Author Archives: IPS

My Experience at IPS

By: Krysten McOsker

My experience at IPS was beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
By the time I arrived at Loyola, I chased nearly every worldly desire, but my heart and soul were still restless. I had everything the world told me I should have, yet I kept feeling a nudge, a yearning for something more but I was afraid to let go of my worldly values.
I was also afraid of some religious people that I thought I would be waiting to shame me. I was certain I would not fit in because God school was such a far leap from where I was at in life so all I could say was that I would explore IPS. I would start Loyola by exploring. All I could commit to was attending the first day of school, the first class, and go from there.
When I arrived for my first class at IPS I felt content for the first time in my life. I felt alive. I felt energized. I felt passionate. I found a place with people who wrestle with their faith like I do. I met people who call bull&*$@ when they see it. I met people who are not afraid to be bold. Who are not afraid to speak truth. Who are not afraid to get uncomfortable. To wrestle, learn and question. To keep questioning. I met people who questioned like me. Who wrestled like me. Professors and classmates encouraged me to keep questioning and keep wrestling.
I met a God I had never encountered elsewhere. A God who is revolutionary. A God who flips the Empire & power structure on its head. I fell in love with a God who liberates and heals. A God who disturbs the status quo. A God who disturbs the comfortable. A God whose call is so great, that I can’t not go out into the streets to care for our friends who live on the street. I am so in love with this God of revolutionary love that everything, everything in my life has changed. Through IPS, I have been uprooted from worldly values and have been rooted in the values and love of Christ.
IPS was the most transformative experience of my life. It was a gift far greater than I could have ever imagined.

“After 130 Years….”

Professors Canaris, Watson, and Schmidt with IPS students praying in the Basilica of Sts. Giovanni and Paolo in Rome.

There has rightly been a lot of attention given recently to the centenary of the birth of Pope John Paul II, who was born in 1920, and changed the face of global Catholicism over the course of his long and consequential pontificate.  One of my favorite of his writings is Centesimus Annus (“The 100th Year”) which like Quadragesimo Anno (40 years), Mater et Magister (70 years), Octogesima Adveniens (80 years), and Laborem Exercens (90 years), all marked anniversaries of Pope Leo XIII’s groundbreaking 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum.  Official Vatican texts often draw their titles from creative readings of their opening words– e.g. Humanae Vitae (“Of Human Life”), Ex Corde Ecclesiae (“From the Heart of the Church”), Spe Salvi (“In Hope We Were Saved”).  So the allusion in many of these “anniversary” texts is explicit.

Rerum Novarum, whose opening words are tellingly either translated as “Of New Things” or “Of Revolutionary Change,” explores the church’s commitment to justice in a world experiencing the aftereffects of the industrial revolution and contemporary urbanization, and is widely considered the foundational text of the modern Catholic Social Teaching movement.

            In my current summer course (which was originally supposed to have been taught in Rome but has been moved online), I recently provided a list of optional themes for one of the assignments and told my graduate students to select one. One read:

“Serve as an unofficial ghostwriter and draft the first five pages for Pope Francis of a new social encyclical which could be titled Post Centum Triginta (“After 130 Years”) marking next year’s anniversary of Rerum Novarum.  It should deal with one or multiple pressing issues of our day and how the mission of Christian witness and commitment to justice should inform our response in a globalized world.”

I have no idea whether the Holy Father is in fact planning to promulgate such a document.  But if he is, he should without question reach out to my lay graduate students studying for degrees in pastoral theology, spirituality, counseling for ministry, and social justice.  Because, as usual, their diagnoses and prescriptions for the church, academy, and world in our times taught me more than I present in my sometimes rambling lectures to them.

Concerns about racism, human trafficking, and immigration issues appeared often, as did the ecological crisis and economic systems of commodification.    Secularism and partisan division in politics and church life are seen as metastasizing throughout our contemporary world.  For many, wintry seasons where evangelization, ecumenism, and dialogue have suffered from chilling effects after the springtime of new hopes in the 1960’s and 1970’s marked our era, as did a general lament for the lack of bold witness to the wider culture on things like child protection, wealth inequality, and honest historical appraisals of the church’s many missteps.  The need for interdisciplinary conversations especially around the natural and social sciences, healthcare advances, and theological ethics was mentioned repeatedly.  And of course, the consequences of COVID and social distancing were probably more at the front of students’ minds than they will (hopefully) be if I revisit this assignment in future semesters.   

            One reality that was proffered consistently was the ongoing thirst for solidarity and subsidiarity, as people are parched to connect with one another and to have their voices heard – whether in an increasingly divided society or a still-too-clerical church.  Of course, some exclusion is necessary in life, there are evils that the church can never endorse and still claim to be authentic to itself and its Lord, though even these need to be studied assiduously.  But the realities of our day continue to call for a more inclusive and dialogical church, demanded precisely through the voices of mostly lay men and women who are studying these disciplines with me and so many others like me, often at a significant sacrifice of time outside of other responsibilities, limited precious energy that could easily be spent elsewhere, and – undoubtedly – serious personal financial cost.  I can only wish that Pope Francis could be personally as inspired by these students as I unfailingly am.  If he and future church leaders were to listen to their insights, as I am blessed to do day in and day out, I am convinced that the next 130 years of Christian life would undoubtedly be better than the previous ones have been.

