthplace in Loyola eastward across Spain en route to Jerusalem, is not new to Boston College—University leadership, Trustees, professors, and students have been traversing its 650-kilometer Spanish leg for almost a decade—but June 2018 marked the first excursion made by Regents.
Kathy ’83 and Mike Cote ’83, P’07, ’09, ’11, ’17, co-chairs of the Regents’ Committee on Leadership Development, reflect on their experience: “It’s the difference between talking about something, reading about something, and actually experiencing that something,” says Mike. “It changed my life at the core and had a profound impact on my understanding of Jesuit theology, my connection to Boston College, and my connection to God. To see where St. Ignatius was born, to see the chapel where he underwent his conversion, to see the cave in Manresa where he wrote The Spiritual Exercises—which I now carry with me on my travels—the reality hits you in a way you can’t imagine.”
Commitment to an ideal is what makes Boston College Boston College.
MARY RATHER ’82, P’10, ’12, ’14, ’17, FORMER REGENTS’ COMMITTEE ON FORMATION CO-CHAIR
Kathy recalls “walking through the holy house where St. Ignatius was taken after his injury; it’s a very rustic, old, simple place, where a person who has profoundly impacted the lives of millions of people through education was converted to having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. When he was lying there recovering, he had no idea of the road ahead or what the destination was. That’s the takeaway for us as Regents. It’s not immediately clear how we alumni, parents, and friends on the Board of Regents will positively impact a dynamic university like Boston College, but by collectively working, bringing our faith and ideas to the table, something great is going to percolate out of it.”
The Pilgrimage was designed to instruct Regents in the origin of the Jesuit order through a spiritually and historically immersive initiation; a symbolic foundation of their regency.
“The Pilgrimage taught me that if you are going to be a Regent, if you’re going to do it, you have to make a commitment,” says previous Regents’ Committee on Formation co-chair Mary Rather ’82. “Commitment to an ideal is what makes Boston College Boston College. It’s how students differentiate themselves, to be men and women for others and set the world aflame. It’s not just words on paper. It’s very serious, and I felt it throughout the entire trip.”
A Regent’s charter is trinitarian in nature. In their work as advisors, ambassadors, and benefactors, Regents must harness both vocational expertise and love for Boston College into tangible outcomes: events, programming, and direct investment into the most strategic University priorities. Each board member serves on advisory committees that devise strategies and recommendations for key thematic areas of the University such as financial aid, formation, global engagement, integrated science and society, and leadership development. True to the Ignatian way, the Regents have proven to be contemplatives in action.
Already, their recommendations have yielded actions that have enriched the BC community. Among the fruits of their labor is Timeout, an experience designed for BC alumni and parents modeled after the undergraduate retreat, Halftime. Like its inspiration, Timeout is an invitation to step back and engage in quiet contemplation. “Timeout was directly influenced by the reflection we practiced on the Pilgrimage,” says Mary’s husband, University Trustee and previous Regents’ Committee on Formation co-chair, Jon Rather ’82. “Formation really is the secret sauce of the Jesuits, and what makes BC distinctive from other universities. The committee was thrilled when BC followed our recommendation to pilot and repeat Timeout.”
Ignatius set course for Jerusalem on horseback. His destination was specific, but his path remained open to grace. Today, a neatly drafted line on a map presents that path as though it were somehow obvious; inevitable. But the Regents know better. Pilgrim, Board of Trustees vice chair, and Board of Regents chair, John Fish, P’13, ’18, avers, “Years from now, Boston College will reflect upon its stature as the premier Jesuit, Catholic university in the United States and identify the assembly of the Board of Regents as a most significant event leading to that achievement. Though the course remains to be charted, the board is poised to confidently embark into that unknown, fortified by a deep appreciation for our University’s heritage and potential for good in the world. For some of us, it started in a humble chapel in Spain.”
Convened in November 2017, the Board of Regents counsels and supports the president and Board of Trustees on strategic priorities essential to the future of the University. Chaired by John Fish through its first two years, the board is grounded in the ideals of Jesuit higher education and the mission of Boston College, exploring the value of the University in the world today and its impact on the world tomorrow. The 98-member board will convene for the third time in November, when Marc Seidner ’88 and Sue Martinelli Shea ’76, P’04, will take the helm as co-chairs.
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