Friday, February 29, 2008


Some sectors of the blogosphere have been buzzing lately in response to an editorial in The Hoya with the provocative title "Where Have All the Jesuits Gone?". When I first read the editorial in question, I made a prudential judgment to refrain from comment. I obviously have my own opinions, but I felt that I should defer to the Jesuits at the Georgetown and wait to see what they had to say. One Georgetown Jesuit, Father Ryan Maher, offers a response to The Hoya editorial board in the regular column that he shares with Father Jim Schall, As This Jesuit Sees It . . . In answer to the question posed by The Hoya, Father Maher says that "The Jesuits Are Still Right Where You Need Them". Most of what Father Maher says in his first few paragraphs is specific to the Hilltop, but the second half of his column touches on issues of wider import. The view that Maher's father expresses in the following lines is a view that I share, but I'm not sure that I've ever seen anything like it in print before:
My own thinking regarding these questions is greatly colored by a conversation I had with my father many years ago. We were discussing the attitudes of some Jesuits when it comes to the question of how best to perpetuate the Jesuit tradition in our schools.

At one point in the conversation, I explained to my father that there are some who argue that, when it comes to passing on our tradition, the time has come for Jesuits to leave the heavy lifting to our lay colleagues. "That's what Vatican II asks us to do," they claim. "Plus, we just don't have the numbers to do it ourselves anymore."

My father is a man of few words, an engineer by training. He and my mother raised six kids and sent them all to Catholic schools, most of them to Jesuit schools. He thought about what I told him for a couple of quiet minutes.

Finally, oracle-like, he responded. “Listen, you guys need to get your collective act together. Since the day you entered the Jesuits, you all haven’t had to pay for a single thing — not tuition, not food, not rent, not cars, not medical care, not anything. The Church has taken all of those burdens off of you. We did that to free you up to be concerned about other things. The most important thing we want you to do is safeguard, adapt and pass on the tradition you inherited from St. Ignatius and all the Jesuits who came before you. The Church has entrusted the care and feeding of that tradition to you in a unique way, especially in your schools.”

He concluded, “You guys can’t pass that obligation off to anyone else. If you think you can, then you might as well do us all a favor and close up shop as a religious order.”

As usual, Dad was right.

If you know the Jesuits, you know that we are a group of strong-willed, intelligent, passionate, opinionated men who do not shy away from a good argument. Our conversations among ourselves are not uncomplicated. Still, I am hopeful that the coming years will find an invigorated and determined Georgetown Jesuit Community that is even more engaged in the university’s project than it is today.
I share Maher's hope, and I hope that Jesuits at our other universities, colleges and high schools will engage this task with equal vigor and determination. Great challenges call for great commitment. AMDG.


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