Alumni Voices | Darby Ratliff (Canisius `14)

The most significant moment of my graduate school experience came not in the classroom, nor in the work I completed for my assistantship but rather in Campus Ministry’s conference room at Canisius College. While I fully believed in the charism of the Jesuits, it all sunk in for me when a bit of a 1973 speech given in Spain by Fr. Pedro Arrupe was excerpted for those preparing for the 2016 Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice:                   

“First, let me ask this question: Have we Jesuits educated you for justice? You and I know what many of your Jesuit teachers will answer to that question. They will answer, in all sincerity and humility: No, we have not. If the terms "justice" and "education for justice" carry all the depth of meaning which the Church gives them today, we have not educated you for justice.”

I had just graduated the previous spring and had had difficulty settling into my graduate program at the same institution. I wasn’t sure I had chosen the right graduate program, but hearing Fr. Arrupe’s question - and more importantly being able to answer “yes” myself - charged me as a educator. This missioning didn’t solve my vocational problem; I still wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. However, I did know that I wanted to educate students for justice in a way that brought me joy.

The previous summer, I had interned with the Be the Light Youth Theology Institute at Canisius. It was a weeklong summer program for high school students interested in solidarity and social justice in Buffalo, and it seemed like the logical extension of my involvement in Campus Ministry at the college as an undergraduate. The days were structured with some sort of immersion in the morning, two afternoon academic sessions, and then faith sharing each evening. It was a great experience, and it opened the door to the Teach-In and, of course, Fr. Arrupe’s speech.

The next year, I struggled to narrow down a thesis project to cap off my experience in the program. Eventually, I returned to my interest in the Jesuits, and I decided to research the way students come to understand justice after four years of Jesuit education. I dove into the depths of the literature on the Jesuit way of proceeding and its application to education. Friends and coworkers would remark that with all of the Jesuit-written primary sources on my desk, I may as well become the first female member of the order. I then spoke with students on the subject of justice, and I found that students repeatedly brought up the Jesuit values as necessary to their understanding of the ideal.

Now, I work as an Admissions Counselor at another faith-based institution in the Buffalo area while also serving as the co-director of the Be the Light Youth Theology Institute, my involvement having come full circle as I now help to shape the Institute in such a way that it can educate students for justice and that they themselves can be advocates for justice and justice education in their home communities.


If you would like to share your story, we would love to hear from you - and so would your fellow Alpha Sigma Nu alumni.  You may be featured in an upcoming Alumni Voices segment.  Send your story and photo(s) to Kristina Tadeo at