With 50 members in residence, the Jesuit Community at Boston College is one of the largest apostolic communities in the Society of Jesus. Jesuits in the Community serve on the University faculty or staff, are involved with St. Ignatius Church, engage in various ministries in the Boston area, or are retired. While St. Mary's Hall—the University's second oldest building—serves as the main community residence, there are seven other small communities of Jesuits clustered around the Chestnut Hill Campus.

St. Mary's Hall

St. Mary's Hall

Jesuits and Boston College: BC's Mission, Jesuits' Mission

A paper written by Jesuits working at Boston College in the winter and spring of 1994, for discussion with colleagues in the University

Telling our stories is a time-bound activity. A particular version suits a historical moment and its issues. Our experience unfolds and develops, however, so we are always refining the plot of the story and emphasizing new themes. Twenty years ago Jesuits at Boston College described their work in a pamphlet that focused on educating men and women amid the societal changes of the early '70s. Boston College and the world around us are different places today. We need to find words that suit our experience in 1994. Thus, this pamphlet. We do not speak for the whole community that is Boston College.

We speak for ourselves, the Jesuits working here in 1994. We try to put into words our vision of Boston College and the questions we have about how to work here effectively as Jesuits. We conceive this as a contribution to a dialogue among all those who have visions of what Boston College should be. It might help, as you read it, to imagine it surrounded by the traces of these other visions and by still further ones that will come into existence as comments on this one and refinements of it.


A Short History of the Jesuit Community of Boston College

by Charles Donovan, S.J.
Boston College

The Jesuits first became established in Boston in 1847, when Archbishop John FitzPatrick invited Father John McElroy and several associates to take charge of St. Mary's Church in the North End of Boston. Father McElroy gathered funds from the poor immigrant Irish people of Boston to purchase property for a college and collegiate church, but for years his plans were delayed by anti-Catholic opposition. It wasn't until 1858 that he obtained the South End property on which the imposing Church of the Immaculate Conception, the college building, and Jesuit residence were built. Chartered in 1863, the College and high school opened in September 1864. The founder, Father McElroy, was then 80 years old, and a Swiss Jesuit, Father John Bapst, became the first President.

A prominent figure of the 19th-century Boston College Jesuit Community was Father Robert Fulton, who was the first dean. In 1870 he became president for ten years, left Boston, and returned for a second three-year presidency in 1888. Fulton was a witty, affable, opinionated man, admired by intellectuals of the Boston area. He set high standards for the College and refused to have philosophy, the capstone of the curriculum, taught until 1876. At the first graduation, in June 1877, the A.B. degree was conferred upon nine young men.

Another influential Jesuit at Boston College in the 19th century was Father Timothy Brosnahan, president in the 1890s. He wrote an elegant four-page explanation of the Jesuit system of education that appeared in the Boston College catalogue, not only during his presidency but for the next half-century as well. The Brosnahan statement was adopted in whole or in part for varying periods of time in the catalogues of 14 other Jesuit colleges in the United States. No doubt because of this leadership, it was Father Brosnahan who spoke for Jesuits nationally the year after he left Boston College, in the effective reply to an attack on Jesuit colleges that Harvard's president Charles W. Eliot published in the Atlantic Monthly.

Boston College enrollment was under 200 students during the 19th century, with a faculty of 10 to 15 Jesuits. Enrollments rose in the 20th century and a larger campus was needed. In 1907, Father Thomas Gasson in his first year as president purchased the property in Chestnut Hill, planned a series of English Gothic buildings, and erected the first towered building, now known as Gasson Hall. For four years while St. Mary's Hall, their new residence, was being built, the Jesuits commuted from their quarters in the South End. By the mid-1930s, the undergraduate enrollment neared 1,500 and the Jesuit staff rose to 59, necessitating an addition to St. Mary's Hall.

The College began to expand as a university with the establishment of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences in 1925, with a seasoned administrator as dean, Father John B. Creedon, former president of Georgetown University. In 1929 the Law School was started, with Father Creedon as regent and Dennis Dooley dean. Dooley was succeeded by two Jesuit deans, Father William Kenealy and Robert Drinan. The Graduate School of School of Social Work opened in 1936 with Father Walter McGuin as dean, and two years later the School of Management opened with Father James Kelley as dean. After World War II, the School of Nursing was opened in 1946, with Father Anthony Carroll as regent and Mary Maher dean. In 1952, Father Charles Donovan was named first dean of the co-educational School of Education.

With the explosion of undergraduate enrollment to well over 5,500 in the 1950s, there was a growth in the Jesuit faculty, which numbered in the 90s during the 1960s and early 1970s, with of course a much larger proportion of the faculty being lay professors. In 1950, 13 of 14 department chairmen in the College of Arts & Sciences were Jesuits. Ten years later, 11 of the 19 departments had Jesuit chairmen, whereas by 1970 only four of the 22 departments were headed by Jesuits.

Some of the notable chairmen were Father James Burke of History, later dean of the Graduate School; Father Michael Walsh of Biology, later president; Father William Casey of Theology, later Arts & Sciences dean and first academic vice president; Father James Moynihan of Psychology; Father W. Seavey Joyce of Economics, later president; Father Leo McCauley of Classics; Father Joseph Flanagan of Philosophy; Father J. D. Gauthier of Romance Languages; and Father Robert Daly of Theology, who also edited the national Jesuit magazine Theological Studies and was the first director of the Jesuit Institute.

Father Michael Walsh, president 1958–1968, strengthened graduate departments in Arts & Sciences. He presided at the University's centennial convocation, with President John F. Kennedy as featured speaker. Father J. Donald Monan became president in 1972 and, during his 24 years as president, brought the University to a new level of power in academic and personal resources, and increased operational sophistication with an endowment of over a half-billion dollars.

Father Monan, who came from the New York province of the Society of Jesus, highlights how Boston College has benefited from the exchange of Jesuits across province boundaries in recent decades. Father Monan's successor, Father William Leahy, is from the Wisconsin Province, as is Father William Neenan, Dean of Faculties. Father J. Robert Barth, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, is from the New York Province; Father Michael Buckley, Director of the Jesuit Institute, from the California Province; Father David Hollenbach, Flatley Professor of Theology, from the Maryland Province; and Father Ronald Anderson, Professor of Philosophy, originally from the Australian Province, to name just a few non–New Englanders in the Boston College Jesuit Community.

Some of the legendary Jesuit figures of the twentieth century at Boston College: Father J. F. X. Murphy, History Professor of encyclopedic memory and inexhaustible speech; Father Patrick McHugh, beloved dean, 1920–1935; Father Martin Harney, historian, author, promoter of Irish culture; Father Francis McManus, benevolent yet whip-cracking Dean of Men in the College of Business Administration, later indefatigable Chaplain of the Alumni Association; Father John A. McCarthy, admired Professor of Philosophy, priestly witness at countless alumni marriages.

Among living legends: Father Francis Sweeney, for over four decades teacher of English letters, advisor to the student literary magazine, whose Humanities lectures have introduced students to literary giants from England, Ireland, America. Also Father Joseph Appleyard, of the English department, formally Director of the Arts & Sciences Honors Program and previous Rector of the Jesuit Community. Finally, Father James Woods, long-time dean of what was the Evening College, now called College of Advancing Learning and the Summer School, whose vacation, according to a colleague, is to put on a sports shirt and go to the office.

The Jesuit community made two major gifts to Boston College in the 1980s that promote the Jesuit traditions of the University. The community endowed the Thomas I. Gasson, S.J. Chair to bring to the campus distinguished Jesuit scholars of any nationality or discipline for visits of one or several years. A gift from the Jesuit Community, matched by the University, established the Jesuit Institute to promote research on the relatedness of Catholic traditions of Boston College to the universe of scholarship and learning.

August 29th, 1996

Jesuits and Jesuit Education: A Primer

Ignatius Loyola and his nine companions had no intention of establishing colleges and universities when they founded the Society of Jesus in 1540. They saw themselves as itinerant preachers, lecturers on sacred subjects, hearers of confession and givers of spiritual counsel, teachers of catechism to the unlettered young, helpers of the poor and the sick. However, they were all Masters of the University of Paris and they were formed by a spirituality that led them to prefer the ministry of the word. That preference disposed them to accept the care of schools when unexpectedly the opportunity was offered. In time this was to become their characteristic work. Ignatius's Spiritual Exercises are about prayerful reflection and decision. Those who make them are helped to be aware of how God is acting in their lives and to choose what to do in response. It is a pedagogy of the heart, a pedagogy of spiritual formation and of action. But it opens one to a reverence for all God's gifts and Ignatius taught his friends and followers to have a special reverence for intelligence and for learning. The first Jesuits founded colleges to educate the young men flocking to join the new Society. When in 1547 Ignatius was asked to open a school in Sicily for young men who were not Jesuits, he seems to have seen the opportunity as a powerful means of forming the mind and the soul. To bring people to God, he sought to form those who in their turn would form or influence many others.

By the death of Ignatius in 1556 there were some 35 Jesuit colleges (we would call them secondary schools today) across Europe, and 200 years later more than 800 in both the Old and New Worlds. Ignatius had stipulated that these schools should be "for everybody, poor and rich." Endowments from civic leaders and benefactors enabled them to charge no fees, so they made education accessible to large numbers of the less well off. They succeeded because they wedded the views of the humanists, grounded in the classical conception of rhetoric as training in clear thinking and expression, to a methodical pedagogy that they had learned at Paris. Like their Catholic and Protestant counterparts in the best schools of the time, Jesuits created a system of humanistic education that was international and intercontinental, one that brought together learned men from various languages, cultures and nations in one common enterprise. Graduates of these schools played a central role in the evolution of 17th- and 18th-century thought in Europe and in the New World. Jesuit astronomers, dramatists, theologians, linguists, painters, architects, mathematicians and scholars of every stamp were immersed in the intellectual movements of the day.

