Caring for creation: The fourth foundation stone in Jesuit education commitment to teach, to do research, and to serve

Caring for creation: The fourth foundation stone in Jesuit education commitment to teach, to do research, and to serve

Caring for creation, an upland forest in Bendum, northern Mindanao, Philippines. Photo credit:  P Walpole
Caring for creation, an upland forest in Bendum, northern Mindanao, Philippines. Photo credit: P Walpole

James AF Stoner

Cura personalis, homines pro aliis, and magis have long been key themes of Jesuit education. Care for the whole person, men and women for others, or maybe men and women together for others, and excellence – the never ending search for improvement – are foundation stones upon which many, perhaps all, Jesuit educational institutions built their approaches to teaching, research, and service.

Many non-Jesuit, non-Catholic, and non-Christian universities would also very likely agree that these three themes are deeply consistent with how they see their own missions, even if they might not use those particular Latin words to capture their own commitments. In many ways, those words are also guides to the good life – to lives well and richly lived.

Recent events, however, are suggesting ever more strongly that we, as educators and as citizens, and simply as members of the human species, are called to make explicit a fourth foundation stone for our commitments to serve our communities and ourselves.

That fourth foundation stone is “care for God’s creation” or whatever phrase each individual may be most comfortable with. In the deepest spiritual sense, care for God’s creation refers to the call to meet our obligation to honor the loan of this planet that we have been given responsibility for, at this time in the planet’s very, very, very long existence and in our almost infinitesimally short length of time on it. In a purely practical and perhaps even selfish sense, this call refers to the need to protect the planet’s capacity to support our immediate personal existence and the existence of our own species. Of course, we also have both a spiritual and a selfish obligation to protect the survival of all species, not just our own.

For all educators, this call is to our commitments in teaching, in research, and in service. For those of us in Jesuit universities, the call to recognize and act on that fourth foundation stone is particularly and increasingly clear and compelling.

What’s so? So what? Now what?

I will comment briefly on possible responses to those three questions that might speak particularly to faculty and administrators of Jesuit business schools and universities, and might in turn offer those schools and universities a special opportunity to continue the Jesuit tradition of “changing the world.” (from Heroic leadership: Best practices from a 450-year old company that changed the world by Chris Lowney, 2003)

What’s so?

It has long been clear that the impact of the ways we produce, consume, and populate this planet are stressing the planet’s capacities beyond its ability to continue providing what is being taken from it and to absorb what is being disposed on and into it. However, ameliorative actions are tragically slow and inadequate for meeting the challenges we are facing. In the domain of education, Jesuit universities and business schools may have a somewhat better record than many other institutions in wrestling with the challenges of a progressively more unsustainable way of being on this planet, but we all know we can do a great deal more.

Two recent events and the words of the three latest Popes may provide a strong call that we will hear and which might encourage us to rededicate ourselves to caring for our common and only earthly home and in caring for that home, to honor our long-standing commitments to social justice and poverty alleviation by protecting those of our fellow human beings who are most vulnerable on a deteriorating planet.

Strong and repeated calls to committed action by these three Popes, the issuing of the report of the Jesuit Task Force on Ecology, and the very high level workshop Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility held at the Vatican on 2 to 6 May, all call for a renewal and expansion of our actions to heal our broken world.

So what?

The calls for action from the three Popes are far too many to begin to list (for example, simply Googling a Pope’s name along with such words as “climate change” or “sustainable development” yields a rich collection of past and recent statements, along with discussions of those statements).

A quarter-century ago, Pope John Paul II said, “The gradual depletion of the ozone layer and the related ‘greenhouse effect’ has now reached crisis proportions.” He added urgent calls to action in that World Day of Peace message in January 1990  and in many other such statements during his lifetime and papacy.

In September 2007, Pope Benedict XVI, in his Letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople on the Occasion of the Seventh Symposium of the Religion, Science and the Environment Movement, observed that “(p)reservation of the environment, promotion of sustainable development and particular attention to climate change are matters of grave concern for the entire human family.”

And in May 2014, after a five-day summit on sustainability held in the Vatican, Pope Francis addressed a massive crowd in Rome and made the religious case for tackling climate change:

“Safeguard Creation,” he said. Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”…“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” Francis said. “But when we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: ‘I don’t like it! This is not good!’ ‘So what do you like?’ ‘I like myself!’ – Here, this is sin! Do you see?”

