Loyola’s Commitment to Social Justice

Posted on: February 5th, 2014


By Brian Schmisek
Director, Institute of Pastoral Studies

Loyola’s commitment to social justice attracted me here. I was the Dean of the School of Ministry at the University of Dallas. My eye was on Loyola and the Institute of Pastoral Studies especially after they launched the Master of Arts in Social Justice in 2004. The slogan, “Social Justice isn’t just for Rock Stars” was clever and catchy. True to its Jesuit identity, Loyola was reaching out, going to the threshold.

My own commitment to justice was being lived out in different ways, including volunteering with Hungerbusters, an agency devoted to serving the hungry and the homeless in the city. On various nights we would drive our Hungerbusters truck to pre-arranged restaurants. They gave us hundreds of meals, including soups, sandwiches, cookies, and hot beverages. We would then drive the truck to various points in the city to feed the hungry and homeless, anyone who walked up. It was an amazing sight to see. Though I thought deeply about the systematic and structural issues that caused and perpetuated the homelessness, and how those larger issues might be addressed, for these nights we were there to serve in a direct way.

I also served on the board of The Family Place, a domestic violence shelter in Dallas, and later became a Vice President for governmental affairs with this board. Shortly thereafter, the Violence Against Women Act was up for reauthorization. The majority of the Texas legislative delegation, including the two senators, had come out against reauthorization of this important law. We had our work cut out for us!

It was not until I moved to Chicago with Loyola that the Violence Against Women Act was reauthorized and signed into law. I reached out to the Executive Director of The Family Place and we celebrated this good news. It’s important for me to work on systems as well as direct service. Volunteering with different agencies is one way I try to live a commitment to justice. Now that I’m in Illinois, I am engaging agencies and boards here.

Professional and personal commitments to justice tend to overlap for me. The MA in Social Justice at IPS has a strong “contextual education” component that functions somewhat as an internship. The Institute of Pastoral Studies has over sixty different churches and social change agencies with which we partner to provide contextual education for our students. Meeting the leaders and “change agents” of these places has been a true joy for me. The education we provide our students is not only theory but it is practical and skills based. And of course this applies to all IPS programs, not only the MA in Social Justice. The IPS student body is inspiring as they seek to become “change agents” in the world.

Loyola University Chicago is unique. Its commitment to social justice shines throughout the entire university community. The students, faculty, administration, and staff, all of us live this commitment together in various ways. We encourage each other to do more, to reach out, to go to the threshold. For this reason, I’m proud to be part of Loyola University Chicago.

A Note from the Provost Office for Social Justice Initiatives:

Our goal is to foster a dialogue about social justice issues. However, some recent comments went beyond the scope of this site. They were addressing some curricular decisions made at Loyola, and had the tenor of being an attack on the blog author. Therefore, we have taken the comments down, but we welcome comments that directly relate to topics dicussed on our site.

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