The last event of this year’s Jesuit Heritage Week featured a panel discussion on the meaning and value of a Jesuit education from the perspective of an administrator, a professor, a current student, and an alumnus.
After the panelists had offered their remarks, the event was opened up to the audience for Q&A. An older audience member asked: “how does Georgetown reconcile its Jesuit mission and values with a campus culture that seems to flaunt and encourage excessive alcohol use, class schedules which might include days off during the week, and a generally indulgent student body?” As students, we were put off by her questions; Georgetown, for us, represents in many ways the antithesis of the culture encapsulated in her question.
Jesuit Heritage Week is an annual opportunity for students to celebrate and rediscover Georgetown’s Jesuit tradition and values. At this campus, we are called to be contemplatives in action: people committed to serious reflection and introspection aided by the lessons of Ignatian spirituality and attuned to the needs of our world. The keystone event with Father Ronald Anton, S.J., Father Matthew Carnes, S.J., and Father David Hollenbach, S.J. highlighted this aspect of Jesuit education. They discussed how they had each answered the call of the Society of Jesus to travel to the margins of society and serve others. In particular, Father Carnes made the point that the Jesuit order, numbering around 17,000 strong, could not alone effect the positive changes its mission strives for; instead, Jesuit universities seek to instill Jesuit values in their alumni and partners with the hopes that they will carry on the mission.
At the same time, these values are commensurate neither to indoctrination nor lip service; rather, the beauty of Georgetown is that these values meet people where they are, regardless of what faith tradition or background they are coming from. The Jesuit Heritage Week committee, comprised of people from different faith backgrounds and levels of spirituality, serves as a testament to the universal draw of Jesuit values. Just as the Jesuit community worldwide has a diversity of members and interests, the Georgetown community is not homogenous. While students may participate in different clubs, sports teams, academic fields and interests, many incorporate Jesuit values into their daily lives. They strive to make Georgetown a better campus than the one they found upon their arrival.
This is the context within which we find Jesuit Heritage Week. Students are constantly engaging with issues that are important to them, and fight for the justice that they believe in. Whether framed within the context of Jesuit values or not, these students carry on the Jesuit mission when they pursue and genuinely advocate for what they believe is right. Father Pedro Arrupe, S.J., the 28th Superior General of the Society of Jesus, called on each of us to fall in love with God in our own unique ways and let that love decide everything about our lives. Jesuit Heritage Week is an opportunity to recognize the variety of ways that students express this love and make it manifest on this campus, but the challenge remains for each of us to live out this mission every week.
When we revisit the question we were grappling with at the start of this entry, it is no wonder we had such a visceral, defensive reaction. Not a collection of students interested in indulgent pursuits, this campus strives towards cura personalis for each student uniquely and works to address college-specific struggles and challenges. We are a community of students and faculty working together to live out Jesuit values every day, in all that we are and all that we do.
For a recap of this year’s Jesuit Heritage Week events, check out the official website here.