An American in Japan...the Jesuit Web and a Visit to Sophia University

To be honest, it was a speech I'd always zoned out on. If you've been to a graduation ceremony you'll know what I'm talking about. Just after the diplomas are handed out, someone on the dais (whom you've most likely never seen before) steps up to the podium and says "On behalf of our alumni association I'd like to be the first to officially welcome the class of zzzzzzz..."

Having graduated from two Jesuit institutions (St. Joseph's Prep and Georgetown University), I've sat through it a few times. What I remember best from these welcome speeches were the reminders that we were part of a long and illustrious line of graduates as well as full (and, hopefully, soon contributing) members of an extended family of Jesuit institutions. The message was lost on me at my high school and college graduations but its relevance screamed back when planning my trip to Japan.

Advertisement

Before arriving in Tokyo two days ago, John Shea--a New York Jesuit who'd spent years in Asia--put me in contact with Bill Currie SJ. Fr. Currie had taught at Sophia University--a Jesuit institution and one of Japan's most esteemed private colleges--since 1970 and had served as president there before retiring in 2005. I emailed Fr. Currie in Tokyo and received an immediate reply:

"Bill, I've heard a lot of good things about you and look forward to meeting
you in Tokyo. Please give my best to your Dad. Best regards..."

Heard a lot of good things? In Tokyo?!? Say hi to my Dad?

Without realizing it, I had tapped into the extended family that I'd forgotten I was a part of. It just so happened to be on the other side of the planet. In addition to graduating two years behind my father at St. Joe's Prep, Bill Currie was first cousins with Charles Currie SJ, whom I'd known at the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities and Rob Currie SJ, who was a good friend of my Uncle Jim. The family ties went even deeper when I finally met Bill yesterday at Sophia and discovered that I'd actually grown up with his nieces and nephews outside Philadelphia.

On my first night in Tokyo I sat with an Australian Jesuit and another Aussie who had gone to the same St. Aloysius College in Sydney. They were many years apart but their conversation was no different than I would have heard from my friends who went to St. Francis Xavier, Regis or Fordham Prep.

When we make the observation that we now live in a networked world, we're referring to digital technology but that's a woefully narrow and impoverished understanding of the term. The fact is, we are deeply connected in far more meaningful ways through countless other types of networks we've been a part of all our lives: families, friendships, classmates, neighborhoods etc. Meeting with Bill Currie and two of his Jesuit brothers in Japan, Bob Deiters and Sali Augustine yesterday was the embodiment of how deep that Jesuit network is and how far it stretches around the globe. [more on my afternoon at Sophia tomorrow].

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

“Living Biblically” tells the story of Chip, a husband and expectant father who decides to become a better Catholic by living out his life according to the Bible.
Sean Salai, S.J.February 21, 2018
An 11th-century prayer tool comes to life for modern Christians
David Van BiemaFebruary 21, 2018
Father Ireneusz Ekiert, administrator of Mary Help of Christians Church in Parkland, Fla., leads parishioners during an outdoor Stations of the Cross service on Feb. 16 dedicated to the victims and survivors of the deadly mass shooting at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. (CNS photo/Tom Tracy)
In the midst of the unimaginable, Father Ekiert is telling his parishioners to show and live love daily—not just in a time of grief and horror.
Kate SteinFebruary 20, 2018
When I played hockey, other players of color were few and far between.
Antonio De Loera-BrustFebruary 20, 2018