Lenten Series continues with a conversation on the “Spirituality of Encounter”

Seán Brennan

Since his tenure at The Vatican, Pope Francis has emphasized openness and empathy to all people of faith, and Loyola alumni want to learn more.

Alumni gathered on campus Wed. night, March 2 to learn and converse about Pope Francis’ concept of the “Spirituality of Encounter,” in the third installment of the 2016
Lenten Series.

Co-sponsored by the Alumni Association and University Ministry, the Lenten Series is a course of weekly presentations that invite Loyola alumni back to campus throughout the season of Lent.

The goal of the series is to “share together in the spirit of the season,” and this year’s theme is “the Year of Mercy and the spirituality of Pope Francis.”

Tom Ryan, professor and director of the Loyola Institute for Ministry, led an alumni-filled Ignatius Chapel in a talk about the “Spirituality of Encounter,” a major ideal of Pope Francis.

“The goals of tonight are to grow an understanding of Pope Francis, consider the challenges of encounter for you and have a good conversation,” Ryan said.

According to Ryan’s presentation, a spirituality that includes encounters with others is a necessary part of all faiths, because it focuses on taking risks to achieve nearness to others and to God.

“The problem is the church turning in on itself, and encounter is the solution,” Ryan said. “Through encounter, we are liberated into openness.”

This notion of openness was one of the driving points of Ryan’s presentation and is part of practicing this spirituality of encounter. Ryan emphasized the importance of being open to life, and quoted Pope Francis several times to drive home this message.

“The church, in order to survive, must stop living within herself, of herself, for herself,” Pope Francis said. “The Gospel tells us constantly to run to the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others.”

Throughout the presentation, Ryan used various written works from the Pope to help explain and analyze the concept behind the “Spirituality of Encounter.” He showed videos from The Vatican and eventually opened the talk up for a conversation with the alumni and other attendees in the chapel.

After presenting, explaining and conversing about the “Spirituality of Encounter,” Ryan and the alumni came to a simple conclusion on what they thought Pope Francis wanted out of this concept: for one to go out and meet others.

Diane Blair, Manager of Admissions in the Loyola Institute for Ministry, attended the presentation to learn more on the Year of Mercy and to see returning alumni.

“As several mentioned during the discussion, we live in such a polarized society,” Blair said. “A spirituality of encounter can help us build bridges to people, cultures and ideas that are seemingly very different from our own and make them less distant.”