“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.