Association of Jesuit Colleges
Creighton Cultivates Collaborative Ministry
ANDY ALEXANDER, S.J.
Creighton’s Online Ministries Web site offers the prayer tradition of Ignatius, the influence of the Jesuit mission and something else important -- a place where Creighton faculty and staff, both Jesuit and lay, collaborate with people around the world. Both the Daily Reflections and the Online Retreat in Everyday Life are key elements of this unique online community. The Web site is at: http://www.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/online.html
The Online Ministries began with the Daily Reflection Web site, created five years ago as a way to support Creighton’s faculty and staff. We asked our colleagues from all areas of campus to write personal reflections on each day’s scripture readings. There was hesitation at first, as people either begged off saying they hadn’t studied Theology, or excused themselves humbly saying they weren’t “good enough” to write spiritual reflections. A few faculty found it difficult to get comfortable with “publishing” four to six paragraphs on such a short timeline. We urged people to share their personal experience of the daily readings as it intersects with their everyday faith life.
Within a very short time, we began hearing from people around the world who had heard about and visited the Daily Reflections Web site. We added an e-mail link to each reflection, which allowed readers to contact the writer. Once our faculty and staff started receiving responses from people all over the world, it was not difficult to continue this collaborative effort.
One reflection writer, Creighton’s Dr. Jeanne Schuler, associate professor in philosophy, finds that the Daily Reflections are a way to break out of the isolation in which many of us live. “I’m convinced that people are hungry for community and it’s hard to come by,” she said. “I might write something feeling like I am writing into the ‘Great Void,’ but when people respond, they lift me up and that encourages me.”
Another writer is Creighton’s president, Rev. John P. Schlegel, S.J., who looks forward to setting aside the time to reflect on the readings. “It is time away from the affairs of the university in its multiple dimensions,” he said. “It allows me to be with God and to stretch my heart a bit more and, as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins says, ‘to let the spirit sit and brood.'"
Weekday reflections are usually read 5,000 times. Sunday reflections reach 7,000 or more people. One reflection writer says, “I can spend most of my day working to prepare information for classes of 40 students, or with committees of 10 peers, but it is overwhelming to think that the Daily Reflection I prepare will reach thousands of people.”
The Daily Reflections also are available on PDAs or other handheld devices. This innovation means that we hear from a man who has read a reflection in a train station in Singapore, or from a commuter in Chicago who prays on the way to work.
After seeing the strength of the Daily Reflections, we began to look at the Internet as a way to experience the power of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. It was an answer to a question we often heard from our own staff during New Employee Orientation sessions. After learning of the central role of the Exercises in the development of the spiritual humanism behind Jesuit education, many new employees ask us, “Where can I get a copy of this Exercise book to read?” We explain that it is really a handbook for those individually guiding others in exploring their own journey, their own relationship with God. It is an experience to be had, not a book to be read.
So we spent a year translating the type of individual guidance Ignatius gives in the Spiritual Exercises and turned into a 34-week, online experience that anyone can make, from any computer in the world, at any time that fits their schedule.
The Online Retreat is not only an orientation to the roots of the Jesuit tradition, but is a genuine “school of prayer” for busy people seeking to find some intimacy with God in the midst of our everyday lives. It also has become a powerful resource in helping administrators, faculty and staff of any Jesuit university experience the Ignatian vision, which supports our common identity and mission.
Quick Facts on Creighton’s Online Ministries
This Web site offers a calendar of reflections for busy people - forming a spirituality for everyday life.
The site, which began during the Lenten season of 1998 and has been offered daily since August of 1998,often averages 5,000-7,000 visits per day.
Personal reflections are written by more than 50 faculty, staff and administrators from Creighton University. What first began as a ministry by our employees for our employees, has quickly grown to accommodate a worldwide following.
Online Retreat in Daily Life
Busy people can experience the movements of the “Spiritual Exercises,” as individuals or in groups.
The 34-week retreat, which can be started at any time, or made during the liturgical year, begins each September.
Each week includes:
Online Retreat uses the interactive nature of the web:
The interactive features of the web have supported the online retreat in the following ways:
The site includes a growing collection of Web sites and links to Justice issues based on the Jesuit, Catholic tradition, including:
Seasonal Prayer Preparation
Practical and intimate ways of praying with the liturgical season.