Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



University of San Francisco Press


This essay will focus on ways the ELSJ Core Curriculum requirement and TNI enact the Jesuit way of proceeding to promote dialogue and critical engagement with underserved communities in order to contribute to the common good. Particularly important in these community-engagement practices is attention to the distinction Jewish theologian Martin Buber draws between the subject-object knowing, I – It relationships, characteristic of traditional university learning, and I -Thou relationships possible through “genuine meeting,” “genuine dialogue,” leading to wholeness and “real living,” “actual life.”12 Buber’s description of I - Thou encounters is reminiscent of the relational encounters with God outlined in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Both Buber and Ignatius value “so-called ‘objective knowledge.’” In Philosophical Interrogations Buber specifies, “I have often indicated how much I prize science, so-called ‘objective knowledge.’ Without it there is no orientation in the world of ‘things’ or of ‘phenomena,’ hence no orienting connection with the space-time sphere in which we have to pass our individualized life on earth.”13 However, without I-Thou relationships, according to Buber’s thinking, individuals are limited to being “an object among objects.”14 Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of Equal Justice Initiative, advocates a similar idea when he emphasizes theimportance of “proximity,” “getting close to people and the actual problem.”15 We propose that the principles of community-engaged teaching and scholarship, project-based learning, and participatory action research16 espoused by ELSJ courses and TNI promote the common good and animate the mission of the University in ways that can be understood as a sacrament of community, closely related to the sacrament of marriage. Community-based engagement goes beyond supporting the Catholic identity of many of our students and community partner organizations to support the formation of responsible citizens who will contribute to the common good.17

Chapter of

Catholic Identity in Context: Vision and Formation for the Common Good

Part of

The Lane Center Series


Stephen K. Black
Erin M. Brigham


Reprinted with permission.