Left to right: Senators Edward J. Markey (graduate of Boston College), Mazie K. Hirono (graduate of Georgetown Law School) and Josh Hawley (graduate of Rockhurst High School). (Composite image/Wikimedia Commons)

The nation’s attention will be fixed on the Senate on Wednesday as the body votes to certify the Electoral College votes awarded to Joseph R. Biden, Jr. in the 2020 election. Some senators have said they will object to this normally routine process; they include Republican Josh Hawley of Missouri, a Jesuit high school graduate.

In all, 14 current members of the United States Senate earned high school, undergraduate or graduate degrees from Jesuit institutions. These Jesuit school alums represent a range of geographic locations, political ideologies and even religious affiliations, and many of them expressly credit their time in Jesuit institutions with inspiring them to pursue public service.

We’ve compiled a list of these senators, with summaries of their careers and their connections to Jesuit alma maters.

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)

Senator Casey is a member of a large and thoroughly Jesuit-educated family from Scranton, Pa. Not only did he graduate from Scranton Preparatory School in 1978 and the College of the Holy Cross in 1982, but he also spent a year with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, teaching and coaching basketball at the Gesu School in Philadelphia. In a statement recognizing the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Volunteer Network, he wrote: “Working with children in the classroom and on the basketball court was an invaluable experience that has continued to have a profound impact on my life. Today, fighting on behalf of the underprivileged children of Pennsylvania remains a critical part of my role as a United States Senator.”

“Public service can be not just consistent with the values and social mission of our faith but can also be consistent with values the Jesuits have espoused for hundreds of years.”

On an episode of “AMDG: A Jesuit Podcast,” Senator Casey discussed his Jesuit education and said he learned that “public service can be not just consistent with the values and social mission of our faith but can also be consistent with values the Jesuits have espoused for hundreds of years.”

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

The first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto graduated with her J.D. from Gonzaga University in 1990. Raised Catholic, she says her faith continues to guide her life and work.

“As U.S. citizens, fellow human beings and Catholics, we cannot stand idle as our country contributes to the ecological destruction of our planet,” she wrote in an article for America on environmental responsibility in 2017, her first year as senator. “As Catholics, we are to steward the land, the creatures that inhabit it and the environment that sustains life.” Her policy platform is also characterized by a desire to support immigrants through integration and comprehensive reform, and she has praised the work of Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada.

The first Latina elected to the U.S. Senate, Catherine Cortez Masto graduated with her J.D. from Gonzaga University in 1990. Raised Catholic, she says her faith continues to guide her life and work.

At her swearing-in ceremony in 2017, Senator Masto used the Bible she received from her sponsor and aunt for confirmation.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO)

While Josh Hawley identifies as an evangelical Protestant, he was educated at the Jesuit, all-boys Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo. The 41-year-old is currently the youngest member of the Senate and is at the center of the Republican fight over the certification of the 2020 election.

Senator Hawley’s previous experience as a clerk for Chief Justice John Roberts, a litigator and the attorney general of Missouri have shown an intense interest in religious liberty issues and cases, and he controversially accused a Trump judicial appointee of anti-Catholic bias in 2019. In the lead up to the confirmation hearings of Amy Coney Barrett, Mr. Hawley stated that she should go on the record stating that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided.

While Josh Hawley identifies as an evangelical Protestant, he was educated at the Jesuit, all-boys Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo.

But a New York Times profile also notes that “he speaks comfortably about the dignity of work and labor unions in language often used by the left.”

Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL)

President-elect Joe Biden and Senator Dick Durbin have something rare in common: They are both familiar with what it is like to be refused Communion. The Catholic senator from Illinois—who received both a bachelor’s degree in foreign service, in 1966, and a law degree from Georgetown University, in 1969—has been banned from receiving Communion for over a decade by his home Diocese of Springfield.

Senator Durbin identifies as pro-choice and was first banned from receiving Communion in 2004, after he voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. In 2019, Bishop Thomas Paprocki reaffirmed that Senator Durbin was not welcome to receive the host after he helped pass the Reproductive Health Act.

