International Presence

Boston College is becoming an increasingly sought-after destination for Jesuits from around the world

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

The 120-member Jesuit Community at Boston College is one of the largest in the world, and in recent years it has become an increasingly international one as well.

Seventeen visiting faculty and graduate students from Africa, Europe, Asia and the Pacific are in residence in the University's Jesuit Community this semester. Among the countries they represent are Italy, Egypt, Portugal, Canada, Ireland, South Africa, the Philippines, Australia, the Netherlands, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Malawi and the Congo.

Reflecting a trend within the order toward foreign travel, these international Jesuits are coming to Boston College to study or perform research in a range of academic disciplines, including theology, philosophy, business and the sciences. They say they have found both strong academics and a welcoming atmosphere at Boston College.

Among the international Jesuits studying at BC this semester are, from left: Wellington Fernando, SJ, Josey Mathias, SJ, Arul Sivan, SJ, Daryl Miranda, SJ, Joao Vila-cha, SJ and Felipe Bacalso, SJ. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
"The Jesuit Community here is very hospitable. It is very clear why so many international Jesuits come here," said Josey Mathias, SJ, who is pursuing a master's degree at the School of Education and plans to teach at a Jesuit school in his native India.

Benedictus B. Triatmoko, SJ, of Indonesia, studying for a master's degree at the Carroll Graduate School of Management, said he has benefited from the eclectic mix of Jesuits who have been his companions at Boston College.

"There are a lot of untapped human resources in this community," he said. "It is very interesting to learn from the older Jesuits things you cannot learn in textbooks. You have the president of the University or a bishop at the dining table - and you are brothers."

Boston College Jesuit Community Rector Francis Herrmann, SJ, said the international Jesuit presence on campus has been "much greater" in recent years than in the past. Last year, the Jesuit Community included 21 graduate students from 10 different countries and 10 visiting scholars. This global perspective has been a hallmark of the Society of Jesus since founder St. Ignatius Loyola dispatched his companions as missionaries to foreign lands four centuries ago, he said.

"The early Jesuits said, 'The world is our house,'" said Fr. Herrmann. "The presence of so many foreign students and scholars has markedly enriched our community life and our sense of being part of a global community."

While the society has a legacy of working or studying abroad, Jesuits - who number about 4,000 in the US and 23,000 worldwide - are traveling between provinces more than they once did, members of the order said. Part-time faculty member Joop Schopman, SJ (Psychology), a member of the Dutch Jesuit Province who is based in Innsbruck, Austria, recalled that when he entered the society in 1955, the only Jesuits who left their provinces for extended periods were missionaries - and they usually did not return.

Now, it is common for Jesuits to be sent around the world on short-term assignments. Jesuit Institute Research Fellow Geoffrey King, SJ, of Australia, noted he, Fr. Triatmoko, and Peter Kim Semang, SJ, of Malaysia - a visiting scholar at the Institute for Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry - had already been posted together in Malaysia a few years ago.

International Jesuit students have brought distinctive gifts of their own to the BC community, Fr. Herrmann noted. For example, Paulin Manwelo, SJ, of the Congo, who is pursing his doctorate in philosophy, was named an outstanding teaching assistant in the University last year.

For Jesuits like Arul Sivan, SJ, of India, Boston College has offered many different learning experiences, all most welcome.

"I have greatly enjoyed the interdisciplinary opportunities," said Fr. Sivan, who is studying psychological counseling at IREPM. "There are so many courses from which to choose. It is very generous of Boston College to open its facilities to us and allow us to stay."

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