Jesuit Father Richard Salmi, president of Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., had spent very little time in the south before his appointment in 2009. He recently spoke with the local Fox news station, where he said that at first he felt like a stranger in a strange land.
“I never saw grits until I moved here, but then I discovered shrimp and grits, which I have to say has converted me,” says Fr. Salmi, who came to Spring Hill from Loyola University Chicago. “One of the things I love about the south is just how warm and friendly people are. The city has been so welcoming.”
Fr. Salmi, originally from Cleveland, first became interested in the Jesuits at Ohio University.
“My freshman year in college was the year of the Kent State killings and the Vietnam War protests, and so it was a turbulent time for America. I had a Jesuit as an instructor at this big state school. I looked at the Jesuits and saw all the good works they were doing all over the place. I was going to save the world and certainly the Jesuits were going to help me do it,” he recalls.
Fr. Salmi made a weeklong retreat with the Jesuits to discern whether he should become a priest or join the Peace Corps. He chose the Jesuits. “ I like the idea that as a Jesuit you could be a doctor or a lawyer. You could have a profession in addition to being a priest,” Fr. Salmi says.
“Social justice has always been at the core of what we are about, and we’ve always been on the cutting edge in the cusp of justice issues,” says Fr. Salmi.
Looking toward the future for Spring Hill, Fr. Salmi says the institution needs to look at “what we are doing to enable Hispanics to come to Spring Hill and how are we going to speak out for the undocumented folks and how do we stand for the Dream Act.”
Watch the full feature on Fr. Salmi below.