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New Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice Explores Vision of Pope Francis

Over eighty people across the city gathered for workshops this month held by Xavier’s new Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice (ISSJ). Facilitated in both English and Spanish, the workshops focused on Pope’s Francis’ understanding of a universal call to discipleship that is sparked in each person by means of encounter.

The workshops were the first in a series of programs offered by the ISSJ under the leadership of Dr. Gillian Ahlgren, professor of theology and one of the workshops’ two co-facilitators.   “We based the workshop sessions on the pope’s letter The Joy of the Gospel, which is really a beautiful document that speaks to our need to recover the depths of our humanity in light of what the pope calls the ‘globalization of indifference,’” Ahlgren explained.   “In the document Pope Francis calls all of us to an ‘ever watchful scrutiny of the signs of the times’ because he sees that we are stuck in patterns of dehumanization that we have to reverse.”Dan Hartnett, SJ, pastor of Bellarmine Chapel and adjunct professor in the Philosophy Department, also facilitated the workshop, contributing a careful review of the social and economic dimensions of the document, informed by decades of work with the marginalized in Peru.

Participants represented over twenty different churches in the area, Catholic and Protestant,all seated at roundtables. “The workshop’s intent was to gather people for a careful consideration of the message of this document and to spark hopeful and challenging discussion,”Ahlgren said. “People left really energized by Pope Francis’ invitation to a whole new way of living together more thoughtfully, more compassionately, more justly. It’s what he calls ‘la mística de vivirjuntos’—the mystical life that we share together.”

The program will be repeated in the fall, and more ISSJ workshops will be offered on Saturday, August 16. For more information contact the ISSJ at (513) 745-2894 or visit www.xavier.edu/issj

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About the author
Gillian Ahlgren
Dr. Ahlgren has been teaching the Christian mystical tradition to college-age students, graduate students, and adult learners for over 26 years. She is an internationally-recognized scholar of the tradition, an experienced spiritual director, and engages a regular practice of contemplative prayer. A popular teacher, public speaker and writer, she also gives several retreats per year. She is the Founding Director of Xavier University’s Institute for Spirituality and Social Justice.