Archive for August, 2012

Jesuit Brings World Experience to Campus Ministry Appointment

Jesuit Father John SheaAs the newly appointed director of campus ministry and chaplain for Fordham University, Jesuit Father John J. Shea’s first order of business was to get rid of the office furniture.

“I said jokingly that this would be a perfect office if I were coming in to open a bank account,” said Fr. Shea, who replaced his desk and conference table with a couch and two plush chairs.

“This is where students can come in, feel relaxed, talk,” he said.

Fr. Shea, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Fordham, has previously worked at the university as a teacher in the psychology department, a psychologist in the counseling center, rector of Murray-Weigel Hall (a community of retired Jesuits from the New York Province) and associate vice president and then vice president for student affairs from 1989 until 1996.

He then continued his work in higher education, serving as president of John Carroll University and vice president for mission and ministry at the University of Scranton.

The last seven years, however, have found him in an entirely different setting. Since 2005 Fr. Shea has been the director of the East Asia Theological Encounter Program in Chiangmai, Thailand — a post he will continue to hold remotely. There, he instructed Jesuit scholastics on Eastern theology, taught English to Thai students (he speaks Thai fluently) and worked at a retreat house in Chiangmai.

“I’d wanted adventure, change,” Fr. Shea said of his experience in Asia. “I’d been in higher education for 26 years and just felt that I wanted to do something different. When this opportunity arose, I jumped at it.”

One of Fr. Shea’s goals at Fordham is to create a weekly meditation group, offering students a way to decrease stress while learning about a lesser-known practice of Christianity.

“There’s a whole tradition of Christian meditation,” he said. “It’s very much like Zen or Buddhist meditation. You sit quietly and don’t think, and if thoughts come, then you simply bring yourself back to focusing on breathing rather than going where your mind takes you. Over the years, you become much more at peace, and much more aware.”

Read more about Fr. Shea’s return to Fordham University.

Jesuit Physician Says Assisted Suicide Fails to Attend to the Needs of the Dying

Jesuit Father Myles Sheehan As a Jesuit priest and a physician, Father Myles Sheehan brings a unique perspective to the debate about assisted suicide.

Fr. Sheehan recently spoke to Boston’s Catholic newspaper, The Pilot, about proposed legalized physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts, which he considers a failure to meet the needs of the dying.

“I would like to see that people receive an approach that attends to their suffering in all its dimensions from the beginning of a serious illness,” Fr. Sheehan said.  He said those dimensions include attention to spiritual needs as well as mental and physical needs.

A medical educator trained in internal medicine and geriatrics and an expert in palliative care, Fr. Sheehan currently serves as the provincial of the New England Province of the Society of Jesus.

“This is a place where St. Ignatius said, ‘Love needs to be shown in deeds not words.’ The care and our whole way we approach people as they face the end of life is an issue that needs further attention. A distorted way to attend to it is what has come out of this assisted suicide [movement], but the underlying fears, concerns and discomfort about what the end of life might mean is real whether or not you agree or disagree,” Fr. Sheehan said.

Fr. Sheehan believes fear is a large contributor to attitudes that push people to choose to end their own lives, adding that the healthcare system can address these fears, provided caregivers make a sustained effort to maintain high standards of treatment in the system and in society.

“There is a bottom line that we have the fifth commandment ‘Though shalt not kill,’ and the killing of innocent life is considered intrinsically evil, that is, it is always wrong. And so to take the life, or to provide the means for a person to kill himself is considered an intrinsically evil act, because it violates first the life of the person. Second, it is a larger assault against what it means for human dignity,” Fr. Sheehan said.

Read the full story at The Pilot.

Novice Director Guides New Jesuits on Their Journey

Jesuit Father Tom Lamanna This month, 40 men entered the Society of Jesus in the United States as novices. Their path to priesthood — called formation — can take upwards of ten years and begins at one of four Jesuit novitiates across the country.

Oregon Province Jesuit Father Tom Lamanna has been the director of novices at Ignatius House, a novitiate in Culver City, Calif., for the past decade.

