Pope Francis's arrival in the United States has inspired a number of reflections on the background and mission of the Jesuits, particularly from those in Jesuit education. Here are samples of recently published pieces:
From "Learning from a teaching pope," by Michael R. Lovell, Warren Sazama, Sue Smith and Andrew Stith (leaders at the Jesuit schools in Milwaukee):
As leaders of Milwaukee's four Jesuit educational institutions, educating students ranging from kindergartners to graduate students, there is no more important framework for appreciating history's first Jesuit pope than his connection to the signature mission of the Jesuits: education. Since the founding of the society in the 1530s by St. Ignatius — following a religious conversion he experienced while convalescing from a battlefield injury — schools and Jesuits have been closely linked. With Ignatius' encouragement, Jesuits established more than 30 colleges around the world by the 1550s, and schools for younger students as well. As this network continued growing, Jesuits earned reputations as master teachers.
From "Francis shows way to life of joy," by Debra K. Mooney of Xavier University:
Pope Francis’ signature phrase is “culture of encounter.” For him, this is an invitation to connect intentionally with people in friendship and dialogue with those that we might not otherwise, to be with people who are different from ourselves. He expressly encourages our “stepping out” to be with those that may be societally disregarded or marginalized, such as the poor and aged. Francis is a model for living in these graced relationships. We have seen him in loving communion with his “other” – with Jews, Muslims, Protestants, prisoners, children and the disabled, for instance. Such interpersonal encounters create two interestingly opposite realizations – that of being in oneness with another and that of being wholly unique. Francis realizes that in today’s busy world we have the “challenge of finding and sharing a ‘mystique’ of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another.” However, if we take on the challenge, “we will learn to look at the world with different eyes and come to appreciate the richness of human experience.”
From "Jesuit education and the call to a meaningful life," by Shane P. Martin, Ph.D., professor at Loyola Marymount University:
Educators in the Jesuit tradition challenge students to think deeply and creatively while challenging previous ways of thinking, not simply (and passively) accepting past explanations. The Jesuits encourage actively engaging new ideas and possibilities, and looking for intersections and connections between and amongst these ideas. The ultimate and timeless questions of humanity such as, “Why are we here?” “How did we get here?” and “What is the purpose of our lives?” are the roots of Jesuit pedagogy.
From Greg Toppo's article, "Jesuit schools thrive in USA ahead of Pope Francis' trip," in the USA Today:
“If you’d asked St. Ignatius in 1540, ‘Would you be working in schools?’ he would have given you a confused look,” says the Rev. David Collins, a Georgetown history professor and a Jesuit. “It just wasn’t on their radar screen.”
But families throughout Europe wanted their children to be educated and literate and able to engage in public discourse, Collins says. Monastic schools did a fine job teaching young men to be priests. What most families wanted, though, was “a kind of liberal arts education that helps you become a better citizen,” he says.
“There was a population that was interested in it. There was a new demand and no supply — and the Jesuits stepped in.”