A Letter from Paris: Arriving in the City of Light
Reflections from a Jesuit President on Sabbatical
November 16, 2015
I arrived in Paris on schedule and quickly made my way to the 7th arrondissement, where the American University of Paris is located.
I was able to meet with both the president and the provost of the University and at their request I will meet with them tomorrow morning. For my part, I wanted to thank them for their exceptional care of our students and for the quality of the communications we received from the University over the past weekend.
I was impressed by the evident steps the University has taken to enhance security while at the same time maintaining an open and welcoming atmosphere that I believe is essential to university life.
What I did not realize is that the University is very much an urban university operating in a neighborhood—but not on a defined campus. I was glad to see that the University does not trumpet its American presence in the neighborhood, so as not to attract too much attention.
Also, our students live all over Paris, so they are not a cluster of Americans in one area. Loyola’s media folks will gently chide me (LOL!) for not taking photos, but I was so happy to have found the administration building that I didn’t even think of it!
I forgot my phone for my dinner with our students, but Courtney Mullin (Class of 2017) graciously offered her phone for the obligatory photos!
I found the students to be in good spirits. They have loved their time in this incredible city. Nonetheless, they are shaken by the barbarity unleashed on this city of light. And of course this horrible violence was directed at young persons and the venues they most enjoy. Still I do believe that they are coping well and will be better world citizens having lived through this.
We were directed to a great restaurant, Reed, (7 rue Amelie, 75007) run by Catherine Reed, a Canadian ex-pat. Her restaurant is usually closed on Monday, but she opened for us and we had the place to ourselves.
Catherine asked if I wanted wine served with the meal, and I told her of course we would have wine—and that we would start with champagne to toast the French Republic, our host and oldest ally, and its fundamental commitment to liberté, égalité, fraternité!
My colleagues in senior administration at Loyola know to get me with our students if I feel beleaguered or discouraged. Our students are so impressive and I am so proud of them. This evening I loved sitting back and listening to them speak of the virtues of their particular arrondissement, the best commute to the University, and thoughtful ways they have decided to engage this city. Mme Reed told me how impressed she was with our students and their love for Paris.
I have already received thank you notes from a few of the students, including one of the Regis University students we included in our evening:
On behalf of myself and Celeste, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for the invitation for dinner tonight. For the two of us to speak with so many of your students and feel the embrace of the Jesuit love/morals tonight truly was a heart-warming experience during such a difficult day. Particularly hearing you discuss the challenges you faced in the decision of your students’ safety during the riots in Baltimore last year truly settles my heart of whether my program was making a correct call in keeping us here. This was a question we had been discussing frequently this past weekend, as at least seven students in our program have made the decision to leave this week.
Thank you for sharing your strength and providing us with hope to persevere through the remainder of the semester.
Finnuella Carey and Celeste Linders
A final note about the 7th. My hotel is on the corner of the rue de Grenelle—for Jesuits, the infamous rue de Grenelle!!! On this street is the main Jesuit residence in Paris, a community famed for its intolerance for those who did not speak perfect French. I would be petrified to stay there. I fear intermediate French 2 in 1975 would not make the grade!!!
I meet with the AUP president and provost at 9 a.m. and our students from 10 until noon. On to Leuven in the afternoon.
The Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., president of Loyola University Maryland, is on sabbatical during the Fall 2015 semester, re-engaging with his academic scholarship during his appointment as a visiting scholar at Heythrop College. During his time abroad, he will share occasional reflections.