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Women Leaders in the Ignatian Family

Janine P. Geske

Institution: Marquette University Law School

Title: Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court (ret.), Distinguished Professor of Law, Director of the Andrew Center for Restorative Justice

Location: Milwaukee

Other Jesuit institutional connections:

  • Graduate of Marquette university Law School
  • Served on boards of directors/trustees of Nativity Middle School, Marquette University High School (chair of the board) and Marquette University
  • Honorary degree from Marquette University, member of Alpha Sigma Nu, received Ignatian Service Award from Marquette High School

What does your job entail?
My current position involves teaching, training and practicing restorative justice in all aspects of life, including in the criminal justice system, community/neighborhood environments and schools. I facilitate restorative justice dialogues between victims, their families and perpetrators in crimes of severe violence. I teach and train law students to use restorative processes in conflict resolution situations — particularly in working with disadvantaged populations. We are currently working on a training program for residence advisors at Marquette University and another program for police officers. We are putting on a conference involving Indigenous restorative practices from a variety of reservations.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I have done many things in my life — from being a lawyer, trial court judge and Supreme Court Justice, to now serving as a restorative justice advocate — but I believe my current work, particularly with victims of crimes and vulnerable people, is truly my vocational call. I experience God’s presence in the healing journeys I take with the people I serve — and in the opportunity to show future lawyers how they too can serve others by this work.

What is one of the challenges you’re facing right now?
The biggest challenge is that there’s a great need for facilitated dialogue and healing in all aspects of our culture, our communities and our families. So much work needs to be done.

What are some of the lights and shadows you’ve experienced as a woman working in partnership with a men’s religious order?
I have received such grace and direction from working in and with an Ignatian framework. Everything from personal spiritual direction, retreats and guidance have led me through tough decision-making and challenging points in my life. The shadows really involve the challenges of carrying on the mission and spirituality within a modern American university and our current American culture.

How does Ignatian spirituality shape your approach to work?
Most importantly, I experience — and encourage my students to experience — God in all that we encounter in our work. I am closest to my faith sitting in a maximum security prison with prisoners, victims, students and community members in a healing circle sharing stories of violence and healing.

How could the Jesuits and the church as a whole foster women’s leadership more effectively?
There continues to be a great need to be able to find ways to invite women leaders into environments in which they can experience the beauty and grace of Ignatian spirituality. I suggest that more focused retreats and offerings for rising leaders would be helpful.

What’s one of your favorite quotes about leadership or the best leadership advice you’ve ever received?
Proceed with empathy, kindness and care in your leadership. Have courage in your approaches and always listen with your heart before acting.