Healing a Broken World

The report of the Jesuit Task Force on Ecology, Healing a Broken World, urged that (although “suggested” might be a better term) the Jesuit community to consider sweeping, transformative-level changes in all aspects of its work and way of being, from top to bottom, from the formation of novices to the management of physical facilities and the making of financial investments. Jesuit universities are invited, in part, to “commit (themselves) to an experiential learning environment where students are immersed in real-world environmental issues, learn to develop solutions and leave the university transformed by the experience;” to “develop on campuses an environmental ethic where students, faculty, staff and administrators participate in lowering consumption and increasing reuse and recycling, and are committed to reducing the campus environmental footprint and greening the campus;” and to “develop curricula that address sustainability issues and impart a certain level of environmental literacy.” (from Promotio Iustitiae 106, 2011/2:46)

Joint Pontifical Academy of Sciences and Pontifical Academy of the Social Sciences Workshop on Sustainable Humanity, Sustainable Nature: Our Responsibility, 2-6 May 2014

The summary report on the 38 expert papers presented during this joint workshop in May 2014 and the discussions that followed, provided calls for action in seven domains, all potentially of interest to Jesuit and all other business schools. Parts of these domains include “the living conditions of poor populations,” “measures (that) can contribute to mitigating the role of a continued anthropogenic climate change,” reconsidering “agricultural practices …, including those introduced by the green revolution, in order to minimize undesirable environmental impacts in the longer term” and consideration of the “negative impacts on sustainable life conditions by the increasing density of the human population.”

Of course, those calls are echoed in many, many others.

UN Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME)

One of the other calls particularly close to the hearts of Jesuit business schools and their universities occurs in the six UN Principles for Responsible Management Education – a protocol joined by a growing number of Jesuit business schools. The six principles address Purpose, Values, Method, Research, Partnership, and Dialogue by and in business schools. All six are focused directly on the transformation of business school teaching and research, and perhaps even service, in ways that will contribute to a more sustainable and socially just world.

When viewed through the lens of business education, each of these calls points to the need for deep and pervasive changes in business education – to become part of the solution to global unsustainability and no longer a part of the problem. To the extent that business education is simply supporting the continuation of business as usual at a time when business as usual has shown itself to be greatly in need of deep and fundamental change, business education is part of the problem. Becoming part of the solution will very likely require a transformation in what and how we teach, and very likely in what we seek to accomplish in our research, and perhaps even in how we contribute to our communities and to our brothers and sisters in our service commitments and actions.

When similar, but far less extensive calls for change were made during the unfolding of the quality revolution in the second half of the last century, the magnitude of that change was likened to “eating an elephant” – a task which seemed impossibly large and overwhelming. But it was undertaken by many individuals and organizations, one step at a time. Or as the quality leader Joseph M. Juran said many times about eating the elephant of quality transformation, the way to do it is “one bite at a time.”

Now what?

Where might members of Jesuit business schools and universities look for a bite of business education and societal transformation small enough and tasty enough to take and chew on?

Well, one tiny bite might involve contributing to finding a Latin word or phrase to join Cura personalis, Homines pro aliis, and Magis, and, in doing so, to call attention to the fourth foundation of Jesuit education and Jesuit-inspired service. That tiny bite might be a particularly fun one for this journal to start chewing on – perhaps in partnership with an organization/media platform like Ecojesuit. Ecojesuit might host a dialog on the topic of “what Latin phrase for ‘caring for God’s creation’, or some similar English phrase you prefer, would we like to try on for size for a while to see how it fits and feels?”

And, with at least a working version of that Latin phrase coming to hand (or better yet, finding its way to our tongues), perhaps the conversation can be started on our campuses about formally adding a fourth foundation stone to Jesuit education’s mission in business and beyond.

And perhaps exploring that phrase and conducting conversations about possibly adding it to our mission statements and making it part of the foundation stones of Jesuit education might start influencing the decisions we make about teaching, research, and service.

And perhaps such conversations and emerging decisions and actions in Jesuit business schools and on Jesuit university campuses might begin to be heard on other campuses and in the executive suites of those very organizations currently committed to succeeding at business as usual, even if such success will sooner or later be fatal to those organizations and perhaps a lot sooner than they and we currently realize.

