Commemorating the Past, Envisioning the Future: Campus Ministry to Host Ignatian Art Showcase

‘Seeds of Transformation’ commemorates the 500th anniversary of Ignatius’ cannonball moment that inspired his spiritual conversion

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COURTESY OF STEFANI NICOLE ALCANTAR

Fordham graduate student Stefani Nicole Alcantar submitted a photograph she took for the “Seeds of Tranformation” exhibit.

By OLIVIA STERN

Five hundred years ago, St. Ignatius of Loyola was struck in the leg by a cannonball, forcing his military career to an end and inspiring the beginning of his spiritual conversion.

To honor this moment and transport it into the present, Fordham’s Campus Ministry is inviting submissions to an art exhibit titled “Seeds of Transformation: Envisioning Hope for the Environment with Ignatian Imagination.”

The idea behind the exhibit traces back to the Ignatian Family Teach-in for Justice in October 2021. Carol Gibney, director of Campus Ministry, Solidarity and Leadership, watched Brian Henning, Fordham Graduate School of Arts and Science ’03 and philosophy professor at Gonzaga University, speak at the conference on “Telling a New Story About Climate Change.” 

“Art is always a portal to the sacred … that’s at the heart of Ignatian spirituality.” Carol Gibney, director of Campus Ministry, Solidarity and Leadership

Henning described in his speech how we can connect the dots between Ignatian spirituality and environmental sustainability, considering morals and compassion for the Earth and those living on it. 

“There were many people that watched (the speech) from Fordham, and all of us had the same strong reaction to his talk,” Gibney said. “Of course, the environment and many things are front and center, but instead of looking at (Earth as) a ‘Wall-E’ world, how do we reimagine it?” 

From there, the inspiration for connecting St. Ignatius’ conversion anniversary to the realities of climate change was born. Campus Ministry thought an art exhibit would be beneficial to allow students and members of the Fordham community to express their thoughts and perspectives in ways that words may not be able to capture. 

“Sometimes, there’s simply no words,” Gibney said. “Art is always a portal to the sacred, and expression of art, I think, in every variety — music, dance, graphic art — it invites us to stop, to pause and to reflect, and that’s at the heart of Ignatian spirituality.”

Gibney explained the process of forming this concept into something tangible took “a lot of prayer,” organization and strategic planning. Campus Ministry staff and students across both campuses split into four committees to delegate the work, each in charge of a different aspect of planning. 

One committee manages submissions, another plans the opening receptions and the third leads marketing and promotion. The fourth committee is looking into collaboration with community partners, like the Church of St. Paul the Apostle that sits right next to the Lincoln Center campus.

“We tried to keep it really strategic and keep it as simple as possible, recognizing that college students, their spring semester is always very busy,” Gibney said.

“Ignatian spirituality is very much about re-imagining the world.” Carol Gibney

Rather than focusing on the despair of climate change, “Seeds of Transformation” challenges participants to see through a positive lens of action and hope. Their call to submissions invites artists to think about “what our planet could look like when we commit ourselves to stewardship. What happens when we challenge ourselves to reimagine our presence on earth as hopeful and interconnected?” 

“I think love transforms always, and we as humans, when we’re disconnected from the environment, then naturally (we’re) not going to be as concerned about it,” Gibney said. 

She said this choice also connects back to tenets of Ignatian spirituality. 

“Ignatian spirituality is very much about re-imagining the world,” Gibney explained. “(St. Ignatius) was someone who was very enamored with the world and worldly things.” She detailed how his conversion allowed him to open himself up to compassion and connection to others. “If you’re connected to them, then your world changes,” she said. 

“We have to go a little bit deeper to extend that love and compassion to everybody around us because people are hurting.” Carol Gibney

With the “Seeds of Transformation” exhibit, Gibney hopes the art will allow for reflection and expression of just one of the many issues troubling our world today. 

“At this moment in time, with the world hurting, and the pandemic and the war, for us to be as loving as compassionate for and with each other, we’re men and women for and with others,” she said. “We have to go a little bit deeper to extend that love and compassion to everybody around us because people are hurting.”

Campus Ministry will be accepting submissions until March 31 via the online submission form or in person in the Campus Ministry office at either campus. Films or other digital submissions can be sent to the Campus Ministry email, [email protected] 

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Brian Henning’s name. As of March 30, 2022, it has been updated to reflect that change.