Fordham students in Haiti learn while helping others to learn.
Fordham students in Haiti learn while helping others to learn.

Fordham’s Office of University Mission and Ministry has received a $1 million gift, the largest gift in the office’s history. It is intended by its donors to bolster the University’s Catholic and Jesuit identity, particularly through the Global Outreach and Retreat Ministry programs.

“In today’s world, we deal with a great number of searchers and seekers among our students,” said Msgr. Joseph G. Quinn, vice president for Mission and Ministry. “Our hope is always to help them discover what they believe and find where they belong.”

With deadlines and digital distractions, it’s sometimes difficult for students to tap into the wealth of spiritual offerings that make Fordham unique—even among its Jesuit peers, said Paul Francis, director of Global Outreach, the service immersion program that coordinates more than 30 national and international trips annually.

“I don’t know of any other school that has as many in-depth projects as we have at Global Outreach, nor as much participation,” said Francis.

Erin Hoffman, director of Ignatian spiritual programs, said the same goes for the Retreat Ministry. “Other schools may have more, but we offer a variety, from interfaith, to silent retreats, on-campus retreats, and much more.”

Both said that neither program lacks for participation, and that the gift will help meet increased demand. It will also assist students who might not otherwise be able to afford to participate.

Getting away from campus for either program incurs a significant expense. In the case of spiritual retreats, a weekend can cost approximately $100 a night per student. For Global Outreach, the international abroad trips can run as high as $3,000, and even local projects cost about $250.

“Up until now, we’ve had minimal recourses to help underwrite these programs,” said Msgr. Quinn. “In the past, for example, Global Outreach students would have to raise the to total sum of money needed for each project.”

Msgr. Quinn further said, however, that mere monetary value could not be placed on the outcomes.

Pitching in, in Haiti.
Pitching in, in Haiti.

“The ultimate results can be transformative,” he said. “They can help our students discern what they truly want to do with their lives.”

Hoffman said she sometimes uses the analogy of a military retreat to describe the spiritual retreat experience.

“You take a step back from the battle, maybe heal your wounds, take rest, and re-strategize,” she said. “But the retreat doesn’t end there. You bring it back to you day-to-day life with a renewed sense of your relationship with God and yourself.”

Francis said that similarly Global Outreach incorporates a significant amount of Ignatian reflection.

“Students become contemplatives in action,” he said, describing the ritual of having them share where they found new insights or discovered friendships at the end of each service day.

“For some the gifts are evident immediately. For others it may be two months down the road,” he said. “It’s a great way to learn lessons for a lifetime.”

Msgr. Quinn, Francis, and Hoffman all said that spiritual learning is the major thrust of Mission and Ministry—whether it’s through the Dorothy Day Center for Service and Justice, the Center for Religion and Culture, Global Outreach, or Campus Ministry.

“It’s so easy to opt out of community and say ‘Oh, wait, let me just send this text,’ rather than engage and ask, ‘What did we learn today?’” said Francis.

The gift was made through The Brian and Joelle Kelly Family Foundation.


Tom Stoelker is senior staff writer and visual media coordinator for Fordham News. After fifteen years as a freelance designer, Tom shifted his focus to writing and photography. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY where he majored in English literature and photography and he received his master's in journalism from Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, and The Architect's Newspaper, where he was associate editor.