Canisius Receives Prestigious Lilly Grant

December 8, 2015


Buffalo, NY - Canisius is one of a select group of private four-year colleges and universities across the nation to receive a grant from the Lilly Endowment. Canisius will receive $583,000 to establish the Be the Light Youth Theology Institute at the college.

The award is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

“The creation of this institute is an opportunity for us to express more deeply our commitment to our Catholic, Jesuit identity,” says Canisius President John J. Hurley. “It will help us respond to Pope Francis’ priorities for the Jesuits and their works around the world: promotion of Jesuit spirituality, experiences with peoples at the periphery of society and vocation promotion.”

The Be the Light Youth Theology Institute at Canisius will consist of a six-day residential experience for between 25 and 40 high school students. The purpose of the institute is to provide high school youth with opportunities to (1) explore in-depth sacred scriptures and theological traditions and examine the moral and ethical dimensions of contemporary challenges; (2) draw on the wisdom of their religious tradition as they make decisions about their futures; and (3) consider vocations in full-time ministry and religious leadership.

“Our unique approach for this Institute will introduce high school students to what the Jesuits have called ‘the faith that does justice,’ namely, Catholic philosophy and theology, viewed through the lenses of Ignatian spirituality and pedagogy,” adds Hurley.

The institute will welcome high school students entering their junior and senior year to campus as part of a week-long residential learning experience. Students who have demonstrated an interest in growing their faith and becoming a leader in their community are encouraged to apply. A limited number of scholarships will also be available.

Students will be able to begin to apply through an online application in March 2016 for the first session, which will take place in July 2016. These young spiritual leaders will spend the week participating in hands-on social justice volunteer experiences throughout locations in the Buffalo community, learning about Catholic and Jesuit traditions and how it influences their lives, and guided reflection and prayer. The grant from Lilly Endowment will support this institute in summers 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

The experiences of the institute participants will be guided by Canisius College professors in the Philosophy and Religious Studies and Theology departments, local parish leaders, members of the Canisius Jesuit community, leaders from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, other religious community leaders, and Canisius College undergraduate and graduate students.

Canisius College is one of 82 schools participating in the Lilly Endowment Youth Theology Institute initiative. The Endowment is giving $44.5 million in grants to help the schools, all private four-year colleges and universities, to create the institutes. The schools are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions. These traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, as well as Roman Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities. The grants are part of the Endowment’s commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically-minded youth who will become leaders in church and society.

“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” says Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “They have outstanding faculty in theology and religion who know how to help young people explore the wisdom of religious traditions and apply these insights to contemporary challenges.”

An additional grant to the Forum for Theological Exploration will establish a program that will bring together leaders of the high school youth theology institutes to foster mutual learning and support.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family - J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli - through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company. The endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development. Lilly Endowment’s religion grant-making is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians. It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

For more information, contact the Canisius College Office of Public Relations at (716) 888-2790.

Canisius is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation and the premier private university in Western New York.