Monthly Archives: March 2015

Holy Week: Death and Resurrection – The Call to Transformation

Since we had such a positive response from her last guess post, which discussed active nonviolence, we would like to feature another essay by IPS student Charissa Qiu. She wrote a reflection on the Eucharist and the call to transformation. With the final week of Lent just beginning, let us reflect about why we made certain sacrifices during this season and what it means for us as we approach the celebration of Easter.


Holy Week: Death and Resurrection – The Call to Transformation

As we enter into Holy Week, we prepare to commemorate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. During this period of Lent, we may have found various ways to prepare ourselves, through various practices of prayer, penance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Each year, we hear of many people who abstain from sweets, or from watching television, and the question we would like to put out to everyone is – what is the purpose of, and the intention behind your abstinence? How does that tie into the commemoration of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection? What does this period of Lent and the celebration of Easter mean to us, as partakers in the Eucharist?

Jesus loved to speak in parables, as parables had the ability to draw the listeners in by their relatability, and then flip the story on its head with a conclusion that was unexpected, to help the listeners to overcome their ‘blindness” and “deafness” – the hardness of heart, and misunderstanding of what the meaning of the Kingdom of God. In the same way, as we partake in the Eucharist, we are called to a similar transformation – into a conversion of heart and mind that is in line with the character and passion of God. Our celebration of the Eucharist is meant to be celebrated alongside our baptism into the participation of the mission of Christ, a celebration of transformation – an ongoing process of death and resurrection.

Transformation is never comfortable. The human ego prefers stability and comfort, where there is certainty and familiarity. Transformation calls us to the opposite – it calls us to embrace discomfort, challenge and uncertainty. This is what we say “Amen” to when we receive Holy Communion, and this is what we are called to especially during this period of Lent. We come to the Eucharistic table hungry – hungry for a new world that knows compassion and works for justice. Hunger reminds us of our human dependency on each other. Let us use our physical hunger as a point of reflection – when we are hungry, we may go to a restaurant, or to the grocery store to fill that hunger. Without the chefs, the workers in the store, the truck drivers, and the farmers, we would not be able to fill that hunger. This is a simplistic and tangible example of our human dependency – having the financial means to purchase the food is not enough to fill that hunger – we need each other. That same hunger and mutual dependency needs to be channeled into a hunger for justice in the world, not just for ourselves, but for everyone. Just as Jesus is our sustenance, we need to be sustenance for each other.

The bread and the wine that we consume as nourishment goes through the process of being crushed, destroyed, and is then transformed, a symbol of the death and resurrection we are called to partake in our consumption. To be in right relationship and full communion with each other and God, we need to go through a process of transformation in how we perceive and treat each other. For true transformation to happen, there needs to first be a breaking down, before there can be a building up. We have grown up in a world that segregates and oppresses, and we have undoubtedly been influenced by the values and perceptions of the world. We are called to die, slowly and surely, to these attitudes and beliefs that create disharmony and violence in our world, and rise to interactions and engagement with each other that promotes peace and unity. In our world of individualism where we are taught that wealth and status are determinants of success, we need to die to our ego’s need to control, and to be recognized and praised, and rise to humility, the embracing of mystery and grace, where we work for the collective, and recognize there is no such thing as “private sin,” because we are all interconnected. For true transformation to happen, we need to practice letting go and letting God, just as Jesus said in Luke 23:46, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”


Join the conversation by following @BrianSchmisek on Twitter and @LoyolaIPS on Instagram! Also, network with the Loyola Chicago IPS community on LinkedIn.

RECongress Wrap-up

At IPS, it is about working hard and having meaningful conversation, all while enjoying the company you are with. During this year’s Religious Education Congress, a few of our team members showed exactly how that is done!

IPS was well represented this year by our Director Brian Schmisek, Enrollment Advisor Chrissy Sofranko, Coordinator of Parish Leadership and Management Programs Mark Bersano, and Coordinator of Student Services Koonal Patel.

