It took me three weeks to properly learn the Windsor knot, four weeks to master how to keep my top button undone without getting a detention, and about a month and (a few misread train schedules) to figure out my commute. But it only took a few days to embrace a Jesuit education. Seven years and two institutions later, my appreciation and respect for the Jesuits has only continued to grow.
My Jesuit education started in the fall of 2006, when I made the switch from a small, co-educational, public middle school to Fordham Preparatory, a private, all boys, Jesuit high school. On the morning of the first day I sat in the commons in an oversized, hand-me-down blazer, staring at an off-yellow wall on which hung several pictures of a pale man in black robes. An unfamiliar acronym A.M.D.G. highlighted the wall in bright maroon letters. All the freshmen were then ushered to the Fordham University church and placed in the front pews—the first and only time freshmen will ever get priority seating over upperclassmen—and were greeted by cheers and applause from the students and faculty, as well as our headmaster Father Boller’s simple, but powerful statement, “Welcome to the Fordham Prep community, a place of faith, scholarship and service.”
Those values have stuck with me. Jesuit sensibility permeates every aspect of my schooling, welcoming me into a community where I have been encouraged to develop not just academically, but to mature into a complete young adult. The “Grad at Grad,” a sort of manifesto describing the characteristics a student should possess at the time of graduation from Fordham Prep, states, “We strive to graduate young men who are religious, loving, open to growth, committed to doing justice, and academically accomplished.” And they succeed.
The faculty involved in providing Jesuit educations cares and aids in the students’ development. They provide multiple outlets such as retreats for spiritual growth and service trips to allow a passion for justice to arise as well as a sense of humility and gratitude. Challenging classes are offered to encourage critical thinking and problem solving. A community is formed where students are not only able but are encouraged to express their thoughts and develop a passion. Diverse beliefs, ideas and lifestyles are viewed with an open mind and patient understanding. Students learn to love. The faculty strive to live out and to encourage the concept of magis, or more, and are a constant, helpful presence.
When it came time to decide on which college to attend, it was no accident that I had narrowed my choices down to two Jesuit schools. I picked the College of the Holy Cross, and in late August 20XX. I made the trip up to Worcester, Mass., nervous, but excited to discover what my second Jesuit school would be like. Immediately upon arrival, students, faculty, Jesuits and alumni swarmed our car and promptly welcomed us and introduced us to campus. The excitement and care they all displayed was genuine—they were excited to have new students join the Holy Cross community.
Holy Cross has provided its students with many of the same outlets as Fordham Prep did, and I have seen the profound impact this Jesuit education has had on my friends and peers. Some students at Fordham Prep may recall a favorite memory: the Emmaus Retreat junior year, or a class where the teacher challenged and encouraged him or a proud community singing the fight song at graduation. At Holy Cross it may be a spring-break immersion trip, a dinner with the Jesuits at the Loyola house or a meeting with a classmate that blossomed into true friendship. The Jesuit influence in both schools has allowed my friends to develop a greater appreciation for community and relationships, not just grades.
The role of the Jesuits in my past seven years of education have been the most important aspect in my development from a naïve, young freshman in high school to the still rather naïve, but more open, loving and sensitive person I am today. I have been challenged to try new things and embrace difficulties with patience and understanding instead of being complacent or apathetic. I have been encouraged and motivated to learn, not simply taught to pass a test. I have learned the importance of being part of a local and global community, and have developed a passion for justice. I have become a man for others. And for who I am, I have the Jesuits to thank.
David Quigley is a summer intern at America and a senior at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.