Widespread and influential as these schools were, they existed in the context of intellectual and political forces that greatly shaped their destinies. Enlightenment culture and institutional religion were increasingly hostile to one another and Jesuits made enemies on both sides. Individual Jesuits were involved in the court politics of 18th-century Europe and thus drew the criticism of powerful figures in both church and state. The influence of Jesuit schools and their successes were resented. In 1773 the Society was suppressed by order of the pope. Reborn in 1814, its schools in Europe regained something of the prominence they had had in the 200 years following Ignatius's death, but they were heavily implicated in the agenda of restoration and of resistance to modern thought that was characteristic of so much intellectual life in 19th-century Catholicism.

In other parts of the world, in Asia and Latin America and especially in the United States, Jesuit education took on new life. Wherever Catholics settled in America in any number, Jesuits founded schools. These institutions mirrored the original movement of the population westward as well as the later waves of European immigration to the urban centers of the East and Midwest. Georgetown was the first Jesuit institution in 1789, Boston College the 11th when John McElroy and his companions received a charter from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1863 to found a college for the growing Catholic population of Boston. Most of these institutions followed the pattern of growth typical of American higher education, beginning as six-year secondary schools or colleges conceived along European lines and growing into universities as they added bachelor programs and then graduate and professional degrees. Their development accelerated significantly in the boom years after World War II, under the influence of the G.I. Bill, when most American colleges and universities raised their institutional ambitions and began to compete more vigorously for funding and distinction. Some of these institutions, like Boston College, became universities with national reputations and distinguished programs and faculties.

Even this summary sketch suggests that the history of Jesuit education is a tapestry where religious motives, the intellectual climate, local needs, entrepreneurial opportunities, and changing social and political contexts are intertwined in a complex texture. There is no Jesuit theory of a university, but there are principles in Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit practice that suggest a characteristic point of view towards education. One source is the plan of a university that Ignatius sketched out in the last two years of his life, in Part IV of the Constitutions of the Society, modeled on his vision of the preeminent educational institution of the Society in his day, the Collegio Romano, now the Gregorian University.

Three features of this plan are especially interesting. One is the motive for establishing a university under Jesuit auspices: to educate those, especially teachers, who will have more influence in the world of civil and religious affairs. This word "more" is central in Ignatius' spirituality. He is zealous for what gives greater glory to God, what is more conducive to the spiritual good of men and women, what demands more generosity from his followers, activities that are more likely to have an influence on the world.

A second feature is the concept of the humanities that formed the central disciplines studied in a Jesuit college. The word humanitas translated the Greek word paideia, which had come to mean both the process and the studies that developed moral goodness, devotion to truth, and a disposition to act for the civic good: languages, poetry, history, rhetoric and logic, along with mathematics, the sciences, and philosophy of nature. For the humanists these were the subjects that opened the mind, sharpened wits, deepened human sympathy, developed clarity of thought and force in expressing it. They gave students an adroitness of mind in meeting new questions, a foundation from which to explore the more important questions they would come to later in their studies.

The third distinctive feature was the integration and order that Ignatius envisioned among the subjects to be studied, leading from lesser to more important ones, culminating in the study of theology. At Paris he had learned that subjects should be studied in an orderly way, languages and humanities preceding the sciences and philosophy. And he was part of that tradition that had for centuries seen theology as the enquiry that was the culmination of the intellectual enterprise and that integrated all the parts of the intellectual life. This principle flowed out of the central theme of his spirituality, that the whole world discloses God at work. All the academic disciplines, therefore, contribute to the intelligibility of the world in their own proper ways and play a key role in making theology intelligible. Theology, focusing on the questions at the center of the mystery of God's self-disclosing activity, completes and integrates the knowledges developed by all the other disciplines of the university.

To these characteristics that Ignatius prescribed for the Roman College should be added a fourth one, evidenced in the history of Jesuit schools and one that is especially instructive for our own time. Jesuit education, in Rome and elsewhere, was a network that transcended boundaries of language, culture and nationhood, one that was intercultural and global in perspective. This is arguably an essential but fragile element of Jesuit education, which could be lost as institutions are tempted to find their own way amid competing pressures to survive and achieve distinctive identities suited to their individual missions.

An idea of the university that proposes that students should study the best of human culture, relate this to their experience of God, use their knowledge for the common good, and imagine themselves as citizens of a global culture concerned about the well being of all its people, is certainly relevant to the needs of our own time.


Catholic Intellectual Tradition

Read the newly released publication, "The Catholic Intellectual Tradition: A Conversation at Boston College," designed to encourage faculty, students, and thinking people everywhere to consider the gift of the Catholic tradition and to enter actively into the conversation.

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