Rev. Timothy Brown, S.J.
His Jesuit calling was welcome—if unexpected
November 17, 2011
Rev. Timothy Brown, S.J., laughs off the widespread perception that he is a man of big ideas.
Yes, he co-founded the Center for Community Service and Justice and helped pioneer service-learning at Loyola University Maryland. He played leading roles in establishing Baltimore’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, Sisters Academy of Baltimore, the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Readers and Scholars program, and other educational programs that helped children from low-income families in New York City get into top college preparatory and boarding schools all along the East Coast.
“I don’t think I have any big ideas,” Fr. Brown said. “I think I just see something that somebody else has done and I see new possibilities to adapt that.”
Insisting that he has never even formed strategic, life plans, Fr. Brown added, “I have just fallen into every single thing that I have ever done in life. But I think that’s where providence comes in. God puts that all together and somehow you follow the plan even though you didn’t really know there was a plan and you weren’t designing it.”
That “very simple faith” is what led Fr. Brown to become a Jesuit in the first place.
A foreign service student at Georgetown University during the turbulent Vietnam War era, Fr. Brown knew he wanted to work at improving justice in the world. Gradually, however, he decided that becoming a diplomat wasn’t the best route to achieving that goal. Fr. Brown, who had always felt he had a religious vocation, developed a deep desire to become a Jesuit.
There was just one problem.
“I didn’t really understand how I was going to fit into this order,” he said. “I couldn’t picture myself in higher education. I couldn’t picture myself in a parish or in any of the traditional ministries. But I had faith that whatever God wanted would work.”
Fr. Brown’s years as a young Jesuit were filled with “imaginative experiences.” They ranged from working in a cancer hospital and teaching children in the Bronx and Harlem to serving as a law clerk in West Virginia, where his team’s efforts to correct injustices in a tax system that penalized poor counties got Fr. Brown and his coworkers accused of being “Communists or Socialists,” he said.
Early experiences as a Jesuit inspired Fr. Brown to become a lawyer so that he could more effectively fight injustice. It also revealed an unexpected passion for teaching.
“I love the whole dynamic of teaching and learning and exploring ideas and challenging thinking,” Brown said. “And when you can tap people’s talent, that’s terrific. It gives people hope. A lot of people don’t think they have talent, don’t think they have all these great gifts. Your job is to point them out and give students some excitement about their lives, show them that life is more than a spectator sport and that everybody should play a role. Everybody should be involved and engaged and excited about what they can contribute.”
Fr. Brown has seen those talents flourish countless times over the years. The audience at his ordination included young men and women who had studied under Fr. Brown in seventh grade in a Bronx classroom, gotten into prep schools thanks to his program, and gone on to earn degrees at Johns Hopkins, Brown, Fordham, and other distinguished universities. Periodically, Fr. Brown has had conversations with young lawyers, doctors, and other professionals—Loyola graduates and former participants in Loyola’s community service programs—who were eager to talk about the international aid work they have undertaken since graduation.
“They have truly become men and women for others, and that’s how they’re raising their children too,” Fr. Brown said.
Now Loyola’s special assistant to the president for mission integration, Fr. Brown works with faculty, administrators, and staff to help them develop their own sense of identity within Loyola’s Jesuit mission. Fr. Brown says it is a natural progression from his work with Loyola students as well as his earlier work as the provincial for the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus. And the work is having striking effects.
Louise Finn, chief information officer and assistant vice president for information technology services, said that Fr. Brown’s amazing openness, enthusiasm, and flexibility not only helped her to better understand I.T.’s role in Loyola’s mission, but also opened her eyes to a highly effective way to transform a once-struggling department using Ignatian principles.
“He also helped me understand that it is very Ignatian to provide great customer service,” Finn said. Such service, she said, requires I.T. staff to have empathy for others, avoid jargon and speak plainly, be patient, and be present in the moment.
The results, Finn said, are greatly enhanced I.T. operations, new excitement among I.T. staff to do service work, and significantly improved customer satisfaction.
“The reputation of this department has completely turned around,” Finn said. “I attribute it all to Fr. Tim.”