Spirit of Georgetown
As a Jesuit institution, Georgetown is grounded in a nearly 500-year old educational tradition inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. Today, as a consequence of this long tradition, we can identify a number of characteristics or values that inspirit our University and that are referred to in the University mission statement, institutional documents, and iconography. The following values and definitions will help you to understand what makes Georgetown such an inviting and distinctive educational community. And just as Bishop John Carroll – founder of Georgetown University – welcomed students from various religious and cultural backgrounds, we hope that whatever traditions you bring to this University community, you will find here values that you can appropriate in your own distinct way.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam – (For the Greater Glory of God), the motto of the Society of Jesus, appears over the entrance to Wolfington Hall, the Jesuit Residence on campus, and above the stage in Gaston Hall. This motto identifies the religious purpose of all Jesuit endeavors. It is not simply doing good that Jesuits propose, but rather doing what will better or more effectively reveal God’s active presence in our work and in our world. Discerning what is better is always an important principle of Jesuit decision-making.
Contemplation in Action – St. Ignatius believed that prayer and reflectivity should so guide our choices and actions that our activity itself becomes a way of entering into union with and praising God. Contemplation is a critical dimension of the spiritual life and it is reflected in Georgetown’s commitment to prayer, worship and retreats. Analogously, in the academic life, a spirit of reflectivity is a critical aspect of intellectual inquiry.
Academic Excellence – In 1547, the first Jesuits were invited to begin a college in Messina, Italy, so that the young men of that town could receive the same quality of education that the early Jesuits promoted in training their own. Georgetown University is a descendant of this original Jesuit commitment to education. Academic excellence describes the great importance that Jesuits have placed on the life of the mind as a means for uncovering truth and discovering meaning. Georgetown’s emphasis on academic excellence is reflected in the careful selection of faculty and students, the quality of teaching and the importance of research across our campuses, and it has led to our recognition as one of the top universities in the United States.
Educating the Whole Person – St. Ignatius believed that God could be discovered in every human endeavor, in every facet of learning and experience, and in every field of study. As such, he promoted the development of the spiritual, intellectual, artistic, social and physical virtues of each person. Georgetown commits to integrating the virtuous life into academic experiences, co-curricular life on campus, immersion trips, living-learning communities, religious and humanistic engagement, and all the shared experiences of our community life.
Cura Personalis – This Latin phrase translates as “Care of the Person,” and originally was used to describe the responsibility of the Jesuit Superior to care for each man in the community with his unique gifts, challenges, needs and possibilities. Today this value applies broadly to our shared University life, to include the relationship between educators and students and professional relationships among all those who work in the University. Cura Personalis is a profound care and responsibility for one another, grounded in individualized attention to the needs of the other, attentive to their unique circumstances and concerns, and their particular gifts and limitations, to encourage each person’s flourishing.
Faith that Does Justice – Grounded in the Gospel and Catholic social teaching, the Society of Jesus, in 1965, strengthened and placed at the center of its mission a commitment to “the service of faith and the promotion of justice.” Since 1977 Georgetown has named this priority as a faith that does justice, linking the authentic following of the Gospel of Jesus with an obligation to address the social realities of poverty, oppression and injustice in our world. Georgetown’s commitment to faith formation carries this commitment forward into our academic and community life, and in the promotion of justice to advance the common good. The “faith that does justice” is expressed and acted upon in Georgetown’s centers for research and dialogue, community based learning courses, social justice immersion experiences, and in direct service to the marginalized and vulnerable in our community.
People for Others – Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1981, employed the phrase “Men for Others” in a notable 1973 presentation in Valencia, Spain. Fr. Arrupe provocatively challenged the alumni of Jesuit schools and universities to be engaged in the struggle for justice to protect the needs of the most vulnerable. Today, this phrase has become more inclusive and its spirit is evidenced in Georgetown’s promotion of community-based learning courses; our local, national and international service projects; justice immersion programs; and over forty student-led service and justice organizations.
Interreligious Understanding – Reflecting themes from the Second Vatican Council, the 34th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus made a significant commitment to ecumenical and interreligious engagement and understanding. This dialogue opens up an understanding of God revealed through different religious traditions, recognizing and celebrating the spiritual and moral values found among these traditions. Our Georgetown Office of Campus Ministry supports a rich variety of faith traditions supporting our Catholic, Dharmic, Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox Christian and Protestant Christian chaplaincies, and a variety of affiliated ministries, including the John Main Center for Meditation and Interreligious Dialogue. In addition, the University sponsors the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs; the Center on Jewish Civilization; the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life; the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding; the Catholic Studies Program; and the Theological & Religious Studies Doctoral Program in the Department of Theology & Religious Studies. As the Second Vatican Council proclaims, we “join hands with others to work toward a world of peace, liberty, social justice, and moral values.”
Community in Diversity – As a Catholic and Jesuit University, the Georgetown community affirms and promotes a rich and growing diversity of faith traditions; racial, ethnic, and gender identities; and the varieties of cultural heritages represented by our students, faculty, and staff. Aware of our place and responsibility in an increasingly interconnected world, we walk in solidarity with others, embracing the value and dignity of every member of our community. As Father General Arturo Sosa, S.J. affirms, Jesuit higher education “involves recognizing diversity as a constitutive dimension of a full human life.” Georgetown lives out this institutional commitment through a variety of resources and programs across our campuses, including: the Office of Student Equity & Inclusion; the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, & Affirmative Action; the Women’s Center; the LGBTQ Recourse Center; and a wide array of student-led cultural and performance groups.
Care for Our Common Home – In his landmark 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis urgently calls for “a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet.” As we strive to protect our common home and promote the common good, we show respect for the Creator and act on the moral imperative to care for the earth and for those most impacted by environmental degradation. Georgetown seeks to strengthen our efforts to bring the intellectual, institutional, and spiritual resources of our community to advance environmental sustainability and environmental justice.
These values are central to the identity of Georgetown University, and each generation of students, faculty, and staff is invited to engage them in ways that sustain our Jesuit character.