A Holy Rage

By Dr. Peter Jones, IPS Interim Dean, Clinical Associate Professor

On Pentecost Sunday, protests throughout the country and around the world continued. The murder of George Floyd, captured on video and seen around the world, devastates the conscience. His public lynching has catalyzed the release of frustration and anger, the result of centuries abuse, oppression, and all manner of injustices. A collective voice is crying out for justice and yet our institutions of justice continue to fail. Any talk of peace and resolution is premature because we are still unable to hear the truth. Without truth there can be no justice, no peace, no reconciliation, and certainly no growth in love.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:1-4.


In the 9th century BCE, the Assyrians were in power across the region (in what are now portions of Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran) and they were barbarically cruel. When Assyrian rulers perished and leadership transitioned, revolutions came and went and some areas secured a measure of control and relative peace in their lands, but not for long. The Assyrian’s seemed always to return and establish control.

In the first half of the 8th century BCE, having gained control over portions of Israel, the people there experienced new levels peace and prosperity, levels not known since King Solomon some 200 years earlier. While it appears to have lasted only a few decades that renewed power in local hands led to new corruptions, injustices, and oppressions, as seems too often the case. Amos saw this and God called him prophesy, to call out this injustice and warn the people that these oppressions violate the will of God. Amos offered strong words, chastising those where were once struggling for their independence from Assyrian tyranny as they now embody their own tyranny, becoming the oppressors. Amos speaks to directly to these, bringing truth to the new powers-that-be, who were his own people.

There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground. […] There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth. […] There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice […] Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says: “There will be wailing in all the streets and cries of anguish in every public square. The farmers will be summoned to weep and the mourners to wail. There will be wailing in all the vineyards, for I will pass through your midst,” says the Lord. […] “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

                                                         Amos 5:7, 10, 16-17, 24 (NIV)


“For I will pass through your midst…”

God’s righteous anger “passes through.” Amos doesn’t bother with the question that so bothers many moderns, “Can God get angry?” Amos knows God’s anger and warns that it will bring turmoil and violence to the oppressors and upset their enabling institutions. The only way to prevent it is to hear and accept the truth and pursue justice openly. For this, Amos cried out.

He was not heard. His warnings were not heeded. Will we listen, today, to the voices crying out for justice? Are we willing to hear and accept the truths those voices bear? Or will our defensiveness get the better of us, yet again? As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote while incarcerated in Birmingham, Alabama, reflecting on the profound challenge presented to the civil rights struggle by white moderates, will we again seek law and “order” instead of true reconciliation, accept “the absence of tension” rather than the pursue “the presence of justice,” and “paternalistically” believe that we know better how “they” ought to protest and to set the timetable for “their” freedom?

There is a Holy Rage passing through our midst. The Spirit has descended again like tongues of fire and empowers voices of truth, enlivens movements for justice, and demands that we accept the prophet’s challenge to let go of our desires to pursue God’s desire.

Justice is an expression of love. Individually, we act justly when we view and treat each other according to what we are: beloved children of God. Collectively, our groups and our society are socially just when the institutions we set up and control function to treat us all according to what we are: beloved children of God. And this extends beyond ourselves: we and the institutions we create must function to treat all of God’s creation accordingly. Every tree, animal, and ecosystem is a beloved creation of God and must be treated as such. “God saw all that God had made, and it was very good.” (Gen 1:31).

In the face of this divine intervention, these tongues of fire, this passing through of Holy Rage … what shall we each do? What shall the Institute of Pastoral Studies do? What shall Loyola University Chicago do?

I recommit myself to the personal task of pursuing the truth: to study, to understand, to meet, to listen, and to meditate. This requires an intentional battle against my own racist unconscious, the fears deep within me, infused in me by the society and culture in which my self-understanding has emerged and developed. This requires humility and an openness that is not simple or easy to maintain. How many of us regularly win the battle against our ego’s own defenses? However difficult this work may be, we cannot do otherwise. Pray for fortitude and courage.

I’m sure I’ll fail in many respects but I won’t stop. Even further, our failures cannot prevent us from participating in the collective soul-searching required of our community. If you wait to “get it right” for yourself before you join in then you’ll never join in and our advancing struggle will be paralyzed. We can instead choose compassion and offer each other grace as we come together to work on our shared lives. The Institute of Pastoral Studies is not mine. It does not belong to the faculty, staff, or students. It is ours. It is as it is because of us. Let us take renewed ownership at each level, assess its policies and its functioning, assess our contributions and ways of proceeding, and consider the ways we interact through it.

How can we, the Institute of Pastoral Studies, come to terms with the fact that we are an HWI, a Historically White Institution? What do we do with that fact and with what we will undoubtedly learn about the IPS? How will we integrate the voices and the truths emanating from those of us whose skin color remains the focus of hatred and violence? What values and priorities will we seek to embody and upon which we will call to help us make decisions when things are not clear?

These questions are not easy to ask and even harder to answer honestly. Will you participate with us? Will you commit yourself to the personal, interior work necessary to be anti-racist? Will you participate with us in a collective process of reflection and action?

Opportunities for this are under development, beginning with a moment of prayer. A group of IPS students, staff, and faculty will offer that moment to the entire Loyola University Community this Thursday, June 4, 2020 at noon. This will be an opportunity to center ourselves, to gather our resolve, and begin our work together.

Will this moment also be the beginning of your journey … or the end? It is up to each of us.

Thoughts from a graduate

Last day of class with Dr. Nat Samuel. Fall/19


It is graduation week and things are a lot different than I expected them to be. We took our last classes from home, we have been emotional and afraid, our minds went somewhere else at a time we should be thinking about next steps and looking back at what we learned at IPS.

