I'm completely and utterly biased (favorably, that is), about this article, since I'm a New England Jesuit and know well all the Jesuits quoted (and pictured) in reference to Fairfield University's beautiful new (and environmentally friendly) Jesuit residence. The old residence was, however, near and dear to my heart: it was the place where I met my very first Jesuit. Anyway, it's an amazing work of art and a real statement of a strong Jesuit "presence" on campus. (But there's some of the old in the new: the white marble statue of St. Ignatius that stood in front of the old residence was recently placed a few feet from the doorway of the new one.) Here's the New York Times's thoughtful piece on how a building can be a symbol as well as a residence. Love the title, too: "Teach, Pray, Live."
Once there were nearly 100 Jesuits — members of an order founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in the 16th century — at Fairfield. Today, there are 22. Only six are professors; the others are administrators, or retired. That means some of the university’s 3,200 undergraduates will make it through four years without having a single Jesuit professor.
The graying of the Jesuit population is felt at each of the 28 Jesuit-run institutions of higher learning in the United States, from Georgetown University in Washington, founded in 1789, to Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia, established in 1954. Nationwide, the number of Jesuits has declined, to under 3,000 from about 10,000 in 1965. More than half are over age 60. That they aren’t being replaced by younger Jesuits is the result of social and economic circumstances, including increased opportunity for poor Catholics and the stringent requirements of the priesthood. (“In my experience, mandatory celibacy is far and away the biggest deal breaker,” says Father Scalese.)
But the declining numbers “don’t mean we’re all sulking off into the sunset,” says the Rev. Dr. Charles L. Currie, president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities.
Fairfield’s new Jesuit home, a 22,000-square-foot eco-friendly building, is part of an effort to reach out to students and non-Jesuit faculty. Unlike their previous house, in an isolated spot on the periphery of campus, the new structure commands a prominent hillside overlooking a main thoroughfare.