Mission Statement


The Be the Light Youth Theology Institute at Canisius College is a six-day, on-campus institute for theology in the Catholic, Jesuit tradition for rising high school sophmores, juniors, and seniors.

This institute seeks to fulfill the Second Vatican Council’s call for the Church to engage all “people of good will,” especially the young, in deepening their understanding and experience of the intersections of faith, reason, and action, with a special focus on the issues of justice and social justice that arise in an urban setting.

Students who attend will be empowered, educated, and inspired to become true scholar-servant-leaders in the Church and their communities.

“the Catholic, Jesuit tradition”: Canisius, a Catholic, Jesuit college, is firmly committed to the Jesuit ideal of forming contemplatives in action who will strive in all things for intellectual and moral excellence, the care of the whole person, and the formation of a disposition towards true service to all humanity. This institutional mission comes from both the ideals of human life found in the Catholic intellectual tradition and the pedagogy and spirituality inspired by The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola.

“engaging all “people of good will”: In Gaudium et Spes (1965), one of the major documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church recognizes its need to scrutinize and interpret the concrete “signs of the times” with all “people of good will” in order to understand its own place in the contemporary world, where and why the world is in need of healing, and how best it may work to heal it.  In so doing, the Church is called to honor the full breadth of human experiences – of adherents of any world religion and of anyone with a concern for humanity – as well as to call out to them and cooperate with them to create a more just world.  

“deepening their understanding and experience of the intersections of faith, reason, and action”:  Instruction will follow through a variety of mediums each day: primarily, presentations, discussions, experiential learning, and directed reflection sessions. Each day will feature three primary learning “modules” – one focused on aspects of Catholic philosophy and theology, one focused on the way that theme in Catholic thought is incorporated in the Jesuit charism, and one focused on experience / service-based learning, where firsthand experiences and reflections on those experiences will mirror and reinforce the lessons of the day.

“with a special focus on the issues of justice and social justice that arise in an urban setting”: In a landmark 1973 address, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., then Superior General of the Society of Jesus, called for all Jesuit institutions to focus especially on “education for justice.” This focus informs the mission of this Institute. Further, as Pope Paul VI noted in his 1971 encyclical, Octagesima Adveniens, the phenomenon of urbanization causes particularly pressing issues of justice to be brought to the fore. Today, in the city of Buffalo, we have a unique opportunity to witness and understand such issues of justice and social justice, which arise in the shadow of urban rebirth and redevelopment: specifically, the causes and persistent effects of poverty, racism, and environmental exploitation, among other individual and systemic injustices. We will also show participants the ways individuals and groups in Buffalo are making positive differences and working for systemic change.

Lessons and service / immersion experiences will tie themes of justice and social justice to the content of Sacred Scriptures, the traditions of the Church (and innovations within those traditions), an understanding of theological and philosophical ethical directives (and their particular applications), spiritually informed reflection, and specifically sacramental expressions of faith.

“future scholar-servant-leaders in the Church and their communities”: Participants in this Institute will receive the tools to recognize places where the Church’s work and witness are most needed. They will also gain the inspiration to make a concrete and lasting positive difference. Participants will see the wide range of ways they can be scholar-servant-leaders for justice wherever they are needed – both in their communities and in the Church. Students will meet religious and lay men and women who hold key leadership positions in the local and universal Catholic Church.

(Thanks to Fr. Michael Tunney, S.J. and Mr. Michael Hayes for their assistance in writing this mission statement.)

For more information, please check out the following pages: