When I was a freshman at Gonzaga University I was struggling to complete a philosophy paper which was due at 8 am the next morning. I remembered meeting Fr. David Leigh, S.J., at a student-family event a few months prior. Because he was an English professor and a Jesuit, I called him around 10 p.m. at Jesuit House to see if he could help me. He surprisingly picked up his phone and said, “Sure, meet me at the front door of Jesuit House and we can look at it.” We only spent about 15 minutes on my paper, but four years later this short time with Fr. Leigh became the center of my discernment about my future. I decided to enter the Jesuit Novitiate in Portland, Ore. largely because of Jesuits like Fr. Leigh who were always available to me and taught me much about generosity.
Two years ago Fr. Pat O’Leary approached me and asked if I’d consider changing rooms with him. He had been living in Campion Residence Hall for over 20 years, and I was in the Arrupe Jesuit residence. He thought I might make better connections with the students since I am closer to their age. I was reluctant at first, but he encouraged me to take his key and look at his room. When I did, it took me only one minute to decide that I had found my future home.
Campion is on First Hill – the room has the kind of amazing view you can only imagine! It has been two years since I moved in and it has been a great place to come home to after a day’s work. I live on an all women’s floor of 70 frosh, and I’m never quite sure what I’ll encounter when I step onto the floor from the elevator. I’ve seen women dancing, singing, crying and studying in the lounge and hallway. I’m sure I’d never have these kinds of connections with students if I lived in another place.
I recall a promise I made to God and myself when I entered the Jesuits: that more than anything else, I wanted to be generous and serve others. Like Fr. Leigh who has lived in Bellarmine Hall for 28 years, I too have devoted some of my evenings to editing papers for the women on my floor and for players on the men’s basketball team, for whom I am a Chaplain. I assure them that I cannot write the papers for them, but I am happy to correct punctuation and sentence structure to make their papers a little more readable. One might think this is a burden late at night, but a little help goes a long way and gives me a window into their lives.
One of our Jesuit phrases is “the service of faith and the promotion of justice.” For me, this means engaging with people each day in face-to-face conversations to discover where they are and how they are. Oftentimes, these interactions go deep into what people are thinking and feeling and our deepest desires are revealed. My daily encounters with our students, alumni, faculty and staff are opportunities to live out our Jesuit mission of loving and serving others as God loves and serves us.
Fr. Dave Anderson, S.J.Chaplain for Alumni
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