Because we are Jesuit, the education we provide is marked by “cura personalis,” which means attention to the individual student and respect for the individual’s potential and pace in learning. Jesuit education is characterized by adaptability to individual differences and needs, as well as to wider needs determined by a reading of the “signs of the times.”
Because we are Jesuit, we routinely engage in the practice of discernment, an effort to choose wisely in worldly matters by striving to align personal and institutional choice with the will of God. We share this practice with our students, helping them to choose wisely and well as they mature into men for and with others."
excerpt from "Our Mission" - St. Joseph's Preparatory School
Agere sequitur essere -- Activity emanates from identity.
Is our identity still the same on Hawk Hill? Has our raison d'être at St. Joseph's University changed?
My good friend John Lammers, aka Novaboy, told me years ago when we were at Lucent Technologies to never write, then send, a letter out of anger. To shelve it, and wait until a cooler mind may prevail. So I've waited a month. I was disappointed with my alma mater's decision to honor Chris Matthews at this year's commencement -- and I remain so. It was an extremely poor decision made by the faculty, and approved by the SJU Board of Trustees and Fr. Timothy Lannon, SJ -- a man whom I greatly admire. Mr. Matthews had the following to say about the United States Bishops who feel that the teachings the Roman Catholic Church should apply to all Roman Catholics, including politicians:
"Today you have the Roman Catholic Church through its bishops challenging the rights of Catholic office-holders to take positions for abortion rights. They basically say you have to be for imprisonment of people involved with abortion or else you're not a Catholic and you'll be excommunicated. It seems to be an era, not just because of Islam, to keep religion out of politics . Why are they foisting themselves, why are the religious leaders jumping into the political marketplace and saying to politically-elected people, who are duly elected, "you cannot take that position and be in our church, or we will
excommunicate you"? That seems to be what's going on."
I realize that "we cannot possibly please everyone when we choose our commencement speakers and honorees." As Matt Archbald reasoned "No. You can't please everyone. How about just God, then?" All issues are not equal in importance. It's not as if Mr. Matthews is on record as hating the colors of crimson and gray. We are talking about the sanctity of life. The Church's respect for life, that "Seamless Garment" from conception to natural death, is inviolate. Again I ask... why are we honoring him on Hawk Hill? In 2004 the US Bishops issued the following guidelines: “The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions. “
The newspaper of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Catholic Standard and Times, had the following to say to St. Joseph's: “A person’s public support for abortion does not mean that the Church and its members should have nothing to do with him or her. It does mean that such a person should expect no honors from the church. Effecting such a change in hearts and in public policy must begin with a reliance on God’s grace, the witness of the Church’s principled stand against giving honors to those who oppose its teaching on the sanctity of human life and constant engagement with all people in consistent, respectful dialogue.” So my question remains... if the Cardinal of Philadelphia and the Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church tell us NOT to honor those who act in defiance of the Church's moral principles...why is St. Joseph's University honoring Chris Matthews?
In her letter this week explaining why she is unable to accept Notre Dame's prestigious Laetare Medal, Harvard professor and former Ambassador to the Holy See Mary Ann Glendon quotes those same Bishop's guidelines: "This, as you must know, was in disregard of the U.S. bishops’ express request of 2004 that Catholic institutions 'should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles' and that such persons 'should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."'
Dr. Glendon further questions the decisions of Fr. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of Notre Dame: "That request, which in no way seeks to control or interfere with an institution’s freedom to invite and engage in serious debate with whomever it wishes, seems to me so reasonable that I am at a loss to understand why a Catholic university should disrespect it."
16 years of Catholic education and I am unsure what "a handful" constitutes. Not many, I guess, which I assume was an intentional way to belittle those alumni who still follow the teachings of the Church. Those who have roamed Barbelin Hall in decades past, and care enough about our future to write. Of course the "handful" had approximately three days to voice their concerns before The Hawk went to print - so that was hardly fair, was it? Neither Ms. Goodheart nor Dr. Meloche mentioned WHY there might be alumni upset with the decision, so we are also missing the intellectual honesty (conveniently missing in the article was Mr. Matthews calling Pro-Life Catholics terrorists) in the article by not presenting both points of view., particularly the Catholic point of view. Shouldn't Jesuit schools be defending the rights of the unborn, not ignoring them? Shouldn't Jesuit schools be honoring those who champion that which the Church stands for... not those who oppose our mores?
"But I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child, a direct killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another? How do we persuade a woman not to have an abortion? As always, we must persuade her with love and we remind ourselves that love means to be willing to give until it hurts. Jesus gave even His life to love us. So, the mother who is thinking of abortion, should be helped to love, that is, to give until it hurts her plans, or her free time, to respect the life of her child. The father of that child, whoever he is, must also give until it hurts. By abortion, the mother does not learn to love, but kills even her own child to solve her problems. And, by abortion, the father is told that he does not have to take any responsibility at all for the child he has brought into the world. That father is likely to put
other women into the same trouble. So abortion just leads to more abortion. Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and
peace is abortion."
Of course sometimes (often times) I fee like old Don Quixote (but older). Perhaps I am wrong, and am just tilting at windmills. Fighting the inevitable. Times change, people change, and if the majority of professors just want an academic institution sans the Ignatian Spirituality -- I should just let it be and fondly remember our glorious past. But that's not the vision Fr. Lannon has for his faculty, many whom he inherited...
