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Lilly Grant Starts Theology Institute

Statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, at the entrance to College Hall. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

Statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, at the entrance to College Hall. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

SPOKANE, Wash. – A $294,415 grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. will establish the Gonzaga University Theology Institute for High School Youth. The grant is part of Lilly Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

Gonzaga’s one-week Institute is expected to start in summer 2016 with up to 48 students entering the 11th and 12th grades. It will draw on Pope Francis’ encyclical, “Laudato Si: On the Care of Our Common Home,” as well as Gonzaga’s Jesuit and Catholic tradition, its liberal arts foundation, and commitment to sustainability to address issues of moral awareness with global implications.

The Institute aims to help future leaders consider complex questions regarding the stewardship of God’s creation through a wide variety of activities, including directed readings of sacred and theological texts, mini-lectures, multimedia presentations, dialogue, guest speakers, storytelling and reflective journaling. Seeking to integrate the Ignatian model of educating the whole person through experience, reflection, and action, the Institute also will engage students in vocational contemplation and discernment through interviews with community leaders on topics including social and environmental justice, the relationship between religion and science, and the welfare of local and global communities.

Elisabeth Mermann-Jozwiak, dean of Gonzaga’s College of Arts & Sciences, will oversee the program, which will be co-directed by Gonzaga religious studies faculty Joe Mudd and Anastasia Wendlinder. GU faculty from disciplines including organizational leadership, political science, environmental studies, and philosophy will deliver the program.

An announcement regarding applications for the program will be posted on Gonzaga’s news website at

We are so grateful to Lilly Endowment for supporting this project. Youth education is absolutely central to the Jesuit mission, and this Institute will allow Gonzaga faculty and staff to share our expertise with high school students who seek transformational summer experiences and who aspire to become tomorrow’s leaders,” said Dean Mermann-Jozwiak. “We will begin working on implementing our plans right away and look forward to welcoming our first cohort next summer.”

Gonzaga is one of 82 schools participating in the initiative. The schools are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions.

View the full news release online.

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