President-elect Joe Biden and Senator Dick Durbin have something rare in common: They are both familiar with what it is like to be refused Communion.

In 2018, the Georgetown University Alumni Association awarded Senator Durbin the Timothy S. Healy, S.J., Award for exemplary public service, noting: “Senator Durbin has devoted his life and career to the core Jesuit value of service to others,” including his lead sponsorship of the DREAM Act and efforts in caring for the earth, reforming prisons and preventing H.I.V./AIDS.

Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI)

As is true of many Jesuits, Mazie Keiko Hirono’s life has spanned the globe. Born in Fukushima, Japan, in 1947, she grew up on her grandparents’ rice farm before her family migrated to Honolulu when she was a young girl, in 1955. Just over two decades later, in 1978, she graduated from Georgetown Law School. She served in various public offices and in 2012 was elected as the first Japanese-born, first Asian-American woman and first Buddhist to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Senator Hirono was once accused of anti-Catholic bigotry by Republicans, after she questioned court nominees Brian Buescher and Paul Matey over their membership in the Knights of Columbus for a 2019 confirmation hearing: “If confirmed, will you recuse yourself from all cases in which the Knights of Columbus has taken a position?” In a written series of questions to now-Justice Amy Coney Barrett in October of 2020, Senator Hirono referred to the “extreme positions” of the Knights of Columbus.

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)

A lifelong Catholic, Timothy Michael Kaine, like Senator Hawley, attended Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo. After graduating from the University of Missouri and getting accepted to Harvard Law School, Mr. Kaine took a year off to help Jesuit missionaries run a Catholic school in El Progreso, Honduras, becoming fluent in Spanish during his stay. After over a decade as a lawyer, he rose in the ranks of the Virginia state government until he was elected governor in 2005. It was during this time that he made a memorable speech after George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union address, where he espoused the importance of his Jesuit values: “I learned to measure my life by the difference I can make in someone else’s life.”

Tim Kaine took a year off to help Jesuit missionaries run a Catholic school in El Progreso, Honduras, becoming fluent in Spanish during his stay.

He was elected to the Senate in 2012 and was Hillary Clinton’s running mate for her failed 2016 presidential bid.

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY)

John Barrasso, a Presbyterian, received his B.S. from Georgetown University in 1974 and stayed on as a Hoya through 1978 for his M.D. His doctorate in medicine led him to a residency at Yale before Mr. Barrasso moved West, establishing an orthopedic surgery practice in Wyoming. He was elected to the Wyoming state Senate in 2002.

Senator Barrasso is not known for publicly stressing his connections to the Jesuit world, although his mother was a practicing Catholic. In 2015, he gave his extra ticket to see Pope Francis on the Capitol to her.

Senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT)

Patrick Leahy, a 1964 graduate of Georgetown Law, has been serving in the Senate for 46 years, during which time he has chaired the Judiciary and Agriculture Committees and served as the Senate’s president pro tempore. He is a parishioner of St. Andrew’s Church in Waterbury, Vt., and attends Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C.

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In addition to his leadership positions in a lengthy political career, Senator Leahy is known for his love of comic books and the Grateful Dead. He has also appeared in several “Batman” television episodes and films; he donates his actor’s income to the Vermont library where he developed his love of comic books as a boy.

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA)

In a Boston magazine interview from 2017, Ed Markey painted a vibrant picture of his Catholic faith, deeply tied to his Massachusetts roots. After calling himself “Jesuit-trained,” Senator Markey described his upbringing outside the city of Boston with fervor: “In Malden, you were born a Democrat and a Red Sox fan and baptized Catholic seven days later.” After attending Catholic elementary and high school, Senator Markey earned his B.A. and J.D. from Boston College. He had a long career in the House of Representatives before assuming office in the Senate in 2013, and his recent re-election campaign drew national attention for one quintessentially Massachusetts reason: He beat a member of the Kennedy family.

“My basic text for everything I do is the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are the poor. That’s Medicaid. Blessed are the elderly. That’s Medicare. Blessed are the children. That’s Head Start.”

