In Spring 2013, the Center for Vocation and Servant Leadership (CVSL) initiated the Praxis Pilot of the Advanced Seminar on Mission, co-sponsored with the Center for Catholic Studies (CCS) , the Bernard J. Lonergan Institute. The Praxis Program is an advanced faculty development program designed to foster personal, professional, organizational and institutional development for faculty and administrators at Seton Hall, who are graduates of two previous mission seminars. It was designed to answer the participants' question: how do I apply the learnings of the Advanced Seminar on Mission to my disciplines/professions in light of the mission of Seton Hall University?
Its purpose is to engage faculty and administrators in a process of peer mentoring and educational support in order to apply the mission of the University to their respective disciplines and departments, through a method which connects the disciplines to each other, to an integrated understanding of knowledge, and to the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.
In this program, the meaning of the mission of Seton Hall University is approached as the intellectual conversion that occurs here, the journey of the human spirit to truth and meaning, through focus on academic and ethical development, engaging in the education of the whole person.
The program provides an understanding and practical application of Bernard J. F. Lonergan's Generalized Empirical Method (GEM) as an effective way to analyze and apply the mission of the University to the disciplines/professions. GEM highlights the general method of the human spirit as it gives rise to the specialized methods of the sciences and scholarly disciplines. GEM also leads to questions of meaning, community, progress and decline in history, religion and revelation. Such a method acknowledges the proper autonomy of the sciences and scholarly disciplines, but it is also able to consider them within the higher viewpoint of faith. Lonergan, a Jesuit philosopher and theologian, described his method as follows:
In brief, underpinning special methods there is what I have named generalized empirical method (GEM). Its operations are the operations we can verify each in his own consciousness. And the normative pattern that relates these operations to one another is the conscious dynamism of sensitive spontaneity, of intelligence raising questions and demanding satisfactory answers, of reasonableness insisting on sufficient evidence before it can assent yet compelled to assent when sufficient evidence is forthcoming, of conscience presiding over all and revealing to the subject his authenticity or his unauthenticity as he observes or violates the immanent norms of his own sensitivity, his own intelligence, his own reasonableness, his own freedom and responsibility.
Third Collection, Papers by Bernard Lonergan, SJ, ed. Frederick E. Crowe (New York: Paulist, 1985) 150.
Background and Rationale
In 2008, the CVSL developed and implemented The University Seminar on Mission in response to the need for a tangible increase in identification with Seton Hall's Catholic mission by the faculty and administrators. In response to the request of the alumni of the University Seminar on Mission for a program to deepen their understanding and dedication to the mission, The Advanced Seminar on Mission was offered by the CVSL in 2011. The seminar's success prompted the program alumni to request additional mentoring on the application of the mission to their disciplines and administrative departments.
In response, in Spring 2013, the Praxis Pilot of the Advanced Seminar on Mission, was offered, facilitated by Msgr. Richard Liddy, Director of the Center for Catholic Studies. Thirteen faculty and administrators participated in the first cohort of GEM Fellows. The majority implemented their ATMs (Application of The (GEM) Method) in their classes and administrative positions in the 2013-14 academic year. Implementation of an updated ATM is required in one semester of subsequent academic years.
Since 2013, five cohorts have engaged in the program, with 70 faculty participating, including several deans and senior administrators. The program consists of a semester long training or immersion in the thought of Bernard Lonergan, involving six 3 hours sessions, with a request for a plan of application, Applying The Method (ATM), to their disciplines. A peer support program follows, consisting of deepening content and reflection upon their implementation, in monthly meetings throughout the fall and spring semesters of each academic year.
It is notable in Spring 2016, that the fourth cohort was supported by the Raskob Foundation, the first such award to Seton Hall University. A fifth cohort began in Spring 2018.
Periodic assessment is conducted over the term and at the conclusion of the program for the academic year. Participants reflect on key areas and summarize their observations. Since 2013, positive results have been recorded. The preliminary conclusions of the various assessments to date, can be summarized by two major points:
- There was a need at Seton Hall for Community and a community was formed through this program. Faculty and administrators felt isolated in their silos and were not sure where they fit within the mission, or how to express the mission in their work here.
- There was a need to provide a way, a method (GEM) to analyze the mission and to create a process (self-appropriation) and a practical plan (ATM) to affect themselves and their teaching/professions, thereby giving meaning to the mission of the university.
GEM Fellows ATMs (Application of The Method):
Praxis Program Summer Workshop 2018
Perspectives on a Catholic Philosophy of Education: Action and Direction for the 21st Century
June 5–7 - Rome, Italy
Praxis Program Summer Workshop 2017
The Role of Functional Specialties: A Workshop on Applying Lonergan
July 25–27 - Trieste, Italy