Passionate Student Compassionate Healers

The Jesuits and the Healing Ministries

The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was founded to be at the service of the Church. One of the first services they performed was the care of the sick by nursing victims of the plague. “Cura personalis,” care of the whole person, was always a hallmark of Jesuit ministry, whether in the health sciences, missionary outreach, or education. “Preferential option for the poor” was articulated later (Welie & Kissell, 2004, p. 71). Illness may sometimes be related to poverty, lack of access to health care, and health disparities. The Society’s 32nd General Congregation “affirmed that the Society’s mission was ‘the service of faith, of which the promotion of justice is an absolute requirement’…..” (Welie & Kissell, 2004, p.10). Therefore, the sick, the poor, and the outcast deserve our compassionate care.  Looking back one can discern the response of the Jesuits.  According to Welie and Kissell (2004), the first Jesuit medical school was founded four hundred years ago in France, and today Jesuit universities offer more than 100 health sciences degree programs.  In this way, not only are quality programs of healthcare services built, but structures which foster justice through healthcare are also formed.  Not only is healthcare based on the ethics of Hippocrates, but even more on biblical justice which sees each human being as of value in him/herself, which sees each human being as a brother and a sister,  a part of the whole community.  Each person is to be brought to “wholeness,” to health, with a love that heals.  Joan Hrubetz, Dean of St. Louis University School of Nursing, wrote “Contemporary nursing with its emphasis on physical, spiritual and emotional health or in other words, the whole person, is uniquely related to the Jesuit mission.  Nursing, it has been said, is the Jesuit mission” (as cited in Welie & Kissell, 2004, p. 117).

Dean Barbara Hazard

It was in light of the need for similar healthcare programs and the training and education of caring, compassionate, yet well-educated nurses, that in 1945 Archbishop Richard  Cushing requested that Boston College begin a School of Nursing. There was a critical shortage of nurses to staff the revitalized Catholic hospitals of the Boston Archdiocese. The Archbishop had been advised by Catholic University that Boston College would be the best place to have a School of Nursing which would attract nurses from all of New England, women who “will be a credit to the nursing profession and to the Church” (as cited in Doona, 1987, p. 9), women who would provide leadership in offering humane and caring service based on ethical values.  Jesuit approval for the Boston College School of Nursing was given on December 8th, 1945.

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