A future novice in the news.
Over the weekend, the Boston Globe ran a glowing profile of Dan Kennedy, a newly-minted graduate of Boston College who intends to enter the Jesuit novitiate this August. Here's the lede:
Dan Kennedy will graduate from Boston College on Monday, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and the recipient of the school’s most prestigious prize, the Edward H. Finnegan Award.To read the rest, click here. While positive and upbeat, the Globe article still betrays some typical journalistic prejudices: for example, I cringed at reporter Lisa Wangsness' statement that Kennedy's choice is rare "particularly for a standout student at an elite school," which seems to imply that smart and successful people are somehow less likely to enter religious life. The article also relies on some trite and not entirely accurate assumptions about Jesuits, stating that we "eschew monastic life, dress in street clothes, and work in the world, especially in higher education." No, we aren't monks, but we don't "eschew monastic life" - we simply follow a different charism. We don't always wear street clothes - in fact, what we wear varies a lot. We are perhaps best known in this country for our educational tradition, but it's not quite accurate to say that we work "especially" in higher education: we work in many different areas, and no one apostolate really dominates.
Winners of the Finnegan, given to the student who best exemplifies the BC motto, "ever to excel," tend to go big - top grad schools, Wall Street, overseas fellowships. Kennedy is planning to give away his computer, recycle his Blackberry, and move to a modest communal house in St. Paul, Minn.
He will get $75 a month for incidentals. He will have no romantic relationships. He will go where his superiors ask him to go, and do what they ask him to do. If all goes well, Kennedy - "Dan-o" to his friends - can hope to be ordained a Jesuit priest in 2023.
Entering a religious order straight out of college is rare these days, particularly for a standout student at an elite school. One or two graduating BC seniors enter seminary each year, but never in recent memory has a Finnegan winner done so.
Perhaps I'm being too critical of a well-intentioned article, but there are times when I feel the need to question and even correct popular (mis)perceptions of the Society of Jesus. To take on just one more such (mis)perception, I'll note that many other religious orders "work in the world" - including monastic orders like the Benedictines, who run many parishes and schools and have done so for centuries. Over time I've become increasingly skeptical of the assertion that "work[ing] in the world" is a distinctive Jesuit trait - but perhaps that's an argument for another post.
In any event, it is heartening to see the Globe offer a positive article on religious vocations, and I am happy that the article focuses on a future Jesuit novice. I'm also happy to note that Kennedy, a Toledo native, will be joining my own province:
[Kennedy] established contact while in high school with the Jesuits in the Chicago-Detroit Province, which covers five Midwestern states, including Ohio. He kept in regular touch with the Rev. Patrick A. Fairbanks, the provincial assistant [for] vocations, during his junior year of college. By the time Fairbanks invited him to apply in his senior year, he had developed "a collecting consciousness within myself that this is it."My prayers and good wishes today are for Dan Kennedy and all others who are preparing to enter the novitiates of the Society of Jesus this year. If you are so inclined, I hope you will join me in praying for the novices-to-be, for their intentions, and for vocations to the Society and to religious life in all its forms. AMDG.
Last month, after an extensive application process, Fairbanks called with good news. Kennedy, ecstatic, sent out a text to several dozen friends: "N S J," the letters he can now [sic! - not now, but come August], as a novice in the Society of Jesus, put after his name.