For everyone, the main goal of the event was to get as many people as possible interested in IPS. The numerical goal was set at 80 new prospects, and by the end of the second day, they achieved that goal! Moreover, by the end of the third and final day, our IPS team had almost 100 new prospects!
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“We wanted to have really engaging interactions with people who came to our booth. We wanted them to leave remembering us more than any other university they interacted with,” commented Chrissy. “Being in the booth with Koonal, Mark and Brian is a lot of fun. We are all extraverted and energetic, so we created interactions that made us memorable to the participants.”

“Talking to the prospective students also gives us a chance to discern what they are looking for career wise and if IPS would be a good fit for them,” added Koonal.

Mark and Brian also made it a point to showcase the new programs at IPS and connect with alumni and friends who attended. It was also important for them to network with people that IPS could create potential partnerships with in the future.

The annual RECongress event is indeed very beneficial to IPS.

“It has been the most successful RECongress we have ever been to in terms of the number of people who stopped by our booth, the number of people who liked us on Facebook, the people who showed up at the alumni event, and the people interested in the new programs we have to offer,” noted Brian.

“We already have a lot of established relationships with speakers and constituents, so we want to foster those relationships,” added Chrissy. “We also want to reach out to students who are interested in our online programs. IPS offers three different Master degrees that can be pursued entirely online.”

Koonal made a good point when he said, “It is good to know what people want to do and what they are interested in, so at IPS, we can tailor our programs and classes to what is needed.”

With over 40,000 people at RECongress, the energy in the room is dynamic and palpable.

“Everybody is represented there. You can find Catholic publishers, rosary vendors, universities, seminaries, religious orders and more. This allows for great conversation for how to move things forward in the church with energy,” commented Mark.

“It was great just meeting so many people that have shared values and are interested in ministerial education,” added Brian.

This year was even more special because Brian was asked to lead two sessions during RECongress. During his talks, he discussed “Resurrection Faith” and “Pauline Spirituality for Lent.”

“It was a bonus to have those,” said Brian. “IPS attends each year and being asked to speak this year was an honor. It was great to connect with people who are interested in those topics.”


Everyone agreed that the IPS alumni and friends reception was their favorite part of the trip.

“It was a wonderful chance to talk to people and hear about their experiences at IPS. We were also able to brainstorm how we could work together in the future,” said Mark. “We even rounded up people at our booth to come to the event.”

“It was a great way to connect with our online students, who we do not always get to meet in person,” noted Koonal. “The reception is also more laid back, so we can have longer conversations with people and hear what they have been doing or are interested in doing.”

At the end of the IPS reception, guests were treated to a nice view of the Disneyland fireworks show. In fact, the Disney fireworks were so nice, that a few of our staff members even found their way to the park for some fun after the busy weekend.

Overall, they said it was a successful and fun event, and they look forward to next year! Not to mention how nice it was to be in California in March.

With over 40,000 people in attendance, RECongress is the largest annual gathering of its kind in the world. It hosts a variety of workshops, exhibitors and more.


The theme for this year was “See” or “Ver.” It was chosen from the blind man’s encounter in John 9: 1-41.

The Congress says, “Reflecting on this amazing scenario, our imaginations are stretched, we are drawn to see beneath the surface and discover the paradox: the blind man is the one who sees while the seeing ones are entombed in their own darkness… Spiritual blindness is at the center of the exchange and the challenge for all is to see at a deeper level… We are encouraged then to renew our vision, open up to the life-changing Light of Christ, and lead others to See anew.”



Join the conversation by following @BrianSchmisek on Twitter and @LoyolaIPS on Instagram! Also, network with the Loyola Chicago IPS community on LinkedIn.

Faculty Profile: Michael Canaris

We are happy to announce that Dr. Michael Canaris has joined our faculty and will begin teaching classes this upcoming fall semester!

Canaris already has some great ideas and a lot of knowledge to offer our students. Moreover, he is eager to not only instruct them, but also to learn from them.

