President’s Message: Love of Neighbor

Printed in the December 2010 issue

  |  Cover photo by DVIDSHUB/Flickr Creative Commons

Last January a powerful earthquake ravaged Haiti, killing more than 230,000 people. Nearly a year later, more than 1.6 million remain homeless, infrastructure crumbles, schools struggle to operate, and disease and starvation spread.

Thousands of people from every faith, race, and corner of the world have traveled to Haiti, giving of themselves to ease suffering, to heal wounds, to comfort souls. Among these sojourners is Kari O’Grady, Ph.D., of Loyola’s pastoral counseling department. Confronted with the enormity of this tragedy, Dr. O’Grady and so many others are offering help and offering hope. They are giving life to the most fundamental ideal of our Jesuit identity—to be men and women for and with others.

One need not travel to Haiti to find people and communities that could benefit from the help and hope of others. In fact, we at Loyola need not venture out of our own city of Baltimore. Poverty, homelessness, educational deprivation, neighborhood violence, drug trade, alcoholism, and addiction: these are the hurdles that far too many of our neighbors confront as they seek a better life for themselves and their children. While the resulting wounds might not be as obvious as in those living in the rubble of Port-au-Prince, they are real.

Just as we cannot and will not give up on Haiti, so distant from us, we must never lose faith in Baltimore, whose strength and fortunes are tied so closely to our own.

As we look at our city, so rich in history, so vibrant in culture, so strong of heart, our responsibility is clear. We must build on those strengths. We must do our part. We must remember the passionate words of Fr. Pedro Aruppe, superior general of the Society of Jesus from 1965 to 1983: “Love of God which does not issue in justice for others is a farce.” We should be guided by these words.

What better place to demonstrate our mission of social justice than in our own backyard? Our ties to the York Road corridor just east of our Evergreen campus are already powerful. Our Clinical Centers is located there, we are a longstanding member of local advocacy groups such as the Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation and the York Road Partnership, and our students, faculty, and staff have devoted hundreds of hours to the neighborhood’s schools, senior living facilities, and food pantries.

Now we must strengthen this commitment. Over the course of the past year, we have held forums with area residents, business owners, school officials, law enforcement officials, faith organizations, and community leaders. Our goal is simple: to learn from our neighbors, to have them lead the way in telling us how best to have a positive and lasting impact.

We now know where to begin. We’ll focus on youth development, revitalizing the commercial strip, and helping to build civic capacity. We’ll explore possibilities such as community schools, recreational opportunities, attracting new businesses to vacant storefronts, and working with the neighborhoods to ensure that city officials understand their needs.

I ask for the help of the entire Loyola community as we move forward. To quote Fr. Aruppe once again, this is where “love of God fuses with love of neighbor.” Our concern for the York Road corridor is not tangential to our strategic plan. It is its Ignatian center, and without it, we cannot reach our overarching objective of becoming the nation’s leading Catholic comprehensive university. We will not achieve our goals for the York Road corridor overnight. But, with our time, our energy, and our generosity, I know the future of that community, and our connection to it, is bright.

I extend my best wishes and blessings for the Christmas season.

The Reverend Brian F. Linnane, S.J.

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