Senator Markey told Boston magazine that his approach to public policy is directly informed by his Catholic faith: “My basic text for everything I do is the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are the poor. That’s Medicaid. Blessed are the elderly. That’s Medicare. Blessed are the children. That’s Head Start. Blessed are those in prison. That’s making sure we don’t imprison a whole generation of African-Americans the way we did with the crack cocaine epidemic.”

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Another lifelong Catholic, Robert Menendez graduated from Saint Peter’s University in his home state of New Jersey in 1976, with a degree in political science. Saint Peter’s has been known for its commitment to justice; the Jesuit institution chose to racially integrate relatively early, in 1936.

Senator Menendez continued his alma mater’s tradition of championing racial justice by speaking out in support of protests following the murder of George Floyd: “Is this the America we want our children to live in?” the senator asked in a written statement. “If you are a black or brown American, you have an absolute right to demand that your life be valued the same as others.” This past fall, he co-sponsored a resolution to declare Chinese atrocities against the Uighurs a genocide.

[Related: 117th Congress is mostly Christian—and Catholics are overrepresented]

A federal corruption charge against Senator Menendez ended in a mistrial in 2017. Referring to his legal problems a year later at a re-election rally, he said, “sometimes God puts a Goliath in your path to find a David within you.”

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Lisa Murkowski has become one of the most well-known senators because she has been one of the few swing votes among the Republican majority. Her father resigned his Senate seat in 2002 to become governor of Alaska, and he appointed Lisa, then a state legislator, to complete his term in the Senate. This caused some controversy, but she has been re-elected on her own three times; in 2010, she lost the Republican primary but then won the general election through write-in votes.

Considered a moderate Republican, Senator Murkowski voted “present” on the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh (Georgetown Preparatory School, Class of ’83) to the Supreme Court. She publicly opposed the accelerated process to seat Amy Coney Barrett on the Supreme Court only a couple of weeks before the 2020 presidential election, but she also said that Judge Barrett was qualified to serve and ultimately voted to confirm her. A practicing Catholic, Senator Murkowski earned her B.A. in economics from Georgetown University.

Senator Gary Peters (D-MI)

An Episcopalian, Gary Charles Peters first encountered Jesuit education at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he earned an M.B.A. in 1984. He joined the U.S. Navy Reserve in 1993. His duties took him to the Persian Gulf as support staff after 9/11, and he was eventually promoted to the rank of lieutenant commander. After a tenure in the Michigan Senate, he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 that he kept until 2014, when he successfully transitioned to a position in the U.S. Senate.

Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK)

Raised Catholic, Daniel Scott Sullivan has had a long association with the military. He attended Culver Military Academy in Indiana and served as a reservist for the U.S. Marine Corps, being called to active service multiple times over the years and eventually reaching the rank of colonel. During all of this, he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard before receiving his J.D.-M.S.F.S. from Georgetown in 1993. Eventually, he was named assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs during George W. Bush’s second term as president. Then-Gov. Sarah Palin appointed him as state attorney general in 2009, and he challenged and defeated Senator Mark Begich, a Democrat, in 2014.

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Christopher J. Van Hollen Jr. was born in Pakistan in 1959 and raised Episcopalian. His father was a U.S. ambassador, and his mother was the chief of the C.I.A. bureau for South Asia. Traveling for most of his childhood across large swaths of South Asia, he graduated from the Kodaikanal International School in India, before receiving a B.A. in philosophy from Swarthmore College. After receiving his master’s degree in public policy from Harvard, he earned a J.D. from Georgetown in 1990. Afterward, he spent over a decade as a member of the Maryland State Legislature before being elected as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2003. In 2017, he was elected as a U.S. senator, succeeding Barbara Mikulski, a Catholic who retired after 30 years as senator.

Correction, Jan. 6: The previous image accompanying this article paired Senator Josh Hawley with the logo of Gonzaga University. Senator Hawley attended the Jesuit, all-boys Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo., not Gonzaga. Additionally, it was mistakenly written that Senator Mazie K. Hirono questioned Justice Amy Coney Barrett about her membership in the Knights of Columbus during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2020. It was Brian Buescher and Paul Matey that Senator Hirono questioned, in 2019. 

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