“I’m excited to teach not only the Church and Mission class, but related topics like hermeneutics, ecumenism, the theology of immigration, and the interpretation of Vatican II. I’ve also had wonderful experiences with a Theology of Hell class I designed (using Dante, Sartre, C.S. Lewis, Rahner/von Balthasar, etc.) and am currently trying to develop one on the Theology of Bergoglio/Francis, which will obviously include elements of his Ignatian spirituality. I’m hoping these may interest both administration and students at Loyola down the line. The pope’s recent call for theologians, and not just bishops, to have the ‘smell of their sheep’ has really resonated with me as I take up this position.”

Canaris is a valuable resource for IPS and we encourage students to reach out to him with any questions, help or just to say welcome to IPS.

Read his Q&A below to get to know more about Canaris and his different teachings, life lessons and some interesting facts you would not expect.


How did you feel when you were offered the position at IPS?
I spent fifteen years on Jesuit campuses, both as a student and teaching, and then the last few abroad in the UK and Rome, at universities which were not in that network. And while I love those international experiences and have developed some amazing friends, colleagues, and expanded horizons through them, my first instinct when I was offered the position was one of homecoming. That may sound strange, as I’m from the East Coast originally and have only visited Chicago without ever living there, but there was this overwhelming sense of returning to my roots and somehow being welcomed home by members of my Ignatian/AJCU family once again that went much deeper than just being back on American soil.

What are you looking forward to the most about teaching at IPS, and what are you looking forward to accomplishing while at IPS?
More than anything I’m excited about interacting with the students. Of course, the research facilities and institutional support for scholarship at a place like Loyola are unrivaled. But IPS offers such a unique environment for theologians and experts in various disciplines, where we as faculty members can help with formation of those who will be on the frontlines of the encounter between the church and the contemporary world. I honestly believe it’s a place where the faculty likely learn as much from the life experiences of our students as we can teach them. I’ve always been committed to viewing pedagogy as a sort of “co-traveling” toward wisdom and holistic learning. Loyola IPS seems a truly remarkable place for this type of exchange to take place.

What challenges do you foresee and how will you prepare for them? 
I have some experience teaching non-traditional students at various stops, both in America and at the Pontifical Beda College for second-career seminarians in Rome. I’m excited to broaden my perspectives teaching such a wide range of students as constitute the IPS, not only in terms of religious and denominational backgrounds, but especially those who for the most part differ markedly from 18-22 year-old traditional undergrads. There will undoubtedly be some challenges involved in planning successful classes and discussions in this new setting, but ones I feel confident, prepared and excited to find innovative techniques through which to foster transformational learning.

What can students expect when taking your classes, and what do you hope that they take away from your teachings?
Three themes from my own Jesuit education form the pillars of my approach to teaching: cura personalis, eloquentia perfecta, and seeking to become together “men and women for others.” Briefly for this setting: the first means my students will always be my main priority and I will always be accessible to them to help them grow holistically – whether it be intellectually, spiritually, socially, etc. The second demonstrates my conviction that it’s important not only to wrestle with the “big” questions in life about meaning, value, purpose, vocation, what it means to live a successful life, and the like, but also to develop skill sets for being able to articulate this beneficial wrestling clearly and convincingly to the church, academy and world. The last emphasizes the idea that neither theology/mission, nor any of the gifts we are given, are ultimately for our own advancement, but rather to serve our brothers and sisters in the human race, and the divine or transcendent however we come to name that reality in our lives.

Do you have a mentor or an experience in your life that helped shape who you are today? 
Whenever I stop to reflect on this, it honestly floors me how blessed I have been with almost mind-boggling mentors in the steps along my academic and spiritual journey. A question like this is difficult to answer without sounding like you are name-dropping! But, I’m also delighted to give credit where it is due. Brad Hinze, Paul Lakeland, Rick Ryscavage, and Beth Johnson have all been so supportive of my work and influential in my intellectual development. And Paul Murray at Durham University and I remain very close, in a friendship that transcends merely professional or academic interests at this point. However, my time spent studying under Francis A. Sullivan and then working for Avery Cardinal Dulles for five years, including not only assisting the latter with research and publishing, but also providing palliative care for him in his last days when he was suffering tremendously from post-polio syndrome, were probably the most formative experiences for me as a theologian.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time outside of the classroom?
I love all things Italian: culture, food, art, etc. I have been lucky to spend a lot of time there, as well as on the Spanish island of Mallorca, where I often visit in the summer months with friends who are at this point like family. I studied sports-journalism for a few years before theology, so I still love sports and am excited to adopt everything about life in Chicago – short of betraying my Eagles and Phillies.