I had to postpone my integration project! I did not do it because I had no time to finish, I did it because I want to learn everything I can from writing this project and with Covid-19 in mind that was not possible. A degree from IPS for me has always had a different meaning, it was never about the diploma I get to hang on the wall, it was about the learning experience, it was about the knowledge, it was about developing the drive to help others. I moved to Chicago from Brazil to study Social Justice at IPS. I chose Loyola and IPS because I wanted to attend a Jesuit school, I wanted to embrace St. Ignatius of Loyola’s teachings and principles and apply them in my life and the world. I already have a master’s degree, I just wanted to learn, I wanted to give more meaning and purpose to whatever I choose to do next.

The pandemic is making the social injustices in the world a lot more evident; my degree feels even more important and relevant. The work to be done seems overwhelming but being in classrooms filled with people already doing amazing work advocating for social justice gives me hope. My classmates were young, passionate, and dedicated, they have been doing work with vulnerable populations for a long time and they are great role models for me to follow.

In my time at IPS I found God in ways I had not found Him before; I was able to see Him in the faces of my classmates and that experience has been extremely inspiring. As much as I have learned from the classes and the professors, the exchange with my classmates and learning about their journeys in their missions has been one of the most valuable lessons from the entire program.

As my program comes to an end, all I can do is say thank you. Thank you to everyone at IPS for their help and support from my application to my online graduation toast; thank you to the professors for being so dedicated to the students and sharing their knowledge, thank you to my wonderful and amazing classmates for going through this journey with me. Every one of you made it worth going through two Chicago winters and being away from my family and friends.


Seeds of Justice

Alex (on the right) speaking to a group

Alex, tell us a little bit about yourself.

I was born and raised in New York City. I grew up on the border of Spanish Harlem and Harlem and then in the Bronx. At that time, those neighborhoods were primarily made up of low-income people of color, so my working-class white family stuck out a bit. Seeing the different way our family was treated, and even the different opportunities available to me through “gifted” (meaning wealthier and whiter) education is what got me thinking about social justice in the first place.

You are an IPS alumnus, what was your major and when did you graduate?

I majored in Social Justice and Community Development and graduated in 2010. I was a part-time student since I was already organizing full time at that point, but I really enjoyed the time in class as a way to step back from the day to day grind of organizing and reflect on the big picture.

What made you choose that path?

After witnessing so much injustice firsthand, from educational disparity to police harassment of my friends, to the rampant homelessness of the late Reagan and early Bush I administrations, I knew I wanted to make a change. But I also knew that I didn’t want to make that change from a position of an elite – a lawyer or “expert” of some kind. Most of the people I had learned the most from and respected the most didn’t occupy fancy offices and places of authority. That’s what led me to organizing, I wanted to work with people to build mutual power and create change together.

You have a book out what is it about?

Yes, I do! It’s entitled Seeds of Justice: Organizing Your Church to Transform the World. I think of it as a guidebook for people of faith who want to make change, and really want their church to be an effective agent of change, but don’t know how to do it or where to start. I believe that the church should be the most vital force for justice in our world, but, sadly, most of our congregations have either forgotten, or chosen to ignore the social Gospel, or they are really ineffective at impacting the powers and principalities. Over the course of my career, I think I’ve learned a lot about how churches can transform themselves, and become healthier congregations in the process, so I wanted to share those lessons.

What inspired you to write it?

Actually, I was pushed into doing it. A number of different community leaders have told me that I should write a book over the years. I knew that churches needed these tools – I saw it all the time – but I didn’t think I was the messenger and I didn’t think of myself as a writer. But finally, after leading a training at a church, I got a call from one of the attendees who actually worked for a publisher and they asked me to sit down and talk about writing a book. That was the push I needed to finally start writing. 

Folx can buy the book from Orbis Press: or at my website 

How is the knowledge you gained during your time at IPS helping you in your career?

For me, IPS helped in two ways. First, my coursework there really helped me refine my theological understanding of my work as well as some of the theoretical frameworks to think about justice issues. Secondly, some of the hands-on courses offered me some hands-on skills that I ended up using in one way or the other. I’m thinking here specifically about the Leadership in Social Justice Organizations course and a course in Restorative Justice that were really helpful.

Any word of advice for current and future IPS students on surviving grad school and/or getting a job doing great work?

That’s a tough one. I think I would say that the most important thing is building relationships with the folx who are doing the work you want to do and to use the time at IPS to really challenge yourself to grow, see new perspectives, and be uncomfortable. 

El Cireneo, Hogar de Esperanza

Ana Lopez with some of El Cireneo’s Patients and staff

Ana, tell us a little bit about yourself. You just graduated from IPS and I hear you are planning on continuing your studies. What is next? How has your time at IPS helped you in your ministry?

I am from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the capital city of Chiapas, Mexico, and I am 30 years old. I have a Bachelor’s in Financial Management with a concentration in Financial Analysis and Investment Management from a prestigious university in Mexico, the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM), where I graduated with honors. I have experience as a Portfolio Manager with the Mexican Stock Exchange. I have also worked as a Purchasing Manager in Libertad Creativa S.A. de C.V., and as the General Manager of Win Land. Hence, my focus was on business and money.

However, in 2012, everything began to change when I initiated my catechesis for the sacrament of Confirmation in the Catholic Church. Without any doubt, this sacrament was the one that changed my life and personal goals. Soon after, I started to participate in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement, where I began to know God. With the desire to know Him more, I enrolled myself in the Bachelor’s in Theology with Pastoral emphasis at one of the Catholic universities in my hometown. I studied this degree for three years, but I could not finish it for several reasons, one of them was my mother’s death.

My mother passed away in May 2015 due to suicide. It was the most challenging experience I have had. Nevertheless, it led me to the best of my life, my ministry, and my renewed relationship with God.