And perhaps progress in the search for a few words in Latin and the resulting conversations on Jesuit campuses about a fourth foundation stone might be reported at the combined annual meetings in 2015 of the Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education and the IAJBS World Forum at Universidad Católica del Uruguay in Montevideo, Uruguay.


Actually, a little bit of that conversation seems already to have started. A number of individuals, perhaps a great many, have begun talking and writing to each other about what Latin phrase might capture and communicate a fourth core foundation stone of Jesuit education. At least six phrases have come to our attention: cura orbis terrarium; cura mundus et natura; cura terra; cura naturaeque personalis; cura personalis, cura mundi; and cura naturalis.

Each of these phrases has advantages and disadvantages and the best one for this moment may not be among them. It will be interesting, over this coming year, to listen to those conversations about the “best phrase,” and to emerging conversations about our missions and our actions to make those missions real.

2014_08_31_Editorial_Photo2James “Jim” Stoner is a professor of management systems at the Fordham Schools of Business at Fordham University in New York, USA. Before beginning his academic career, Professor Stoner was a project development officer for the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in the government of Tanganyika, now called Tanzania. He holds a PhD and an MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a BS from Antioch College. He can be reached through his email stoner(at)

Except for the revised title and some minor text changes, this article is reprinted in full with permission from the editorial board of The Journal of Management for Global Sustainability, where this editorial titled “Cura Personalis, Homines Pro Aliis, Magis and …?” was published in its Volume 2 (2014) issue.


4 thoughts on “Caring for creation: The fourth foundation stone in Jesuit education commitment to teach, to do research, and to serve

  1. This editorial is a well-articulated, much needed summary of the case for Jesuit institutions and faculty to make sustainability of the planet a top priority. I like the naming and statement of the “fourth foundation stone” — “care for God’s creation”. At this point in our globe’s development care for God’s creation is as important to the people of the planet [in many ways, far more important] than cura personalis, magis and men and women for others. If Ignatius were alive today, he would make it a priority as the editorial points out in Pope Francis’ words.
    The editorial reminds us that not only Pope Francis, but popes as far back as John Paul, and Benedict have underscored the central importance of environmental global sustainability. And it shows how a lack of sustainability most hurts the poor. And a special concern for the poor is the 2000 year old value of Jesus as expressed in the Gospels.
    Finally the JMGS editorial urges us to find a Latin term that would be parallel to the cura personalis and magis [note that we generally do not use Latin for the term “Men and women for others”]. However it seems to me that “care for God’s creation” is clearer, more powerful and more meaningful that any Latin term that might be invented. For those of us in the English speaking world, the term does not have to be translated or explained and does not sound “other worldly” or ancient as Latin terms often do.

    Gerald F. Cavanagh, S.J.
    Charles T. Fisher III Chair of Business Ethics
    College of Business Administration
    University of Detroit Mercy
    Detroit, MI 48221
    313 993 1195 [off] 993-1630 [home]

  2. The JMGS editorial “Caring for creation: The fourth foundation stone in Jesuit education commitment to teach, to do research, and to serve” raises a monstrous dilemma. First, society’s increasing use of the earth’s decreasing resources demanded urgent change decades ago. Today, anything less than a unified, global commitment of extraordinary magnitude might simply be too little, too late. Second, economic development gorges on so-called “ecosystem services” as though natural resources can be replenished by some mystical market mechanism. Competition to own those natural resources drives many, or perhaps even most, conflicts in the world. Finally, the truth is that “sustainable development” is a commitment valued by a relatively small percentage of countries, communities and businesses across the globe at a time when only consensus can stem the tide of environmental loss.

    With that reality looming, the “Now What?” question asked in the editorial is difficult to contemplate. Some believe that nature finds a way. We may be seeing evidence of this fatalist perspective in the extraordinary weather shifts occurring across the planet. Regardless, the question still remains…Now What?

    Our options are limited at this point, but as Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” As the JMGS piece suggests, mobilizing the Jesuit global network in some fashion could prove fruitful. A useful first step would be to conduct a benchmarking study of all Jesuit business schools to assess the system-wide level of commitment to existing initiatives, such as the UN Principles for Responsible Management Education. Developing such a baseline metric of our collective commitment would help us identify actions that could be executed through mobilizing our Jesuit network. If a benchmarking study to determine our baseline strengths and areas for improvement is not embraced, then other questions to add to the list are: Why Not? And, how can we hope that business and governments will collaborate for change when we are not willing to commit ourselves?

