President’s Message: Why Loyola’s Jesuit heritage matters
May 18, 2013
“That was never one of my ambitions,” I told him. “If it was, I certainly entered the wrong order. There’s never been a Jesuit pope—and won’t be in my lifetime.”
Fifteen minutes later I was proven wrong.
Now we are watching to see just what it means to have a member of the Society of Jesus as the vicar of the Roman Catholic Church. How will Pope Francis integrate Jesuit values in his leadership, in the ways he cares for each individual he encounters, and in his service to the world?
During this new chapter for the Catholic Church, we at Loyola have a perfect opportunity to share with others what it means to be Jesuit. Why do Loyola’s Jesuit heritage, tradition, and values matter—to our community and to the world?
Here at Loyola we are very conscious of both our Jesuit tradition and Catholic faith and what they mean in our identity and our mission. In the past, Loyola had quite a few Jesuits teaching and serving at the University, and we could take for granted the fact that our students were learning about Jesuit values and benefiting from the experience. Now with the decline in vocations to the priesthood, the number of Jesuits on campus is much smaller. As a result, we have had to become more intentionally committed to our Jesuit mission. In many ways, however, that commitment has only been deepened and strengthened.
Not long ago I received a letter from a mother whose daughter had been accepted as a member of the incoming Class of 2017. Her daughter had not been educated in a Catholic school, and the mother was concerned that her daughter was not deeply rooted in her faith. Her daughter’s faith development is as important to her as the quality of the academic education she will receive.
That mother’s concerns are shared by many people who watch members of the Millennial generation growing up without the same roots in faith that members of my generation had. It is a pressing concern, and it’s one that I can assure her we as educators at a Jesuit university take seriously. We realize that we need to be more evangelical in encouraging students—whether or not they are Catholic—to explore questions of faith. Regardless of a student’s individual faith, we have a responsibility to help each of them grow in understanding and spirituality. We want to give them the foundation they need to be able to find fulfillment through their beliefs.
That is why we acquired the Loyola Retreat Center in western Maryland. Having that special space for students and other members of the Loyola community has been instrumental in helping students on their faith journeys.
Helping our students find meaning and comfort through faith is especially important today, as we endure another tragedy with the recent bombings in Boston.
At times such as these, our community comes together to offer support to all those affected by tragedy and loss. As a Jesuit community, we are united in our concern for each individual, and in our commitment to nurturing a person’s mind, body, and spirit. Our students learn to approach problems with the Jesuit way of proceeding, a unique mode of governance, discernment, and dialogue. But a Jesuit education prepares students for the future on an even deeper level. As people of faith, even in the darkest moments, we are full of hope.
If Pope Francis can bring that same Jesuit approach to his leadership, perhaps he can help the Catholic Church, and our world, find that hope. And, as the Class of 2013 graduates this month, I trust the experiences they have had here at Loyola will help them carry that same hope throughout the world.