Rev. Philip Boroughs, S.J.

The Rev. Philip Boroughs, S.J., Georgetown’s new vice president for mission and ministry, said in an interview Friday that he plans to deal with tough issues such as the importance of the university’s Catholic and Jesuit identity and the importance of interfaith dialogue.

Upon the departure of the Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J., (CAS `81)in July, the university has reorganized its campus ministry department. The position of vice president for mission and ministry was created to replace the university chaplain post. Boroughs is essentially filling the position vacated by Pilarz, though with an expanded role.

“Georgetown came looking for me and for a proposal about what might I do at the university in this capacity, this kind of model,” Boroughs said. “Because of all the things that were happening here, it was a good time for Georgetown to look at how they want this office to work.”

Boroughs said that, of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities, many have moved or are moving toward the model adopted by Georgetown. The benefit of this model, as he sees it, is having a Jesuit directly involved in the administration as a way of focusing university attention on campus ministry and identity issues.

Before coming to Georgetown, Boroughs held a similar position for one year at Seattle University, where he taught for 10 years. He received his undergraduate degree from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., and a Masters of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago. He also received a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley before joining the faculty at Seattle University.

Boroughs’ role is unique in that it is a new position within the university hierarchy, but a role that he has played before.

He said he sees his function as multifaceted. As a vice president under University President John J. DeGioia, one of his tasks will be support of the President’s office.

“For 22 years, Dr. DeGioia has worked at Georgetown, and he has supported the mission of Georgetown University; a great part of that is that he’s been a support to the Jesuit presidents of Georgetown,” Boroughs said. “I see my appointment here as the Society of Jesus saying to Dr. DeGioia, `for all these years, you’ve supported us and our Jesuit presidents; we want to support you.'”

Beyond that, Boroughs divides his role into two groups of tasks: those dealing with Georgetown’s mission, and those dealing with campus ministry. He said the ministry side is well-established as a result of Georgetown’s previous arrangements. Boroughs will soon be hiring a Director of Campus Ministry who he says will handle the internal management of campus ministry. He, on the other hand, will focus on fundraising and working with the public to bolster the role of campus ministry.

The other side of his job, Boroughs said, is more vague. The goal is to examine Georgetown’s heritage and diversity, and find ways to maintain these aspects of the university. “I’m the locus in the university administration for raising questions and looking at programs around our Jesuit and Catholic heritage,” Boroughs said. “It’s a relatively new concept that, rather than having it spread throughout the university, there’s now a point person to raise the issues and to work with. That’s the developing part.”

Before he sets up specific plans to maintain Georgetown’s identity, Boroughs said he felt it was important to get to know both the university and its population. He emphasized analyzing the things that Georgetown celebrates as well as the challenges it faces along these lines.

One of the most important and unique aspects of Georgetown, according to Boroughs, is its religious diversity. For instance, Georgetown was the first Catholic university to have a full-time Imam on campus; there are also distinct Jewish and Protestant presences on campus. He says such diversity has far-reaching implications – both socially and politically – and his goal is to facilitate dialogue between the groups.

“We all have clear religious differences,” he said. “We probably have as many things in common as we do that make us different, but our religious differences are also encapsulated in political and social realities, so if we trust one another in our ability to express faith issues, hopefully we can trust one another when we have to deal with complex cultural and political issues as well.”

Boroughs said he hopes to be able to facilitate dialogue rather than having to mediate disputes between groups of different faiths, and said the opportunity for interfaith interaction is an enormously important resource for Georgetown students, as well as for the future of international relations.

“With the diverse student body that we have, and the influence they have when they go out into the world, if we can create environments that are literate about interfaith issues and comfortable in those conversations, we are serving the leadership of our country in a wonderful way,” he said.

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