    Assuming such a benchmarking study would is not possible, then the suggestion of “one tiny bite” toward action will have to do. Searching for a Latin phrase with the gravitas of a term like “magis” is important. I believe any of the phrases listed in the JMGS editorial would work. Additionally, there is another theme in Jesuit education that could be adjusted to invoke the necessary sense of urgency. I am referring to “Ratio Studiorum” or “plan of studies.” That phrase seems too passive in this time of crisis. Perhaps “Propositum Studiorum” or “intention/purpose of studies” would catalyze our curriculum to include lessons on ways to heal a broken world. Such lessons would embolden the next generation of leaders with the courage to act in ways that we could not.

    Timothy P. Keane, Ph.D.
    Executive Director, Emerson Ethics Center
    Associate Professor
    John Cook School of Business
    Saint Louis University

  3. The Journal of Management for Global Sustainability’s call to the Jesuit community in “Caring for creation: The fourth foundation stone in Jesuit education commitment to teach, to do research, and to serve?” is an important one. Building on elements of identity and mission at Jesuit institutions, the adoption of specific Latin phrasings such as cura naturalis or cura mundi represents an opportunity for the Jesuit institutions of the world to strengthen their coalition for a socially just and sustainable world within this “global organization” called earth. By doing so, it also allows Jesuit institutions to take a leadership role in reducing the impact of human endeavors on the ability of earth to sustain future generations. As a tenured faculty at a Jesuit university, I embrace that role.

    The adoption of specific Latin phrasings regarding care for the earth also fits well with Jonathan Haidt’s work on what he calls the five foundations of morality—(1) harm/care, (2) fairness/reciprocity, (3) ingroup/loyalty, (4) authority/respect, and (5) purity/sanctity. Haidt’s work shows that while political liberals center on just the first two dimensions, political conservatives focus on all five ( This distinction is important because it is political conservatives who are overwhelmingly resistant to arguments about climate change, and thus are less motivated to do anything to mitigate it. A March 2014 Gallup poll on Global Warming Opinions in the United States shows that 80 percent of Republican/Lean Republican respondents were “cool skeptics” to climate change arguments, while only 18 percent were “concerned believers” about those arguments. In contrast, Democrat/Lean Democrat respondents were 76 percent “concerned believers” and 11 percent “cool skeptics.” (Source:

    If one side of the political aisle is already willing to engage with the issue of climate change, and the other side is coolly skeptical, a moral leadership perspective of Jesuit institutions suggests that terminology that will stand side-by-side with such important Jesuit concepts as cura personalis and magis should be selected based on the terminology’s ability to influence those least likely to engage. For this reason, the adoption of language that focuses on the purity/sanctity dimension of morality with respect to the environment, such as sanctitate naturalis (“sanctity of nature”) and sanctitate mundi (“sanctity of earth”), may play a role outside Jesuit institutions in bringing about meaningful change. I thank the editors of the JMGS for getting the conversation started; it’s an important step toward re-emphasizing the moral leadership that Jesuit institutions initiate in society.

    Benjamin M. Cole, Ph.D.
    Fordham University
    New York, NY, USA

  4. Thank you for this very powerful editorial and the implicit invitation for all to join in this Jesuit-inspired and Jesuit-focused conversation. As a graduate of a Jesuit Graduate Business School, I especially appreciate the opportunity to honor and possibly enrich the language regarding the world-changing contributions the Jesuits and their institutions have made for almost five centuries.

    I think the editorial is powerful. Superb, in fact. I love the quotations from the Popes and can appreciate the strong language about the companies that aren’t going to make it, and even stronger language about why business schools have to do what the editorial firmly advocates.

    My 2 cents on the proper Latin phrase: serva terram nostram. Servare “to preserve, guard,” but also in English the obvious cognate is “to serve,” which is great…save (and serve) our earth. (Unfortunately, there is a UK oil company named Terra Nostra, I can only assume, ironically!)

    In terms of the initial 3 foundations: they look like a reverse tricolon abundans (Cicero made the tricolon abundans famous in his orations.) Tricolon abundans are three parallel phrases, with the last one being the longest, for effect. The reverse puts the longest in front.

    If the fourth is added, the tricolon will be lost. Maybe magis is redundant after the other three?

    Rachel Ellsworth, Fordham University, 1999

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *