By Jerry Duggan
During her time as a student at Loyola University (then Loyola College) Maryland, Laura Alexander discovered that her true calling in life is to accompany others on their spiritual journey – she just wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like as a career. Today she is a university minister for retreats and Christian Life Communities (CLCs) at Loyola University New Orleans, where she has served since 2008 and seeks to, through the programming she oversees, create a culture of belonging.
“Our work seeks to create communities of belonging on campus,” she said. “We want students to feel comfortable sharing about their faith and being their authentic selves.”
Much of her day-to-day work involves planning retreat opportunities for Loyola students. These vary in content: some are Awakening (student-led), others are tailored to specific student groups (such as the senior retreat) and some take place during a particular liturgical season (Alexander facilitates an online Lenten retreat).
All are based on Jesuit spirituality and worldview.
“We are a Jesuit institution, and one of the goals of my work is making sure our programming is rooted in our Catholic, Ignatian ideals and values,” she said.
She also oversees Christian Life Communities (CLC) on campus.
“CLCs are small groups of students who gather to share how they experience God and what that means for their life,” she said. “They are rooted in Ignatian Spirituality.”
Alexander arrived at her position thanks to a seed planted by the campus ministry department at Loyola Maryland, where she went to college.
“Originally, I wanted to be a Christian author and write devotionals or something along those lines, but, in time, I discerned out of that path,” she said. “My senior year, I had some meaningful conversations with campus ministers at Loyola who suggested I consider their career path for myself.”
After a year as a high school campus minister, Alexander returned to school to complete her master’s degree in pastoral ministry at Boston College before taking her current position at Loyola University New Orleans.
“I wasn’t comfortable with the discipline aspects that went with high school teaching – I just wanted to connect with students and help them grow in faith,” she said.
She credits the campus ministry department at her alma mater – and Ignatian Spirituality as a whole – with helping her to recognize her true desires and figure out what she wanted to do with her life.
“Jesuit spirituality has a way of uncovering our deepest desires,” she said. “It helps us peel back the layers of life to our most authentic selves and discover the mysterious ways God is working within each of us.”
What she finds most meaningful is helping students uncover those ways.
“Praying with and accompanying students on their faith journeys is what gives me the greatest sense of fulfillment. Having that seed planted in me by campus ministry as a college student, I now take great pride in helping college students experience the unconditional love of God – growing in faith with them every step of the way.”
She remains grateful to her husband and two sons for their support of what she considers a vocation, as well as her great team of colleagues at Loyola University New Orleans.
“Ministry for us is a family vocation – there are often evenings or weekends when I am not at home,” she said. “They are all understanding of my work, and I could not do it without the sacrifices they make.”