Archived Letters from Interim Director Fr. Howell, SJ

A Year in Review

Posted by Pat Howell, SJ on Monday, June 3, 2019 at 11:14 AM PDT

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture has had a remarkably rich year of conferences, lectures, faculty seminars, and interactions with other Jesuit institutions of higher education. In particular, I personally have been blessed by working with a remarkably talented, dedicated team of Jessica Palmer, program manager, Amber Larkin, senior administrative assistant, and Lucas Sharma, SJ, faculty fellow.

As we conclude another academic year, I would like to give an overview report on our multiple activities and notable achievements for 2018-2019. 

Collaboration with Faculty for Mission.  First and foremost, the ICTC works from “within” in collaboration with a wide assortment of colleagues and departments.  Much of our work is hidden. This year we awarded five grants of $3000 each for faculty members: Rebecca Cobb, Wes Howard-Brook, Benjamin Howe, Aakanksha Sinha, and Colette Taylor, to either create or strengthen courses that incorporate the Catholic intellectual tradition with vigor and creativity. These same individuals will participate in a two-day, in-depth seminar treating such topics as Faith and Reason, Engaging Catholic Social Teachings, and Catholic ImaginationIn addition, we were able to award grants from $3,300 to $7,000 for research that ranged from “Laudato Si and Sustainable Coffee Production in Vietnam” to “Finding Safety in the Body: Trauma-Informed Mindfulness Practice.” Visit the ICTC website for more information on faculty fellowships.

Faculty and Staff Reading Groups.  More quietly, but just as effectively, we have hosted multiple faculty and staff lunches on significant books, such as Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship by Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ; Because Water is Life by Gary Chamberlain; A Church with Open Doors by Richard Gaillardetz; and a year-long faculty study group that drew inspiration from On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life by Sara Ahmed.

First Spiritual Exercises.  For the first time, the Center of Jesuit Education (Jen Tilghman-Havens) and the ICTC (Pat Howell SJ) sponsored a generously welcomed four-week retreat in everyday life after Easter. Erin Fullner, a participant, shares her reflection: Participating in this Spiritual Exercises retreat has been life changing. I’ll carry what I’ve learned about prayer, reflection, and discernment with me for the rest of my life. And the experience was a genuine retreat, in that it provided refuge in a hectic world. The time spent together in group fellowship and discussion was particularly remarkable. I would leave our meetings refreshed, empowered, and in awe of how open and real this group of new friends could be with one another. The retreatants deeply appreciated the materials offered in The First Spiritual Exercises by the Australian Jesuit Mark Hansen, S.J., and they recommended that this offering be made available more frequently to staff and faculty.

Spiritual Practice.  One of our most enduring offerings is the Catholic Heritage Lectures, which this year featured Spiritual Practice in three different venues. In the fall, Andrew Prevot from Boston College presented on Spiritual Practice and the Intellectual Life; in the winter Margie Pfeil on Advocacy and Activism; and in the spring Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ on Working on the Margins. For more information and video recordings of the events, please visit the ICTC website.

Partnerships with Local Church. ICTC partnered with the Archdiocese of Seattle, Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center, St. James Immigrant Assistance and Catholic Community Services to sponsor the third annual Catholic Immigration Summit (June 8 – there’s still time to register, see event posting below). Pat Howell, SJ continues to serve on two archdiocesan committees: the Mental Health Ministry and Continuing Education for Clergy (priests and deacons). 

Conversations Magazine.  Pat Howell, SJ continues in his major role as chair of the National Seminar of Jesuit Higher Education, publisher of Conversations, for which he is also the General Editor. Lucas Sharma, S.J., the creative associate editor, is the webmaster. The Seminar, composed of nine faculty members from across the spectrum of 27 Jesuit institutions, publishes the magazine twice a year. We work in collaboration with Heartland/Delta Conference (ten Jesuit universities) and Western Conversations (six western Jesuit universities) for their annual conferences.  See

Seattle University Strategic Plan. Two of our members, Lucas Sharma, SJ and Amber Larkin have been on the Steering Committee and respective subcommittees of the University’s five-year strategic planning process. They have spent hours and hours in hearings, consultations, and meetings to widely engage the whole campus. In addition, ICTC has hosted a core group of faculty to write up a “white paper” urging the Formation of Faculty and Staff for Leadership in Mission and providing a solid rationale and description of what it means to be a contemporary, bold, Jesuit Catholic university.

Crisis in the Church.  And finally we faced into the fresh, new storm that engulfed the Catholic Church last August underscoring the ongoing crisis in the church (see the separate article below on this topic).

Thank you for all your interest, support, and participation in ICTC during this past year.

Patrick Howell, S.J., interim director
Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture

ICTC 2019: Lucas Sharma, SJ, Pat Howell, SJ, Jessica Palmer, Amber Larkin

A Farewell for a Time

In August I will be moving to Gonzaga University to work as a Senior Jesuit in their Mission and Ministry division, headed by the talented Dr. Michelle Wheatley, acting vice president. At this point it’s a one-year assignment to help them implement their plan for advancing the Jesuit Catholic mission following a thorough, in depth review of the core Jesuit identity, which has been mandated by the Jesuit provincials for all the Jesuit universities. I look forward to returning to my alma mater, where I received my baccalaureate degree before entering the Jesuits. It’s been a long trek in between. I will sorely miss all the wonderful connections, friendships, and colleagues that I have enjoyed at Seattle University for the past 34 years. Thank you so much.

Pat Howell, S.J.
Jesuit at large