After my mother died, I had tremendous painful experiences, one after another. I felt like Job in the Bible, losing everything I owned and believed. As a result, I was suffering from depression. I did not think I could make it, but God never left me. He was with me during the darkest period of my life. Deep inside, I had one tiny sparkle, a light of hope, the desire to continue studying. I wanted a master’s degree in something related to God. Thus, by searching for it on the Internet, I found (curiously the first link) Loyola University Chicago. By reading the academic offer, I decided to apply to the Master’s in Christian Spirituality, Spiritual Direction concentration.

The day after I applied, I received an email from the Institute of Pastoral Studies (IPS) welcoming me to the program! You cannot imagine the joy and hope I felt! This news changed my darkness into light. It was not only the news but the entire experience of moving to Chicago and studying for my master’s program in the United States. The IPS faculty, my classmates, the Contextual Education program, the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, my spiritual director… everything and everyone contributed to the healing of my heart and soul. It was a process of purification. It was not easy, but it was worth the effort. On the day of my graduation, I recapitulated my time at IPS with verse 6 of Psalm 126: “Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves” (NABRE). When I arrived at IPS, I was heartbroken. When I left, I cried with joy! Furthermore, I proclaimed with Job: “By hearsay, I had heard of you, but now my eye has seen you” (Job 42:5, NABRE).

By becoming a spiritual director, I encountered myself and God. Before my master’s degree, I had lost sight of who I was and most importantly, who I was in God’s sight and love. However, through the program and the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises, I gained a new sight of myself and God. This experience of God’s love is the one that I try to hand down to my directees now that I am back in my hometown.

The Integration Project of my master’s degree became real when I opened the retreat house called El Cireneo, Hogar de Esperanza (The Cyrenian, House of Hope) in my hometown. Thanks to the personal and academic growth from my mother’s death, my own recovery process from depression, and my education, I was able to intertwine them, and the result was the healing program of the retreat house for patients suffering from depression. With the valuable help of my then Academic Advisor and Faculty Reader Jean-Pierre Fortin, Ph.D., I discerned that the goal of the retreat house and its holistic program (physical health, emotional well-being, and spiritual renewal) is to lower the rate of suicide, by enabling individuals suffering from depression to process their suffering.

I finished my Integration Project on June 23rd and one month later, I was opening the retreat house in the same place where my mother committed suicide. This house is now a place where people find healing, peace, hope, and life! I know this is only the beginning. There are more things I need to learn and do. For these reasons, I want to continue my studies. I have been in touch with the dean of the Doctor of Ministry (DMin) program at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. I hope to apply for the doctorate program this year. As an online program, I will only have to travel there twice a year. Hence, it will not overlap with my time at the retreat house. I hope this degree helps me to gain a deeper understanding of ministry to enhance my role at the retreat house and develop more programs to stand in solidarity with those vulnerable in my state and country. And why not? Maybe worldwide. So, please, pray for me!

Any word of advice for current and future IPS students on surviving grad school and/or finding their path after grad school?

 I remember during our welcoming session, the dean told us: “Be aware that all the structures you bring to IPS are going to be changed. You are not going to leave IPS being the same person.” This statement was completely true for my classmates and I. Thus, be open to allow the fresh air to blow in your life and ministry. Let yourself be surprised by God’s love and wisdom that you will gain through the courses and IPS faculty. If you do not know the path, He will guide you through every reading and experience within the classrooms. He is with you and will never abandon you!

El Cireneo, Hogar de Esperanza

What is the story behind El Cireneo?

When my mother passed away, I inherited the house where she committed suicide. It was hard for me to be around the house in the beginning. I thought I would never be able to emotionally heal and return. Thus, almost one and a half years later, I decided to lease the house, even though the process of emptying it and removing her belongings was extremely painful. The house had been occupied for almost two years when I had realized what God wanted for my life. No longer leasing it out, I remodeled it to what it is now, the retreat house.

It was last Holy Thursday when God told me to renew the house into a place where people could find Him. I went to the Last Supper celebration at the Madonna della Strada Chapel, at the Lake Shore Campus, where I then participated in the tradition of Seven Churches Visit, organized by Loyola University Campus Ministry. We were at the second church praying before the Blessed Sacrament when I listened to God’s voice telling me to transform my mother’s home into a retreat house. Soon after, I heard God revealing the name for it: “El Cireneo, Hogar de Esperanza” (The Cyrenian, House of Hope). I was amazed and said to Him: “What? Wait a minute! I just came here to pray, not to talk about the retreat house.” I have to admit I did not have any intentions to talk about the house. Nonetheless, for God, it was the proper time. He knew I was ready to move forward.

Hence, I asked Him: “¿por qué El Cireneo?” (why The Cyrenian?). Then, I remembered the Scripture passage about Simon of Cyrene (cf. Matthew 27:32). God allowed me to discern that I was going to become Simon of Cyrene, helping the suffering Christ (manifested in my directees) to carry the cross. In other words, God allowed me to understand that I was going to help my directees to carry their cross, depression. But this cross has a promise: a resurrected life. I learned from my mother’s death and my own experience of recovering from depression that there is no cross without resurrection.

It was during that same evening, on Holy Thursday, when God reminded me: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10, NABRE). For this reason, when patients arrive at the retreat house, the first sight they can appreciate is the name of the house and this Biblical passage, John 10:10.

Jesus came so each of my directees/patients can have life and have it more abundantly. The staff and I try to bring them relief, reassurance, and consolation by being their Simon of Cyrene in their journey to a resurrected life in Christ.

