By Jeremy Langford
WHAT MAKES A JESUIT SCHOOL JESUIT?
Administrators and teachers at Jesuit schools lead students to find God in all areas of their studies and academic lives and, as stated at the Society of Jesus’ 35th General Congregation, “engage the world through a careful analysis of context, in dialogue with experience evaluated through reflection.”
All Jesuit schools, though tied to their specific regions and circumstances, are linked to the Jesuits’ history and educational projects. A school’s mission, identity, charter, and sponsorship agreement all reveal their relationship with the worldwide Society. Saying someone was Jesuit educated is not to define them but rather to indicate that wherever they are in the world, they received an education in which analysis, reflection, care for the whole person, and pursuing the greater glory of God, or the greater good, are key.
WHAT IS DISTINCTIVE ABOUT THE SIX JESUIT UNIVERSITIES AND ONE COMMUNITY COLLEGE IN THE MIDWEST?
The Midwest has a certain pioneer, yet homegrown, spirit. The way these schools exemplify that quality is in a creative approach to problem solving, a sense of working together for the common good, an open hospitality to students, and a sense of respect and decency toward others. These characteristics are embedded in the Jesuit Catholic tradition, so they are richly cultivated within a Midwestern/Jesuit/Catholic context.
WHO ARE THE STUDENTS OUR JESUIT SCHOOLS ARE FORMING TODAY?
Like the joke about no two Jesuits being alike—“If you’ve met one Jesuit, then you’ve met one Jesuit”—our students are all different, with a variety of backgrounds and gifts. They also come from all across the country and globe; there are 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States and approximately 189 Jesuit institutions of higher learning throughout the world.
What our students share is a love of God and a sense of being part of a greater mission. They are open to reflection on faith and culture, and they seek to refine their service to create a
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES FACING STUDENTS AND EDUCATORS AT JESUIT SCHOOLS TODAY?
Jesuit schools and students are encountering challenges that reflect the deepest desires all young people are wrestling with: a hunger for spirituality and faith; a need to navigate cultures and belief systems so as to be good citizens in a worldwide environment; finding community; developing a moral compass in an ever-changing society; and understanding and integrating learning. Students at our schools are asking their professors these tough questions, so the professors are experiencing challenges alongside their students. These challenges, however, also present opportunities to thoughtfully solve problems, together as students, teachers, and entire institutions.
HOW DO YOU SEE JESUIT EDUCATION DEVELOPING IN THE NEXT 20 YEARS?
In recent decades, Nativity and Cristo Rey schools like those in Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Chicago have grown out of society’s need to introduce Jesuit education in communities where it may not have had a presence before. These institutions have multiplied with much reflection and help from the Society, and we have great hope that they will continue to do so. Arrupe College of Loyola University Chicago, which is the world’s first Jesuit community college, is taking a similar route and addressing a specific need: to bring Jesuit education to hardworking students who otherwise might not have access to it. Leaders at other Jesuit institutions are watching Arrupe to see if it can be modeled more broadly, so that, too, represents an exciting possibility going forward. Jesuits will also use technology to continue working on the margins and going wherever we are called.
HOW ARE STUDENTS GRADUATING FROM JESUIT SCHOOLS AND UNIVERSITIES UNIQUELY PLACED TO ADDRESS THE ISSUES FACING OUR WORLD?
The Jesuit charism is focused on both contemplation and action. Our students understand that they are not only called to stand for a faith that does justice; they must also prayerfully reflect on how God is calling them, each and every day, to live out this mission, serving others in their own special way. This idea of being contemplatives in action is unmistakably Jesuit, and it is a true gift we offer our students, which our students in turn offer the world.