Any fun facts about yourself or interesting story you wish to share?
My father was a federal agent who led the protection details for cabinet members and on many presidential trips across seven administrations. My mother was a teacher and substance abuse coordinator for a school district. My students always seem interested in that. I also have a very close friend who is a writer and producer for the TV show “Scandal.”


Join the conversation by following @BrianSchmisek on Twitter and @LoyolaIPS on Instagram! Also, network with the Loyola Chicago IPS community on LinkedIn.

Student Feature: Meet Doreen

Loyola IPS student, Doreen Kelly joins us from a small town in Michigan, but is already achieving big things. Read more about her below and see how IPS is helping her on her journey to “go forth and change the world.”


Hometown: Originally from Holton, Michigan, a tiny town 20 miles northeast of Muskegon.

Previous education: Aquinas College, Bachelor of Arts in Communication Arts, 1984

A favorite of yours?
I enjoy reading. Favorite authors include: Jodi Picoult, Amy Tan, Elizabeth Berg, Maeve Binchy, Gail Tsukiama, Lisa See.

A bible verse that has significance to you?
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for woe, plans to give you a future full of hope.” This has been a favorite verse since I was an undergrad and searching for direction. I was able to write an exegetical paper on it for IPS 417; it was an amazing experience to delve into the background of this oracle delivered by Jeremiah to the exiles.

What were you doing before beginning your IPS journey?
I work as a Teacher Assistant in 7th grade special education, assisting students with learning needs in their regular education science and social studies classes. I’ve also been involved in several ministries in my parish, most recently our Christ Renews His Parish ministry as a team leader and in support of teams actively in formation. I am also a Eucharistic Minister.

What made you decide to come to Loyola IPS?
For most of my life, I have found great fulfillment and a sense of purpose through volunteering in ministries in whatever parish I have been a part of. In these last few years, I have felt a call to leadership in ministries and at the same time a need for more knowledge and exploration of different aspects of our faith which would strengthen my leadership potential. I chose Loyola because I feel drawn by the Jesuit mission of service and because I experienced a great sense of welcome, enthusiasm and deep dedication of the staff and faculty of IPS to preparing people to not only lead extraordinary lives but preparing ministers to serve God’s people in extraordinary ways.

What degree plan are you in? I am in the MAPS program.

What are you most looking forward to accomplishing during your time here at Loyola IPS and how does that relate to your future goals?
I am looking forward to gaining real knowledge and self-awareness that will help direct my path to working in ministry full time.

Do you have a favorite class or one you look forward to taking?
So far, I have only taken Literature of Ancient Israel and Christian Origins, and I have really enjoyed them both.

In what way will you go forth to “change the world?”
I am a true believer in the mission of St. Ignatius to find God in all things. I pray that as I continue to be formed by my Loyola education, my ability to look first through the eyes of Jesus at situations and people I encounter will grow stronger and stronger. Ignatius changed the world through serving others. There’s no greater calling.

Are you currently working on any interesting project(s)?
I am writing an exegetical paper on part of the “The Road to Emmaus” story from the Gospel of Luke. I have always loved this post-resurrection account of the two disciples encountering Jesus on their journey. I am excited to delve into what the biblical text meant “when the ink was wet” as Fr. Madden says.


Join the conversation by following @BrianSchmisek on Twitter and @LoyolaIPS on Instagram! Also, network with the Loyola Chicago IPS community on LinkedIn.