Tell us a little about treatment at El Cireneo, Hogar de Esperanza.

As I mentioned before, thanks to the personal and academic growth from my mother’s death, my own recovery process from depression, and my education, I was able to intertwine them, and the result was the healing program of the retreat house for patients suffering from depression. In fact, the healing program reflects my own recovery process from depression in a holistic manner: physical health, emotional well-being, and spiritual renewal.

a) Physical health: when a patient arrives asking for help, he/she is interviewed by the psychologist. He is the one who gives the preliminary diagnosis. If the patient is diagnosed with depression, we ask them to undergo testing at a laboratory by the request of the neurologist to rule out physical diseases causing depression (e.g. hypothyroidism). The neurologist determines if the patient needs to be medicated and/or referred to psychiatry. Additionally, there is a nutritionist helping patients improve their diet with the purpose to increase their physical energy.

b) Emotional well-being: the patient meets with the psychologist every week to process his/ her suffering and acquire tools to manage his/her emotions.

c) Spiritual renewal: through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. The directee meets with me (the spiritual director) weekly to talk about his/her process throughout the retreat. We listen and discern God’s voice in his/her life. I help him/her to contemplate his/her life through God’s love, mercy, beauty, and wisdom. It is important to mention that we have monthly therapeutic and spiritual direction meetings with all the patients, so they can create a sense of community. They realize that they are not walking alone trying to overcome depression. They help each other by sharing their stories.

Because poverty is the main cause of depression in Chiapas, the program is free of charge. We only require patients to commit themselves to their recovery process.


If you would like to know more about Ana’s ministry check out the Facebook page:

You can also contact Ana via email

If you want to help El Cireneo, Hogar de Esperanza you can make a donation via PayPal – PayPal.Me/analopu14 or email Ana for her bank information.

Meet Samantha, former IPS student who decided to “Go forth and set the world on fire (St. Ignatius).

1.) Samantha, tell us a little bit about yourself (where you are from, undergrad, previous work).

I was technically born in southern California, outside of LA, but I grew up in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. There are pieces of my life and personality strewn across every part of this country it seems from moving so much. So, when asked, “Where are you from?” or “where is home?” I have no idea how to answer that question. Sometimes my heart skips a beat when I fly home to Philadelphia see the, “Welcome to Philadelphia. Home of the Philadelphia Eagles,” sign at Philadelphia International. When I lived on the East Coast or even in Chicago, I found myself craving the mountains, the intoxicating smell of the ancient Redwoods, and the chill of the Pacific Ocean.

I earned my bachelor’s at a small, liberal arts school in Pennsylvania. I studied English, theater, and art history. Passionate about the Arts, I was determined to be a writer and desired to work in theater that spoke to the injustices of the world. My career took me on a vastly different journey than what I originally conceived for myself as a twenty-something. I taught ESL in the Czech Republic, worked in an after-school program in Philadelphia, served the homeless population in Philadelphia, provided direct support to those in the disability community in San Francisco, and ran a literacy program for immigrant families in Chicago. While at IPS, I did CPE at Rush Memorial Hospital, Contextual Education at the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Human Dignity and Solidarity, and worked the American Library Association. In between all of that, I did freelance writing and even taught a few acting classes here and there.

2.) You just graduated from IPS what was your major?

I earned a Masters of Divinity and Masters of Social Justice.

3.) What made you choose that path?

While in San Francisco, I was working with aging adults with developmental disabilities. Learning about gerontology and the aging process, particularly as it connected with the clientele I was serving, I became fascinated with how the brain works and decided to study psychology. I earned a Master’s of Science in psychology and was discerning doctorate programs in clinical psychology, when my spiritual director at St. Ignatius parish in San Francisco asked me, “Samantha, have you ever thought of an M.Div.?”

After that spiritual direction session, I went home and entered into Google, “M.Div. social justice. Jesuit” and Loyola’s dual program popped up. Reading about the program, it became very clear to me that this was the path that I had been craving my entire life. 

4.) You are currently in Seattle doing some amazing things. Where are you working and what is your job?

I currently work as the Justice Educator for Intercommunity Peace & Justice Center (IPJC) in Seattle, WA.  

First, I facilitate our Justice Café program geared towards young adults in their 20s and 30s to build community, deepen spirituality, and act for justice.  I create host kits that go out to the café “hosts” or leader of the group ( campus minister, young adult minister, volunteer in intentional community, etc.) to lead a gathering in café, pub, coffee shop to talk about social justice concerns. This fall, we covered Root Causes of Migration and the Feminization of poverty.

Second, I am also the editor of our quarterly publication called A Matter of Spirit which combines critical analysis, theological reflection, and action on justice issues.  Our most recent issue tackles the complexities of childhood today under the backdrop of pervasive violence.

Third, I give presentations, talks, and webinars for parishes and schools on human trafficking.

Additionally, I support our organization through advocacy efforts and collaborate with members from partnering organizations and ministries on an array of social justice issues.

5.) How is the knowledge you gained during your time at IPS helping you in your job?

Much of what I have learned at IPS has been very helpful in the work I do.

With collaborative efforts, having practical knowledge from some of my assignments has really paid off.  For example, I took the Religious Education Class with timone davis and she had us create a nine-month plan for a ministry.  I just sent that project off to the Director of Young Adult Ministries for the Archdiocese of Seattle to review for programming ideas for YA ministry.  Other times, I need to write, lead, or create a prayer reflection and I have had to that for several past classes.  Our use of technology and presentations at IPS developed a very necessary skill set for the work I do. I lead editorial board meetings in which some of our members are remote and having had the hybrid learning experience from IPS, I can easily navigate my way around the digital communication piece. Whenever I assemble host kits for our Justice Cafes, I am constantly recalling things I learned from the Catholic social ethics course with Peter Jones or Global Economics and Politics with Dan Rhodes.  