He says that one of the graces that comes with his job is “being able to walk very closely with people in their relationship with Jesus. That’s very holy ground.”

According to Fr. Lamanna, the community dynamic at the novitiate is unique because it’s the first stage of formation and the novices are asked to pull back from their previous lives.

“We give them an experience of Jesuit community and a study of the life of Ignatius and the founding documents of the Jesuits,” says Fr. Lamanna. “Then the novices and the Society can decide if it’s the right fit,” he explains.

For Fr. Lamanna, the most life-giving aspect of his job is guiding men through the Spiritual Exercises. “To watch the spirit and Jesus at work with them at a very deep level is a real privilege,” he says.

To learn more about Fr. Lamanna’s job as director of novices, view the Ignatian News Network video below.

Jesuit Moving on After Ten Years as Conversations Editor

Jesuit Father Raymond SchrothAs a Jesuit, Father Raymond Schroth has always been involved in journalism, whether as an editor, writer or teacher. But his journalism career started out long before he joined the Society of Jesus in 1957.

“In grammar school I created a newspaper for our block,” he recalls. Since then he’s served as associate editor of Commonweal; taught journalism at Fordham University and Loyola University New Orleans; written book reviews for several publications; and published nine books, including “Fordham: A History and Memoir” and “The American Jesuits: A History.” Currently he is literary editor at America magazine.

He has also served as editor of the national Jesuit magazine Conversations: On Jesuit Higher Education for the past ten years but is now moving on from that role.

The goal of Conversations is to strengthen Jesuit identity at the nation’s 28 Jesuit colleges and universities, and under Fr. Schroth’s leadership, the magazine’s timely coverage has included discussions of how to keep Ignatian ideals alive on campus given the diminishing Jesuit presence.

“The issues [of the magazine] that have given me the most satisfaction have to do with promoting the intellectual life in general,” Fr. Schroth says. “We had one on reading and recommending the great books and one on the quality of intellectual life.”

One of the perks of being the editor of Conversations is that Fr. Schroth has now visited every Jesuit college and university in the country—some more than once. He’s also had the opportunity to meet some of the best and brightest faculty at the institutions.

While editor, Fr. Schroth actively recruited student writers, which provided the magazine with another point of view and offered students the opportunity to publish in a national magazine.

Fr. Schroth is grateful to the members of the National Seminar in Jesuit Higher Education who meet to help plan each issue of Conversations. One of his favorite parts of the job was the day twice a year when the latest issue arrived at his door.

“There’s always somebody that finds a mistake and that keeps me humble. As humble as I’m going to get,” he says.

For more information on the magazine, visit Conversations online. Details about the editor position are at www.jesuit.org/jobs.

Jesuit Welcomes the Silence of Annual 8-Day Retreat

Jesuit Brendan BusseEvery Jesuit makes an annual 8-day silent retreat, and Jesuit Brendan Busse, a scholastic, welcomes this time away.

“I need this time. I long for it. Of course I do what I can to nurture silence in my heart on a daily basis, but these annual retreats are privileged moments, graced times. They are, in a word, a gift,” Busse wrote in a blog entry for The Jesuit Post, before leaving for his yearly retreat.

“It’s not that I can’t find the joy of love and the presence of God immersed in our world,” Busse wrote. “It’s simply that I need time to be with God. Or really: it’s simply that I need God. I immerse myself in silence so that I can clear the air, the desk, the mind, the heart, and make room again for God.”

Busse compares daily life to a game of basketball, with moments of rest and re-collection occurring when there are pauses in the game. For Busse, the silent retreats are like those moments:

I’ve stepped away from the game to retrieve something lost, to catch my breath, to find the one thing necessary for the game to continue. The Compassionate Stranger bends over and takes the ball in hand and then performs a simple, perhaps thoughtless, act of generosity, an act of random kindness. Given the opportunity to be of ‘a little help’ they toss the ball back to me, and I jog back to join the players on the court so the game can continue.

Read Busse’s full entry at The Jesuit Post.