Tag Archives: University of Central America

Looking for Kolvenbach

I was not raised in the Catholic faith.  Perhaps it is not surprising, therefore, that I did not attend a Catholic school of higher learning.  I thus confess to knowing very little about the major tenets that drive education under Catholic guidance.  But in my work with Winds of Peace, I have had occasion to learn a little of the thinking and teachings of Jesuit universities in the U.S. as well as the University of Central America (UCA) in Nicaragua.  I’ve been intrigued by some of what I have encountered.  And while I have not converted to Catholicism, I have been enamored with one of the Jesuit’s outstanding thinkers and educators, Father Peter-Hans Kolvenbach.  Figuratively speaking, WPF has been searching for him- and application of his words- since its inception.

Now, as for my Catholic-ness, I have spoken to a number of classes at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.  The classes are  always business, accounting or religion courses, and I am continually impressed with the fact that I am addressing such classes on topics like employee ownership, broad-based equity sharing, organizational participation and open book management.  It suggests to me that there might be significant cross-pollination of ideas, a mixing of the technical with the humanities, a truly serious effort to provide an holistic view of the world even to such seemingly disparate students as religion and business majors.

I haven’t heard Kolvenbach’s name or work mentioned during my brief visits to St. Thomas, but it seems to me that the connectivity among disciplines that I’ve experienced there is absolutely in line with something Kolvenbach wrote years ago, something which recently caught my attention in a major way.  In an address at Santa Clara University in October 2000, this is what Kolvenbach had to say about learning, the world, and our place in it:

“Universities must make it possible for students …to allow the disturbing reality of this world to enter into their lives, so that they learn to feel it, to think critically about it, to respond to its suffering and to commit themselves to it in a constructive fashion. They will have to learn to perceive, think, judge, choose and act in favor of the rights of others, especially of the most disadvantaged.… The measure of Jesuit universities is not what our students do, but who they become and the adult Christian responsibility they will exercise in the future towards their neighbor and their world.”[1]

His immediate audience was university students, but the words apply as well to middle-aged adult learners and senior citizen sages,  as much or even more so today than in 2000.  The message is for all of us.  Allowing ourselves to become personally infected with the discomfort of the disadvantaged is the essence of learning the truth about ourselves and the makeup of our character.  It’s the “point of the trip,” the purpose of this journey that each of us is taking in life.

Kolvenbach’s concept summarizes a significant component of Winds of Peace work.  It’s the reason the Foundation has supported cross-cultural education experiences over the years, why we have been a supporter of The Center for Global Education methodologies, and why we seek to further the Kolvenbach vision through partnership with a U.S. university in creation of a “Synergy Center” in Nicaragua. (Read a full description of the concept from the WPF website homepage, located toward the bottom of the page.)  Partnership with a university seeking to immerse its students, researchers and supporters in real life context is the next stage in the WPF calling to generate transformational and global life experiences.

Kolvenbach understood and encouraged the intimate bridge-building between cultures and classes.  He challenged his Jesuit audiences to take the “risk of infection,” not just to accept difficult realities when confronted with them, but actually to seek them out in order to feel what others feel.  He speaks of risk and commitment and discomfort.   As WPF seeks its synergy partnership, in a very real way it’s looking for Kolvenbach…..



[1] The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice, by Rev. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Santa Clara University, October 2000.



The Difficult Work of Bridges

It’s time that I finally spoke of the initiative that has been brewing for several years now within Winds of Peace.  It’s not something that we’ve mentioned here before, because the vision is expansive, the logistics are significant and the process takes time.  But it’s work that is a logical extension of the work of WPF from the past 30 years.   Bridge engineering might not be the first capacity anyone thinks of with regards to WPF, but that’s exactly what is on our agenda these days, as we attempt to add several bridges between the U.S. and Nicaragua.   It’s true; read on.

As you will know if you have visited the Winds of Peace website, our history in Nicaragua goes back to the 80’s.  Initially there were the trips taken by Louise and Harold Nielsen in discovery of a country that had been decimated by war and interventions by the U.S.  Soon, project funding followed, primarily through Foundation funding of other entities providing development support.

Eventually, project funding became more direct, as the Foundation was able to utilize the unique connections created by Mark Lester, a long-time Nicaragua resident even then.  The first partnerships with the University of Central America (UCA) and its research and development entity, NITLAPAN, grew out of these connections and have multiplied to the present.  The Foundation partnered with The Center for Global Education (CGE) at Augsburg College for Mark’s time and to create its first synergies.   Delegations were made aware of Foundation sites and activities as part of their educational experiences.  Winds of Peace even donated the current facility which houses CGE offices and residential delegations.  It has been an arrangement that has served both entities very well.

So Winds of Peace shares its newest vision, as we seek to build some additional bridges while utilizing the strength of those already forged.  In summary, we envision the creation of a “synergy center,” a new facility to further the transformative educational experiences, the social and economic development efforts, and the extensive network of relationships and contacts between Nicaragua and North Americans.

More than that, the Foundation is in search of a U.S. education partner to not only access these resources and experiences, but to build a bridge between themselves and Nicaragua, engaging Central American counterparts right where they live and work and to experience the realities of life that are so starkly different from our own.   It’s an opportunity that is outside the parameters of Augsburg’s future directions, although that college is determined to maintain its Nica programming offerings with the new partner as able.

WPF concept paper final Jan 2014In its visionary Concept Paper, Winds of Peace Foundation articulates a unique blending of resources that expands upon the transformative outcomes already created over decades in Nicaragua.  During this time, participants of student and private delegations have experienced epiphanies of understanding, seeing their world from new perspectives, in some cases changing both career and personal life trajectories.  At the same time, citizens of Nicaragua have encountered visitors to their communities, experiencing their own educational moments.  Cooperatives and other institutions have engaged with teachers, business thinkers, funders and other resource people to enhance their initiatives in new ways.  The impact of the bridges that have been built are both great and small, but never insignificant.

So the search for the new partner has commenced, with initial introductory conversations having been held with a handful of U.S. universities and colleges.  As noted above, the Concept Paper has now been added to this site for reference by virtually any potentially interested party.  The search will expand next month as WPF meets with leaders of a major university consortium, representing a number of schools which have frequently participated in CGE programming in Nicaragua.  While the possibilities of partnership are nearly endless, eventually the Foundation will seek an institution that is very good at envisioning and building bridges.

Watch for periodic updates here in the future as we look for concrete foundations, towers, decks, expansion plates and abutments to span some important distances….