Other little surprises that have popped up for me has been in networking. One day I might be writing an email and it could be to a former IPS graduate or someone from Catholic Worker, L ’Arche, JVC, etc. and I get the privilege of asking, “do you know x person, we studied together.” Also, Jesuits West is one of our sponsoring communities and I am never far away from those Jesuit roots!

A Courage for Today: A Psychoanalytic and Spiritual Contribution

Image by Sasin Tipchai

William S. Schmidt, Ph.D.[1]

December 16, 2019

Hard times pose particular challenges for persons and communities. Times of crisis can threaten to erode the cohesion of selfhood, even as they force communities and persons to confront heretofore unforeseen threats and challenges. Although such times can have the effect of disorienting the self and its communal base, it can also have the effect of crystallizing self and community into a new concentration of strength, resourcefulness and transcendence. The word often used to describe this latter outcome is “courage”, a word we need in times of upheaval and uncertainty.

            At first glance it would be easy to ascribe the label “courage” to any bold action of confronting a danger or even death, but this would miss the internal complexity of such an activity. If courage is a supreme virtue, its true nature and operations cannot simply be equated with an instinct, however bold or fearless it seems to be. True courage is not automatic in the sense of an unconscious or inevitable action that flies in the face of danger. It is rather, a highly self-reflective activity in which the true nature of a self or community reveals itself.

A Psychoanalytic Exploration

            A formidable explorer of the nature of courage can be found in the person of Heinz Kohut, a Viennese Jew who escaped the Nazi takeover of Austria and eventually settled in Chicago.  Kohut ultimately became the Director of the Chicago Psychoanalytic Institute, and in 1964-1965 even became the head of the American Psychoanalytic Association. As his biographer Charles Strozier notes, Kohut became particularly interested in the topic of courage, perhaps in the aftermath of his own battles with the psychoanalytic establishment, in which he took on the ideological edifice of his day and profoundly transformed it. [2]

            Kohut’ s particular interest in courage was shaped by his taste of totalitarian oppression as a young man, and his attempt to understand how some persons did not only survive that juggernaut, but courageously engaged and challenged it. [3]   As he engaged the task of understanding this phenomenon called courage, Kohut selected the stories of three Austrian and German war resisters who each paid with their lives for their resistance.  The three were Franz Jagerstatter, an Austrian Catholic peasant, and Hans and Sophie Scholl, the Munich medical students who wrote and distributed underground newspapers calling their fellow citizens toward non-violent resistance, until they were caught and executed.  Franz Jagerstatter was especially selected by Kohut as exemplary of the conflicts, struggles, and resolutions that occur as courage is born.  His story has been given new and welcome visibility in the feature film “A Hidden Life.” (December 13, 2019)[4]

            Kohut concluded that Jagerstatter was not the only devout Catholic in his community, and certainly not the only one who realized that his religious values were in conflict with the total loyalty demanded of the Nazis. However, most persons ignored or set aside their reservations about the regime and joined the majority. Their psychological and spiritual equipment was not adequate to allow them to set their core self against the overwhelming presence of Nazi ideology and power. The quality that Kohut surmised was present in Jagerstatter and the Scholls’, but absent in most of his contemporaries, was the capacity not to withdraw from an inner conflict of intense and extreme proportions.

            This internal conflict contains several interrelated tasks revealing three specific and discernable features: 1) one must identify with one’s core self (ideals), 2) one must resist the tendency to disown one’s core self, and 3) one must resolve to shape one’s attitudes and actions in accord with one’s core self despite inner doubts and external threats and seductions.

            What Kohut’s conclusion reveals is that such courage is not simply easily arrived at, nor is it simply given. It is not like being on automatic pilot without inner struggle.  It involves an often agonizing self-scrutiny, and out of such soul-searching the full meaning and implications of one’s core commitments emerges.

            In examining the lives of these quiet heroes, Kohut concluded that they all manifested three features that gave their courage the quality of groundedness and non-psychosis, but also allowed them to transcend the entrapment of the status quo.  These three features were not necessarily equally present in these different individuals but they all seemed to manifest them in obvious measure so that it was clearly discernable by others.  These three features are: 1) a sense of humor, 2) the ability to respond to others with empathy, and 3) a deep sense of peace.  This latter attribute was especially noteworthy in spite of the intense inner struggle underway in them as they faced their choices and its agonizing consequences. Their personalities seemed filled with a profound sense of serenity, perhaps close to what we would call wisdom.  These three elements, especially the sense of peace or serenity, always seemed evident to observers, even to their torturers, persecutors and executioners.

            Although Kohut does not pursue these features directly, it behooves us to understand their place in the emergence of courage. First, the presence of humor reveals the capacity to have perspective, and to recognize the absurdities and ironies of one’s life and situation. Humor indicates that one doesn’t take oneself too seriously even in the face of grand and noble pursuits. Humor is a mode of transcendence and it restores a sense of proportionality. It is an antidote to grandiosity.

            Secondly, the presence of empathy names the factor of heart as central to the emergence of courage. Indeed, the word courage comes from the French word “coeur”, meaning heart.[5]  This heart or empathic factor suggests that one is connected to one’s own humanity and the full humanity of one’s neighbor, and, that one is prepared to act radically upon this knowledge.