"I have long been of the opinion that our educational mission needs to be more firmly tied to the logic and dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises... But how do we bring faculty to the same point as that to which we want to bring our students? Surely, if we do not succeed with faculty, we shall not succeed with students. Today, even with hiring for mission working at its best, we will assemble a faculty distinguished by cultural, religious and political pluralism. Many of our best faculty are not Catholic, and may not be Christian. It seems to me that we need to develop a method through which the experience of the Exercises, obviously in some kind of humanistic reduction, can be available to those who do not share its spiritual vision or religious tradition. I am in total agreement with Father Provincial that the Exercises need to be offered to faculty in our institutions, but we also need a less specifically Christian expression of their genius to inform our formation programs for faculty. Without such a process, I fear, the Ignatian spirit will be progressively diluted precisely because it must in the future largely be promoted by non-Jesuits, who may very well be neither Catholic nor Christian."
Paideia and Empathy: Mission and Identity in a PluralisticWorld
"The reality is clear. At least in the short term, we are running out of Jesuits. That may or may not change in 15-20 years, but we already know the number of Jesuits in the pipeline and it is not enough to come near to replacing Jesuits who are or will be retiring. The ten Jesuit provinces are in the process of contracting to five. One obvious consequence of this: we are
losing those who have embodied the stories and traditions of our colleges and universities. Are we replacing them with women and men who can keep those stories and traditions alive and well? ... Of course, in the pluralistic world
in which we live, there will always be some on campus who are disinterested or even opposed to the fostering of Jesuit, Catholic identity as inappropriate for the main work of the university."
Catholic Courses Are The Heart of Our Mission
Although expected, I was disappointed as when I heard that the University was again trying to revamp the GER, as I knew this meant reducing the number of philosophy and theology requirements, perhaps the last blow to the Jesuits' ancient Ratio Studiorum. As a compromise it was my understanding that Fr. Lannon requested (insisted:-) that one of the mandatory courses be on Ignatian/Jesuit Spirituality. While explaining the changes the Provost of the University also mentioned that the inclusion was "controversial" amongst the faculty. Although an explanation was rendered, I remain confused as to why a course on Jesuit Spirituality at a Jesuit college would be controversial (That course, taught by Fr. Willie Walsh, SJ, was my favorite -- surprise, surprise). I don't think this would be the case if there was still a Long Black Line at St. Joseph's and our other institutions. Of course when you've hired so many professors who don't share the Jesuits' mission and identity -- it shouldn't be a surprise. We now reap what we sowed, deleterious as it is to the spiritual welfare of our undergraduates.
Fr. Rick Malloy, SJ, one time professor at St. Joseph's (and should still be a professor at St. Joseph's), told me once of the 80/20 rule at SJU... that only about 20% of the students get "it", as in Hand-in-Hand, immersion programs, retreats based on the Exercises/Kairos, weekly mass attendance et al. While Williams, Yastrzemski, DiMaggio and Clemente never batted a 1.000 -- we must have a better batting average. In reading online comments about conferring honors on Matthews (The Hawk - commencement comments) I chose three nuggets of ignorance for obvious reasons. I am aware that the Jesuits educated Voltaire, Goebbels, and Castro -- but it would be a shame if these three didn't see the light before they left Hawk Hill, and if not, let them be discreet about where they received their undergraduate education:
"If you wanted a school that is very strict about the religious backgrounds of applying students, you should have gone to Bob Jones University. SJU is not Bob Jones. SJU does not take into consideration things like race or creed, in the JESUIT spirit of Men And Women For Others and Cura Personalis. So stop trying to say that this school has some kind of responsibility to the Catholic Church."
"I chose to join the Saint Joseph's community because I have respect for the ideals of the Jesuit order, regardless of the fact that I don't think their religion has any basis in truth, and that their faith is a myth. Saint Joseph's, and the Jesuit Order, are above the pettiness of the Catholic Church. I may not believe in the theology side of the Jesuits, but I certainly respect their courage for standing up for what is right. Instead of considering the comparatively minor issues 'compromised' by having Chris Matthews speak on campus, how about we take a look at the values that are being compromised by strictly following Catholic Church teaching?"
"While you may wish to believe that SJU continues to be "first and foremost a CATHOLIC Academic institution" this '06 grad disagrees. All of my courses, including my theology GERs had a distinctively humanistic slant. Unless you are a recent graduate like myself you have no means to evaluate the true nature of the university. The times they have been a-changin' indeed!"
This was in keeping with one of Ignatius' first principles in choosing apostolates: all other things being equal, choose those apostolates that will influence those who have the most influence on others. Maybe the best expression of this idea was in a letter he wrote about the founding of colleges in December of 1551: "From among those who are now merely students, in time some will depart to play diverse roles - one to preach and carry on the care of souls, another to government of the land and the administration of justice, and others to other callings. Finally, since young boys become grown men, their good
education in life and doctrine will be beneficial to many others, with the fruit expanding more widely every day." From then on, Ignatius helped establish Jesuit schools and universities all over Europe and the world.
"By the term Spiritual Exercises is meant every method of examination of conscience, of meditation, of contemplation, of vocal and mental prayer, and of other spiritual activities that will be mentioned later. For just as taking a walk, journeying on foot, and running are bodily exercises, so we call the Spiritual Exercises every way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments, and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul."
“You are called by the Society of Jesus to be men and women who reflect upon the reality of the world around you, with all its ambiguities, opportunities, and challenges in order to discern what is really happening in your life and in the lives of others. To find God there, and to discover where God is calling you, to employ criteria for significant choices that reflect Godly values rather than elusive self interest. To decide in the light what is truly for the greater glory of God and the service of those in need, and then to act accordingly.
Fr-General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach,SJ (pictured with Fr-General Pedro Arrupe, SJ), St.Joseph's University address
PS -- responses from "the handful" that care about St. Joseph's and Catholic higer education are in the comments section, all anonymous. You'll have to take my word that I didn't write them.