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when less is more

By Diogenes (bio - articles ) | Nov 29, 2007

"Number of Jesuits Declines, Identity Increases" says the headline of a piece in the Fairfield University newspaper. How do they work that trick? By inverting the meaning of "identity."

Writer Peter Zysk found that between 2002 and 2005, the percentage of Jesuit faculty members at the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S. fell from 2.4 percent to 1.7 percent. "This leaves lay faculty with the job of figuring out how to provide a Jesuit education with fewer Jesuits," he wrote in a 2006 article for the Gonzaga Bulletin.

Jesuits themselves are aware of the problem and are rethinking the ministry in terms of partnership with the laity. There is an "opportunity to breed a generation of lay faculty who understand tradition of Jesuits," said Paul Lakeland, director of the center for Catholic studies and himself a former Jesuit.

Got that? A guy who leaves a body of perpetually vowed men helps coach those who remain "to breed" -- curious expression -- a generation of unvowed faculty so as to heighten the identity of the company he deserted. Can't help thinking there's a problem here somewhere.

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  • Posted by: - Dec. 01, 2007 8:41 PM ET USA

    These faux-Jesuit schools long ago were all transferred to lay boards. Their version of Jesuit identity is "what symbolism can we externally present that connects the present to the era where an education by actual Jesuits meant something of value to students and their parents (even if it can no longer occur)?" As for the Jesuits, I pray they recover their authentic Catholic identity before their "use by" date expires.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 30, 2007 7:53 AM ET USA

    Exactly which 'tradition of Jesuits' is Mr Lakeland talking about? The tradition that is so fervent for Christ and the Church that allows for their fingers being chewed off (North American martyrs) or the tradition that allows for dissent with basic Church teachings (insert your choice of most any Jesuit run college or university).

  • Posted by: - Nov. 29, 2007 10:54 PM ET USA

    I left a religious order after four years of temporary vows. It was a good and, I think, God-inspired decision. Now, forty years later, I am principal of one of that order's schools, and working hard toward a resurgence of the order's spirit in the faculty (mostly lay) and students of the school. We have been sending grads out and some of them are discerning religious and priestly vocations. God gives us hope.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 29, 2007 9:14 PM ET USA

    That's a good observation, Hammer. Personally I hate the idea of the laity becoming even more involved with the Jesuits. Around here it's the laity that are keeping things from moving forward in a positive way. I wouldn't mind so much if the hierarchy didn't depend on laity to select the laity who are to help. Modern psychologists and the stereotypically divorced (or still married, but definitely with short hair) woman (who somehow becomes the liturgist) have brought us to the brink of ruin.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 29, 2007 4:18 PM ET USA

    Frankly does"unredefined" Jesuit education still exist? I think of a distinction made here between the Ignatian-Jesuits and the Arrupe-Jesuits. It seems in the Arrupe-Jesuit world, Jesuit-identity morphs at regular intervals The present General of the Jesuits appears to be in the Arrupe mold.He recently said:"Quoting the Holy Father, I would say that the Society of Jesus has become more spiritual, more ecclesial and more apostolic." I am not seeing that. Fr.Kolevenbach does not cite the quote.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 29, 2007 3:52 PM ET USA

    A Jesuit friend told me once that the practice of hiring priests who have abandoned their vocations to teach religion is a contravention of Canon Law. Is it?

  • Posted by: - Nov. 29, 2007 3:49 PM ET USA

    I'm wondering how the "breeding" will be accomplished? Will ten years of formation be replaced by a three-day Enneagram workshop? And who, exactly, will be imparting this knowledge of the "tradition of Jesuits?" Maybe they'll bring in some Dominicans for that.

  • Posted by: - Nov. 29, 2007 3:11 PM ET USA

    I don't mind the idea of "lay Jesuits" in principle. Many orders have secular branches. Historically, however, I think those secular branches usually have been formed at a time when the religious order was bursting at the seams, not when it was declining.

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