            Thirdly, the feature of peace and serenity emerges because the commitment to the truest center of the self, including one’s core ideals, generates a profound balance, equilibrium and harmony within the person, and the whole personality becomes aligned with this center. There is sense of peace and even joy released in us when our ideals and our personality and our actions have become one.

            It is for these reasons that Kohut concludes that courage has to do with not only staying true to one’s core values, but to one’s core self. This core self is akin to an amalgam of one’s deepest ideals, most authentic goals, purposes, and life themes; in short, an expression of one’s deepest sense of self. The courage emerging from this core self is defined by Kohut as “the ability to brave even death…rather than to betray the nucleus of one’s psychological being, that is, one’s ideals.” [6]

The Contemporary Challenge

            Kohut’s hero models are certainly exemplars of courage, and inspire us to deepen our commitment to cultivating our core self, including our deepest values and ideals. But our call to courage is not a call to resist totalitarian regimes, nor are we likely to be faced with the prospect of running back into burning buildings to rescue others, or face perpetrators of mass shootings in our churches, synagogues, mosques, or public spaces. 

            I would propose that courage regularly needs re-framing given the new and multiple challenges which confront every age. In fact, courage may be understood as the capacity to confront the unique and perhaps unfamiliar challenges of new eras.  Our era faces the crisis of dystopia, of massively unstable ground under our feet.  We are bombarded with the cultural realities of polarization, radicalization, and weaponization of our social fabric.  Xenophobia, nationalism, racism, public and private dishonesty, etc., all produce a cynicism and a new form of paralysis in the form of exhaustion.  It seems every era needs to redefine and reaffirm courage in relation to the particular challenges of the day.

             I would therefore define courage as follows: “Courage is the freedom to fully engage the reality of one’s life situation while remaining radically committed to overcoming the Spirit and life-denying aspects of one’s experience.”

            There are two specific challenges which confront our contemporary environment and warrant the cultivating of courage.  The first challenge facing contemporary life is to cultivate that very center of self or center of values that would constitute one’s core. As many clinicians, counselors and pastoral persons know, many persons in our world are threatened with an eroding center. Kohut’s protagonist, Franz Jagerstatter, had a center out of which he could make choices. What if there is an eroded center, or if it is fragmented?  Strengthening our own and one another’s cultivation of our center of purpose and meaning is the key to courage-enhancement.

            The second challenge facing our current world is to find courage in the face of exhaustion and its twin, cynicism. To succumb to cynicism is to grant ultimacy to our human potential for despair, and to lock oneself into a world of withdrawal and self-paralysis.

Three dimensions of courage

            To resist these decentering and paralysis-generating forces of our lives requires cultivating three aspects of courage. The first courage needed in times of trial and tribulation is the courage to face reality in all its starkness.  Reality is hard yet it leads us to truth.  Resisting one’s own temptation for denial takes courage and staying power.  None of us can hold in our heads and hearts the multiplicity of all personal and social ills.  But what we can do is to find focus.  There where your heart is most burdened, you will find your path and your necessary mobilization.

            If the ecological crisis is where your inner fire burns most brightly, be there, and your focus will ground and inspire you.  If your fire burns there where refugees are violated, and children are separated from their parents, be there, and you will find the animation it demands.  If your fire burns there where racism, sexism, classism abound, be there, and your focus will bring clarity and discernment in the face of the risk of a scattered and frenetic flailing about.   One needs courage to face the reality of one’s situation, including one’s corresponding grief, sorrow, anger, and the despair we may carry.

            As we engage reality in the contemporary arena we will face two major questions.  These are the (1) “Why now”? and (2) “Now what”? questions.  To face the “why now” question takes courage because it forces us to look at the contextual reality of our situation beyond the simplistic good vs. evil, black vs. white ideologies of the day.  If we only respond to personal communal alienation by demonizing our adversaries, how is our world to find redemption?  To ask the “why now” questions means we must be prepared to face the raw alienation visible in our reality.  We must find the courage to examine our place in the world and the courage to hear what the world is saying to us.  It takes great courage to listen.

            The courage to face reality also includes being able to ask the “now what” question.  In confusing and polarized times one is tempted to demonize “the other” even as we ourselves may feel victimized or “othered.” Ideological, political, religious, or a moral self-righteousness reinforces reactivity and deepens alienation.  We may be tempted by the false belief that vanquishing the reactive forces of our world through force and power can resolve our dilemmas or restore our world to wholeness.

            We must find the courage to affirm justice and assure its centrality in what we seek.  In seeking justice for the causes we hold dear, we must become advocates of justice for all peoples of our world.  It is not sufficient to serve justice when it serves us, but we must have the courage to pursue justice when it is not necessarily popular to do so, and this requires an awareness of the dynamics of privilege or power, a necessary humility that recognizes that we all contain our own blind spots.

            The second dimension of courage required of us is the courage to face darkness in ourselves and in our world.  Darkness is a force, an energy field that threatens to draw everything into itself, a black hole of the Spirit.  The darkness that confronted Kohut’s protagonists was the darkness of totalitarianism.  His examples of courage questioned the high priests of power of their day and Kohut’s hero’s challenged these power systems through non-violent resistance.

            Our world confronts a somewhat different darkness.  Our darkness is not so much a darkness of total power, but a darkness of violence, annihilation, and radical polarization.  It is the darkness of an alienation that runs away with itself and consumes its world.  In Kohut’s day, the enemy was obvious, visible, and strutting.  Our so-called enemy is invisible and non-substantial; it is not fixed in time and place. When indiscriminate violence and oozing hatred threatens our lives, it unleashes inner dangers every bit as threatening as outer dangers. 

