Posts Tagged ‘Boston College’

Jesuit Honored with Social Justice Award from Ignatian Solidarity Network

In 1995, Jesuit Father Don MacMillan, a newly minted campus minister at Boston College (B.C.), was approached by a student interested in honoring the memory of the six Jesuits and two lay partners who had been massacred in 1989 in El Salvador.  That chance encounter led Fr. MacMillan on the path to a long and fulfilling new role as a social justice activist, a commitment that will be honored tonight as the Ignatian Solidarity Network presents its “Robert M. Holstein: Faith that Does Justice Award” to Fr. MacMillan.

The Holstein award honors one individual annually who has demonstrated a significant commitment to leadership for social justice grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. The award’s namesake, the late Robert (Bob) M. Holstein, was a former California Province Jesuit, labor lawyer, fierce advocate for social justice and one of the founders of the Ignatian Family Teach-In for Justice (IFTJ) – the precursor to the Ignatian Solidarity Network.

The first memorial service commemorating the El Salvadoran victims was organized by Fr. MacMillan and the Boston College students on the B.C. campus, but by the next year, the group had taken their commemoration to Fort Benning, Ga.  Here, they held a prayer vigil at the gate of the U.S. Army School of the Americas in order to call attention to the school that, according to a U.S. Congressional Task Force, had trained those responsible for the executions in El Salvador.

Over the years, thousands of students have been empowered by Fr. MacMillan’s teaching and ministry. At Boston College, Fr. MacMillan coordinates the Urban Immersion Program, a weeklong experience of prayer and service for undergraduates to learn about the lives of those in Boston suffering from poverty and homelessness. He also organizes an annual trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico, where B.C. students have direct experience with Latin American refugees and the poor of Mexico.

Fr. MacMillan earned two Boston College degrees: a bachelor’s degree in 1966 and a master of divinity degree in 1972. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1960 and was ordained in 1972.  He previously served as both a teacher and administrator at Boston College High School and Bishop Connolly High School.

The Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) promotes leadership and advocacy among students, alumni, and other emerging leaders from Jesuit schools, parishes and ministries by educating its members on social justice issues; by mobilizing a national network to address those issues; and by encouraging a life-long commitment to social justice grounded in the spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Since the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s inception in 2004, Fr. MacMillan has been an integral part of ISN’s effort to mobilize a national network of leaders committed to justice grounded in Gospel teachings.

The previous “Robert M. Holstein: Faith that Does Justice Award” honorees include Jesuit Father Charlie Currie, former president of the Association of Jesuit Colleges & Universities; and Jesuit Father Steven Privett, president of the University of San Francisco.

Learn more about the “Robert M. Holstein: Faith that Does Justice Award” at:

Italian Jesuit Brings Background as Doctor and Moral Theolgian to the Study of Bioethics at Boston College

He is a doctor, priest and moral theologian whose medical training and practice have enriched his understanding and study of bioethics.

With this background, School of Theology and Ministry Associate Professor, Jesuit Father Andrea Vicini, is uniquely equipped to study the complex, and often controversial, ethical issues that have emerged in the wake of technological and scientific advances in health and medicine.

“Fr. Vicini is one of the few specialists in medical ethics who is both a physician and a theologian. His broad international background gives him keen insight into the importance of the social and cultural contexts of medical practice,” said Jesuit Father David Hollenbach, the University Chair in Human Rights and International Justice.  “BC and its students will benefit greatly through his presence.”

“Part of the task and responsibility of reflecting theologically on [ethical] issues,” said Fr. Vicini, who joined the STM faculty last fall, “is that you need to combine different elements that are relevant for theological thinking. First is the tradition — theological insight from other theologians in the past and the present. Second is the magisterial, or official, teaching. The other is the experience of the people. This way the universal and the particular are given consideration.”

When dealing with the end of life, he says, the Christian tradition is to see it as a process and to consider the patient’s consciousness, identity and network of relationships. Ethical challenges, however, arise from the interaction of new technologies and end-of-life issues, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which can be used to determine if brain-injured patients previously thought to be in a vegetative state may, in fact, be reclassified as being in a minimally conscious state.

The technology is still very primitive, but the concept raises issues such as possibility of recovery, access to quality rehabilitative care and family support, according to Fr. Vicini, whose article on this topic will be published later this year in The Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics.

Another emerging field of interest for Fr. Vicini is oncofertility, which looks at preserving the fertility of cancer patients. “Advances in cancer treatment for children and young adults have the positive result of recovery but also the negative result of infertility. Technology is available now that can be used to preserve fertility and restore, not only the patients’ health, but their wholeness.” He wrote on the topic of ovarian tissue transplantation for the journal Theological Studies.

A native of Italy who earned his medical degree from the University of Bologna, Fr. Vicini was born with a physical deformity affecting his left hand. He wanted to become a doctor “to help people, to heal and cure. The experience of disability in my life has helped me feel close to people in need.” He was drawn to pediatric practice in particular, he said, because of its holistic nature and opportunity to build relationships with patients and their families. “You get to witness the healing power of medicine in a special way.”

Discernment led Fr. Vicini to join the Society of Jesus in 1987. “I was attracted to the Jesuit commitment to help people in need in various frontiers around the world through education, social justice work and interactions between scientists and other religions and cultures.” He was ordained a priest in 1996.

To read the full story about Fr. Vicini at Boston College, please click here: [Boston College's New Bioethics Professor]


Looking Back: Celebrating 50 years as a Jesuit in the Seattle Times

Fifty years ago,  in 1961,  Jesuit Father Patrick Howell entered the Society of Jesus at Sheridan, Ore, the novitiate for Jesuits in the Northwest.Today, Fr. Howell is the rector (religious superior) of the Jesuit Community at Seattle University and professor of pastoral theology. In this piece for the Seattle Times, Fr. Howell looks back upon his time as a Jesuit and his own travails. 

A recent graduate of Gonzaga University, I was only 21, but my peers, most of whom had entered directly from a Jesuit high school, such as Seattle Prep or Bellarmine Prep in Tacoma, considered me one of the “old men.”

The years pass swiftly, but they have been full of grace and certainly much more joy than sorrow.

I was blessed with first-class opportunities for advanced education. After initial studies in spirituality, prayer, Jesuit tradition and a dose of Latin and Greek, I studied philosophy and English literature at Boston College.

Then came three years of high-school teaching at Jesuit High in Portland. I survived the trials and testing by high-school boys and grew to love the personal interaction and challenge of teaching English, creative writing and poetry and advising the high school newspaper.

This “formation” period of teaching in high school probably accounts for why most Jesuits are such good teachers and homilists. Survival demands that you develop rhetorical skills and a flair for the dramatic — even though it’s not native to your personality — in order to grab the attention of 28 sophomore boys for 50 minutes each day…

But another significant portion of my life has been spiritual care of those who have suffered severe mental illness.

All this arose as a surprise, when I suffered a psychotic breakdown myself at age 35 and then recovered through excellent psychiatric care and the good graces and support of family and friends…

This “grace” led to an amazingly rich ministry with people with mental illness and their families.

Years ago, Jesuit Father Michael Buckley, in an address to Jesuit seminarians asked, “Is this man sufficiently weak to be a priest?”…

Why weakness? Because, according to the Epistle to the Hebrews, it is in this deficiency, in this interior lack, in this weakness, that the efficacy of the ministry and priesthood of Christ lies. “For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18)

I think, after 50 years, I can rejoice in being “weak enough” to allow the grace of Christ to shine through and carry the load.

More of Howell’s life as a Jesuit can be found in this piece in the Seattle Times.

Australian Jesuit Composer Named New Boston College Gasson Professor

Jesuit Father Christopher Willcock, an award-winning Australian composer of music for churches and concert halls, has joined the Boston College community as the Thomas I. Gasson, SJ Professor for 2011-12.

Fr. Willcock is a faculty member in the Jesuit Theological College of the Melbourne College of Divinity in Australia, where he teaches liturgy and sacramental theology.

His “chief love,” though, is music. The first Gasson Professor to be based in the Music Department, Willcock is co-teaching a senior seminar this semester with Adjunct Associate Professor Jeremiah McGrann, and next semester will team teach Music and the Jesuit Tradition with Canisius Professor T. Frank Kennedy, SJ, — who is director of the Jesuit Institute — and Music Chairman Professor Michael Noone.

Born in Sydney, Fr. Willcock entered the Society of Jesus in 1969. Ordained a priest in 1977, he earned a doctorate from Institut Catholique and the Sorbonne in Paris.

“It’s a huge privilege, and a great pleasure, for the Music Department to be able to welcome Fr. Christopher Willcock as Gasson Professor,” said Noone. “While Willcock is one of the biggest names in Australian Catholic music, some of his most astonishing creations have been composed for the secular concert hall. Christopher’s collaborations with both students and faculty will emphasize the crucial role played by creativity and the imagination in college life.”

Fr. Willcock has composed orchestral, chamber, choral and solo vocal works. His music has been performed by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Tallis Scholars, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus.

While in his post as Gasson Professor, Fr. Willcock hopes to work on a new piece of music, “Friday’s Child,” composed for a string quartet. “It will be about the life and message of German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was killed by the Nazis,” he said.

One of Fr. Willcock’s favorite pieces, he said, is “Akhmatova Requiem,” set to the words of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova who wrote about the extreme sufferings during the Stalin regime. Fr. Willcock received the Albert H. Maggs Composition Award to compose and perform this work.

Fr. Willcock also has been recognized for his liturgical compositions, receiving the inaugural Percy Jones Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Liturgical Music in 1993. Among the titles in his liturgical music collection are Who Did You See?, God Here Among Us, In the Peace of Christ, and two volumes of psalm settings: Psalms for Feasts and Seasons and Psalms for the Journey.

Fr. Willcock directed the music and an international choir for a Mass held in St. Peter’s Square to mark the Jesuit Jubilee in 2006. He created the song “Spirit-Power” specifically for the 2008 World Youth Day papal Mass held in Australia.

Funded by a gift from the Jesuit Community at Boston College, the Gasson Chair is held by a distinguished Jesuit scholar in any discipline and is the oldest endowed professorship at Boston College.

Jesuit Sees Progress in Boston College Strategic Plan

Boston College’s Strategic Plan — a broad-based blueprint for the University’s academic, formational and faith initiatives — was the subject of the University Convocation in Robsham Theater on Sept. 7, as the BC leadership offered assessments of the plan on its five-year anniversary.

BC President, Jesuit Father William P. Leahy, pointed to numerous indicators of progress in fulfilling the seven key facets of the Strategic Plan since it was launched in the fall of 2006. He also outlined what he called “imperatives” for the University in continuing to pursue the objectives of the Strategic Plan, and in meeting other challenges as it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2012-13.

Focusing on the student formation and Jesuit, Catholic aspects of the Strategic Plan, Fr. Leahy noted enhanced cooperation among faculty, deans, administrators and the Student Affairs and Mission and Ministry divisions, the reorganization of the Center for Student Formation and promotion of a positive campus culture — through introduction of late-night programs, student health initiatives and increased opportunities for student retreats, among other developments.

Similarly, while BC has seen success in its ambition to be the leading Catholic university and theological center — through its reaffiliation with the Weston Jesuit School of Theology, establishment of the Church in the 21st Century Center and publication of The Catholic Intellectual Tradition — its challenges include the need to recruit and educate faculty, administrators and staff supportive of the Jesuit-Catholic mission.

Fr. Leahy also urged that BC “remain true to our Jesuit, Catholic traditions and beliefs,” which differentiates the University from other institutions.The newly reopened Gasson Hall — regarded as BC’s most iconic building — and its distinctive lighted tower serves as a metaphor for the University’s mission, concluded Fr. Leahy: “We are to be beacons of faith and hope, a light to the world.”