Caring for Ourselves as Whole Persons
Alyse Hudock, Xavier University
As January comes to an end, the New Year’s resolutions that we may have made professionally or personally can quickly become abandoned as the chaos of the continuing academic year comes crashing back on us. These resolutions that we make are typically centered on trying to better ourselves whether that is physically, emotionally, financially, or spiritually. However, habits are not always easy to change. While we are all on a journey to become our best selves not only for ourselves but to better serve our colleagues and students at our institution and at the 28 other Jesuit institutions, it is easy to become drug down by the weight that is this massive task of learning about ourselves to better ourselves.
St. Ignatius wrote to an early Jesuit instructing him to eat healthier after he learned about this Jesuit’s less than ideal eating habits. While we may not have St. Ignatius writing us letters today, we must pay attention to God’s signals to us about what we are doing that nourishes us as whole people and what is preventing us from becoming more whole. St. Ignatius knew that for this Jesuit to best care for the people he was serving, he needed to take better care of himself physically.
Jesuit spirituality names this care of the whole person, cura personalis. You could think of this as literally the care of the whole person, or developing through a more holistic lens. Students at Jesuit institutions are exposed to the liberal arts for a reason. Through knowledge in many fields, students are able to have a more holistic education that not only prepares them for their chosen field of study, but also prepares them to grapple with the larger societal questions that may affect their future work.
We all have important work to do for our institutions and our students. This invitation to take care of ourselves as whole people allows us to serve the students that we work with better because we are able to reflect the care and concern that God would have for the student if they were sitting across from.
As a new professional, I constantly am trying to take the Jesuit value of cura personalis and live out its meaning of caring for the entire person. With my almost daily trips to the gym, it can seem like I am doing a great job of taking care of myself physically. However, that time where I take care of myself is easy to put aside for the sake of a student who walks into my office and needs attention and support because of an emergency happening at home or a roommate conflict.
What is most important about this is that the care we are trying to achieve for ourselves is modeled to our students. Asking our students about what they are doing for cura personalis can be as easy as integrating a question about this care in supervision meetings with students or starting off each club meeting with a round of what was done by each person for cura personalis this week. When the students I supervise start asking me about what I’ve done for cura personalis, I know I have done the best I can to introduce them to the Jesuit value and turn it into a lifelong value that will help them well beyond their college years.
Alyse Hudock is a Hall Director at Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH. Alyse began her journey in Jesuit higher education as an undergraduate at Boston College. Alyse also received her Master’s degree from Boston College while working at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. In her free time, Alyse enjoys heading to the gym for a run, reading popular fiction, and drinking coffee at any hour.