            These dangers include the darkness of fear and demonization, which can settle in our soul as a spiritual cancer, the form of paranoia, where ultimately the world itself becomes our enemy.  Such fear itself becomes an enemy of Spirit.  The effect of this darkness of fear is that we project it outward onto others who have no connection to the source of our fear.  We then run the risk of succumbing to scapegoating persons or communities, or of hiding from the world in fear.  These dual dangers of indiscriminant blame and withdrawal and isolation, are two of the dangers of the darkness we face.

            But perhaps the deepest darkness one faces in an alienation-driven environment is the inner darkness of despair.  Despair is the product of the loss of perspective, the product of allowing darkness to define our world. Courage is a commitment toward transcending the darkness one encounters in one’s world.  Persons of faith have always known that darkness never has the final word.  Darkness can only snuff out the light if one succumbs to it.  A single candle can banish darkness into the furthest corners of any room.  Courage is the name we give to any effort to kindle one’s Spirit as light-bearer.

            The third dimension of courage needed today is the courage to permit our Spirit-Center to lead us where we would rather not go.  Courage, as our commitment to overcoming the life and spirit-denying aspects of our reality, comes with a direction, a path.  Courage goes somewhere, takes persons somewhere, toward a habitation of Spirit that is not yet their own.  To be of good courage is to be on the move.  But this movement is not necessarily one in step with prevailing cultural or political attitudes, beliefs, or goals.  The norms of the day may not coincide with one’s truest inner center, and this center calls us first and foremost into integrity with ourselves.  When we embrace this deep inner “felt rightness” it compels us to act accordingly.  Sometimes that path means joining in solidarity with others who are on a parallel journey of seeking truth, justice, or goodness.  Sometimes this path is a solitary path, where we are called by our inner Spirit to be a voice crying in the wilderness of reactionary forces.

            It takes courage to face darkness, both the darkness that others may impose upon us, as well as the darkness that resides in our own hearts. The courage our world needs is the courage to be faithful to a larger vision of wholeness than the merchants of hatred and violence would have us believe. There is a larger unity that seeks to be born in our world, and it takes courage to be champions of that unity.

1 Extensive revision with permission. William Schmidt, first published: “

Vol. 4, No.8, 2001.

[2] Charles Strozier, The Making of a Psychoanalyst.  New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

[3] Heinz Kohut, Self Psychology and the Humanities.  New York: W.W. Norton &Company, 1985, page 5 to 50.

[4] Erna Putz, Franz Jagerstatter: Letters and Papers from Prison.  Orbis Books.  2009.

[5] Peter Gilmour.  Growing in Courage.  Winona Minnesota: Saint Mary’s Press.  1998.

[6] Kohut, op.cit., p.6.

Rome 2020 – June 17-27

Did you know you can take an elective or core class towards your degree in Rome?

Study in Rome group 2019

The IPS Summer Rome program provides a unique opportunity to experience firsthand the historical, cultural, and spiritual benefits of the Eternal City and the Vatican. Led by faculty members with longstanding personal relationships with local academic and ecclesial leaders there, the program is designed for students of the IPS but is open to others. Often the richly diverse classes include non-degree seeking students and alumni interested in personal enrichment or those earning graduate degrees at other institutions as well. International study scholarships for IPS students, discounts for Alumni, and prorated payment plans make the cost feasible. Participants are responsible for paying tuition, room and board (under $2,000 for double occupancy!), and airfare.

The program is open to any adult who has an interest in any of the topics and is willing to audit the course. There is homework for those taking the classes for credit, but it won’t be done during the trip so you can enjoy your time in Rome.

Students are allowed to bring a spouse, partner, friend or family member, they can choose to audit the class or just join us for the tours.

Participants visit some of Rome’s most famous landmarks and attractions, including the Colosseum, the tombs of Peter and Paul, the catacombs, world-famous art museums, historic churches, and much more. The lectures occur in situ, and so you won’t be spending hours in an Italian classroom, but rather engaging the material in physical contact with the rich historical heritage of the city itself. Your fees include a number of “group meals” designed to be a true experience of Roman cuisine and part of the educational experience, recommended by (and reliably tested each year by dutiful faculty alongside) our friends and colleagues on the ground there.
As usual, the immersive experience will include meetings with a number of institutional and academic “dialogue partners” around Rome. This year that will likely include representatives from the Sant’Egidio Community, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Gregorian and Angelicum Universities, Jesuit Refugee Services, the Vatican Astronomical Observatory, the Tempio Maggiore synagogue in Rome and a number of established women working in and advising the Vatican.
In 2020 Mike Canaris and Deb Watson will be teaching in the program. Both of their classes (you must choose one or the other) will run as an eight-week online course, with ten immersive days in Rome from June 17-27.

Classes offered this year are:
IPS 599: Human Sexuality, Gender, and Feminist Voices across Cultures taught by Dr. Deborah Watson

IPS 532: Social Context of Ministry: Global Ecclesiology and Exclusion (a required class for Social Justice and MDiv. students) taught by Dr. Michael Canaris

IPS student Art Blumberg, who has been to Rome on 2 different occasions, was kind enough to share his thoughts with us: “Rome is a feast in so many ways. Exit a train station and see the Coliseum directly in front of you. Witness the grandeur of St. Peter’s Basilica. Explore the catacombs where early Christians prayed. Enjoy meals, both simple and magnificent. If you can go to Rome, go!”

Registration for the Rome 2020 program is now open. Space is limited. Priority is always given to current and graduated IPS students. First Deposit Deadline: December 15.
International Study Scholarship Deadline: January 15. If you have questions, contact Dr. Canaris (