Friday, October 23, 2009

Why Jesuits Are in Higher Education


Jesuit Father William J. Byron has been a Jesuit for more than 59 years. He is currently a university professor of Business and Society at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, is past president of three Catholic universities and the author of 12 books. In his book Jesuit Saturdays; Sharing the Ignatian Spirit with Friends and Colleagues, Byron shares with great joy and openness the stories and experiences of his Jesuit journey, offering readers the chance to see what it really is that inspires and motivates Jesuits to do what they do.

In an excerpt from his book, Byron explains why Jesuits are predominately found and gravitate toward the fields of education and higher learning:

"In education, as in all else, the Jesuit is not content with simple efficiency—doing something right. Rather, he wants to be effective, which means doing the right thing. Accordingly, in all things the Jesuit way involves a search for God’s will. This search, in the Jesuit vocabulary, goes by the name of discernment. (One Jesuit I knew, the late Tom Savage, a professor of English at Xavier University in Cincinnati, taught his students a lot about discernment by means of a simple message posted on his office door: “The fool collects, the wise person chooses.”) Discernment, it should be noted, is a wisdom characteristic that prepares a person to choose wisely...

Jesuits in higher education will, upon reflection, notice that their method, their style, their way of doing what they do, is radically influenced by the spirit of their founder, Ignatius of Loyola...

In the domain of higher education, there are many (students, faculty, and staff alike) with the potential for wisdom. That is why Jesuits gather at colleges and universities to work. Their task is not only to teach and search for truth in all its forms but also to share their founder’s special grace with those who want to grow in the Ignatian way.

The Jesuit, by vocation, is trained “to seek God in all things,” even in quite secular and esoteric things and in academically rarefied surroundings. Seeking and finding God in all things is a bedrock Jesuit principle. And on this bedrock rests the traditional Jesuit commitment, in theory and in practice, to a Catholic Christian humanism. God is in all things human...

The Society of Jesus lives on the trust it places in each of its members to appropriate the essentials of its spiritual heritage, to sustain them in himself by God’s grace, and to pass them on to others who want to grow in this way."
For more about why Jesuits are in higher education or to purchase Byron's book, you can visit Loyola Press' blog.

Many well-known, prestigious universities in the United States were established by the Jesuit order of Catholic priests. Georgetown, Marquette, Boston College, Creighton, Fordham, Fairfield, and many others are part of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.

But what is a Jesuit education?

Here Assistant Dean of Admissions Kate Metcalfe from Marquette University explains what a Jesuit education is all about.