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Special Article: What are Jesuit Ideals?

Published: Thursday, October 26, 2006

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01


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In its Mission Statement, Boston College calls upon its Jesuit founding to be the basis of its academic and societal mission, and in the 142 years since its founding, our university has strived to remain true to that mission. Recent controversies have rekindled a long-standing debate about what it means for BC to be a Jesuit and Catholic University. The phrase "Jesuit ideals" has become a sound bite, an entity that has lost some of its original meaning to the varying interpretations of students, faculty, and administrators.

The Heights asked these very members of the BC community the question "What are Jesuit ideals?" in hopes of further illuminating this debate. The very succinctness of these answers prohibits them from being encompassing statements on Jesuit ideals, but the sharply varying answers highlight the need for a continuous, constructive debate on these ideals and their effect on our lives as members of the BC community.


Jesuit ideals are pockets of wisdom that remind us to be intentional in our actions and serve with our hearts. It is up to each of us to live these ideals, making them not just a one-time commitment - but a lifestyle. It is these ideals that give us the ambition to make a difference in this world, no matter how great or small.

Shannon Keating Co-head Coordinator, Appalachia Volunteers, LSOE '07

"Jesuit ideals" are those of the Roman Catholic Church. Although such ideals motivate a particular way of serving Christ within the church, they do not justify a counter-alternative way of being a Catholic. Jesuits work within the church, not above, alongside, or ahead of it.

Rev. Paul McNellis, S.J. Philosophy Dept.

The earliest Jesuits sought to encounter the world in its richness and wonder, as well as its problems and challenges. It's that ideal that we are aspiring to here at Boston College. We want to prepare our graduates to encounter an even richer and more complex world and to make a difference with their professional skills and their personal qualities.

John L. Mahoney Director of Undergraduate Admission

Jesuit ideals are all those that promote good to its fullest extent. It is to love and not judge. It is to accept, respect, embrace, invite and care for those we have been given in our lives regardless of our prior connection. It is a call to self-discovery in which each day we better ourselves and the world.

Santiago Bunce, A&S '07 Justin Nunez, CSOM '07 UGBC President and Vice President

Understanding. Seeing that this is a complex world having the desire to find a just and complete way of viewing ourselves and others.

Love. Immersing the whole person in what is truly human and walking with others through experiences of joy and suffering.

Dissatisfaction. Striving for excellence with the knowledge that we may not complete the journey, but we can take great steps in building a more reflective, attentive and loving place.

Annie Kurdziel A&S '08

Jesuit ideals come from the Scriptures and the Tradition; we didn't invent them. "The Pocket Guide to Jesuit Education" states clearly that it is a process with three key movements: be attentive, be reflective, be loving. The goal of Jesuit education is to produce women and men for whom discernment is a habit. Jesuit ideals require living the message not just knowing it. At Boston College many faculty, staff, administrators, and students live the message of the Gospel to be loving. Consider all the service programs, the immersion programs, and the countless numbers of charities in which we are all involved. One word of awareness is to remember that this vocation is all inclusive and so, in our residence halls, on our playing fields, in our classrooms, and in the marketplace, we are servants called to live in peace with oneself and one another, and in commitment to use our personal gifts to help others. We are not perfect and so the ultimate ideal is to pray for one another always.

Rev. Donald A. MacMillan, S.J. Boston College Campus Ministry

Jesuit ideals mean that we all hold the door open for each other four different times between 21 Campanella Way and the O'Neill Library steps. (And we say thank you four different times.)

Christine Staffon A&S '10

"Jesuit ideals" is a catchphrase used by someone with a cause that they think other people should support simply by virtue of attending Boston College or other Jesuit universities. This catchphrase is used to lend moral weight to causes that almost always run contrary to Catholic doctrines.

Jeff Staples A&S '08

Jesuit ideals are informed by the sacramental understanding of the world. The characterizations of the Jesuit mission as "men and women for others" and "finding God in all things" point to this sacramental understanding of creation, from which it follows that the pursuit of wisdom is ultimately in the service of love.

Prof. Mary Troxell Philosophy Dept.

In response to Tertullian's famous question, "What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?" the Jesuit ideal is to reconcile Christ and culture, faith and reason, nature and grace. This ideal is rooted in "finding God in all things"; a sacramental worldview in which all of creation can lead to God.

Matt Erickson A&S '08

For me, the greatest Jesuit ideal is the passionate belief that a reflective life yields wisdom, imagination, compassion, and hope; and unexamined life is silent.

Prof. Rosanna F. DeMarco Community Health

For some reason, many students at Boston College believe that Jesuit ideals are at odds with Catholicism and Catholic ideals. This can never be the case. Jesuit ideals always operate within the Catholic faith tradition. "Openness" is always openness to the truth, not openness to anything.

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