|"What seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude," said Fr Balleis.|
(Spokane) May 28, 2013 – As they embark on the next stage of their lives university graduates should remember the Ignatian principle of pursuing aspirations both for oneself and our interconnected world, noted Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Fr. Peter Balleis S.J. in a commencement address at Gonzaga University.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony earlier this month, Fr. Balleis reminded students of the words of the former Superior of the Society of Jesus, and JRS founder, Pedro Arrupe S.J.
"What seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the mornings, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude," said Fr Balleis in his acceptance speech after being conferred with doctorate in law honoris causa.
However, our personal aspirations are not isolated from the dreams of others, Fr. Balleis continued. It is this belief which has pushed JRS, in cooperation with Jesuit Commons for Higher Education at the Margins (JC:HEM) to establish online tertiary education for refugees in Kenya, Jordan and Malawi. Despite the immense suffering in the past and the uncertainty of their futures, many refugees continue to resiliently pursue their dreams.
Bol Daniel, a South Sudanese refugee who as a child fled to Kakuma in northern Kenya, is a quintessential example of one who has relentlessly pursued his dream of higher education. Though paralysed at age five, he still managed to attend classes in the camp every day in his wheelchair and was admitted into the JC:HEM program.
In his admissions interview Bol told the committee he wanted to give back to his community and to use what God left him, his brain. After being admitted into the diploma course, he also began teaching younger students and is now set to graduate with a liberal arts degree this September.
"Young refugees, whose lives have been interrupted by tragedy and flight, struggle to get a primary and secondary education. But higher education remains a distant dream as only one percent of all refugees are able to attain a university degree", Balleis told the audience.
JRS and JC:HEM hope to change that statistic by expanding its provision of higher education from three to 10 sites by 2018.
"If we dream together, our aspirations are stronger and will become true. The personal dream of each one of us is part of a much bigger vision. Your life is part of something bigger than yourself, your family, your country. We're part of humanity and its aspirations," Fr. Balleis said.
"Our desire is to build a global network of Jesuit Universities reaching out to people at the margins, to refugees, indigenous people and deprived populations. Gonzaga University, you as faculties, students, graduates and Alumni are part of this bigger aspiration. Let us be passionate about what we dream because in the inspirations and deepest desires we will find our destiny and the will of God."