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All Things Jesuit

Building hope

May 7, 2012

Graduation gifts come in many forms, but this year a group of MBA students has chosen a very unconventional and moving way to honor one of their classmates as he prepares to receive his diploma.

Anyone who has read "Life of Purpose" in SU Magazine is familiar with the story of Jean Baptiste Ganza, S.J.: How his family members and friends were murdered during the genocide in Rwanda, and how he has responded to the tragedy by creating new educational opportunities for the young people of his native country.

Ganza has already built a primary school, St. Ignatius, in Kigali. He is now focused on expanding that educational pipeline by constructing a secondary school. When completed, the school will hold 750 students. Pretty heady stuff when you consider that more than 75 percent of Rwandans live below the poverty line and children, on average, receive just three years of schooling.

This is where Father Ganza's MBA classmates come in. They have launched a campaign to raise $15,000 for the school before Ganza graduates on June 10. To learn more about the effort and how you can help support it, please visit the St. Ignatius School Rwanda Campaign.

Visiting with Fr. Pribek

April 20, 2012

Father James Pribek, associate professor of English at Canisius College in Buffalo, joined the English Department in the College of Arts and Sciences this spring as the LeRoux Scholar. Father Pribek will give a public lecture, "'When Hope and History Rhyme': Irish Literature as a Resource for Hope," on May 10 at 4 p.m. in Wyckoff Auditorium. He recently took the time to field some questions from The Commons.


On his upbringing:

I was born and raised in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where my father practiced medicine for almost 40 years. I grew up in a big Catholic family: I am number five of seven. We knew plenty of families larger than ours, however: those were the years when parents could afford to have more than a few children, and neighborhoods and schools provided a lot of help. With those kinds of numbers, we had our own "kids' culture" in which the older siblings, friends and teachers filled in for parents for a good portion of the day. 

On why he decided to enter the Jesuits:  

I locate the roots of my vocation in the Catholic culture of the place and time. To be Catholic meant to be literate, funny, community-minded and culture-friendly. The optimism about the church's place in the world ignited by Vatican II was still very much alive. I went to a large state university, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which I loved. At that time a group of Jesuits, some doing doctoral studies and some full-time, helped at the university's Catholic center, and they provided me with all sorts of new images of priests. One was a spirited preacher who routinely filled the church to capacity and beyond for his Sunday morning masses; another was an eloquent, scholarly Jesuit who seemed to have just the right word for the meditative Sunday night masses.

I met up with Jesuits again after graduation when I was living in Milwaukee: my sister worked at Marquette University, and there I came to know Jesuits as her associates and friends. The Jesuits struck me as quite different, one from another, but all seemed energetic, witty, kind and caught up with the best things happening in their fields of endeavor. Somehow I got the impression that a life given to the Jesuits would not be ruled by fear and conformity, and would be a life of consequence and exploration of the good and the Godly. I joined the order in 1987 alongside Marquette grad, Mike Bayard, and despite the usual amount of challenges, changes and hard times, I haven't really looked back. My impression that, for better or worse, this would not be a way of life tainted by regret, has certainly proven true.

On his home institution:

At Canisius, I teach all the Irish literature courses as well as a good few introductory English and Honors core courses. My Irish classes include surveys of poetry, prose, and drama as well as seminars in the work of James Joyce and W.B. Yeats. I also preside at campus masses and direct students on Campus Ministry's Ignatian retreats. I advise many English students and in recent years have directed our department's activities for students and faculty, including our annual banquet. I have a host of smaller duties, but the ones I have listed would take up most of my time. On weekends I routinely assist three Buffalo parishes.  In the summers I try to prepare and present papers at conferences dedicated to the study of James Joyce and John Henry Newman, the two writers on whom my doctoral dissertation was focused.

On what he's doing at SU this quarter:

I always put teaching first, so my first job here is teaching my course in Modern Irish Drama. I am also preparing a talk on hope in Irish literature that I'll offer as the LeRoux Lecture (again, on May 10). I am preparing two more papers for presentation and, I hope, publication: one on the real-life preacher of the infamous sermon on hell in Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and another on a longtime promoter of Cardinal Newman's work in the theological world. 

On his time at Seattle University:

I enjoy getting to know this area and this university, whose model and mission are close to that of my home school, though there are also some significant differences. I think that is part of being a visiting professor: the exchange of ideas about education and service within the ever-more-united network of Jesuit universities. Administrative staff from the Jesuit schools routinely gather for this kind of exchange and support, but we faculty, less so. All of us need it in order to stay informed and flexible, and to remind us that we are part of a cooperative, worldwide endeavor.

I have been much impressed by Seattle University's spiritual ministry, especially the Novena of Grace and the Holy Week services. There is real life, energy and joy there. The Jesuit Community enjoys the reputation as one of the best in the country, and I have certainly found it so. The campus is compact but it does not feel crowded or even especially urban: the trees, green spaces and the Quad create a more natural and human atmosphere. Because I love to walk and to explore cities, I enjoy the proximity to the downtown area. If there have been any surprises, they would be the quietness of the campus after-hours and the weather, which is changeable but overall quite pleasant and full of the beauties of spring.

On what's next for him:

I will be at Seattle University until the middle of June, at which time I'll travel to Los Angeles and complete the second summer of my tertianship with the California Program. This year away from Canisius has provided time not only for rest and renewal, but also to do tertianship and to complete a number of personal and research projects. I went straight from formation into doctoral studies and then into teaching, so the last year allowed me to "catch my breath" and refocus my energies. I needed that after 25 years in the Jesuits, but also after the experience of losing my parents in recent years. In God's providence I was able to be present for their final illnesses and deaths, which was a profound blessing.  Yet the experience of losing a parent is also earth-shattering on a number of levels. As I see spring emerge here, I think of a poem that has helped me grieve: Philip Larkin's "The Trees," and its poignant closing line expressing the message of the new leaves and blossoms: "Begin afresh, afresh, afresh."

Urban dwellers

April 10, 2012

Ever wonder why so many Jesuit schools like Seattle U are located in cities? Thomas Lucas, S.J., of the University of San Francisco, might be the best person to answer that question, and he'll be at Seattle University this month.

A leading authority on the Jesuits' special affinity for urban areas, Father Lucas authored Landmarking: City, Church and Jesuit Urban Strategy, which won an Alpha Sigma Nu National Book Award in 1998. Lucas will speak on that topic when he visits SU on Monday, April 16. Faculty and staff are invited to RSVP for the event, which begins with an optional tour of the Chapel of St. Ignatius that leaves from 1313 E. Columbia (3:30-4:30 p.m.) and continues with an opportunity to socialize (4:30-5 p.m.) before Lucas gives his presentation (5 to 6:15 p.m.).

Robert Schwartz, associate vice president for Facilities Services, heard Lucas speak at USF last spring. "I was captivated by how strategic the Jesuits were in locating their institutions and ministries," Schwartz says. "It's not by happenstance that they chose to be in the heart of the city. Having Father Lucas here will be an opportunity for us to reflect on why it matters that there's a Jesuit school in Seattle."

Lucas' visit is being co-sponsored by Facilities Services and Mission and Ministry. Schwartz says there has been broad interest in the presentation, pointing to significant sponsorship support from the design and construction community as one indication.

Lucas, professor of Art+Architecture and director of USF's Thacher Gallery, is an internationally recognized expert in Jesuit art history, as well as a liturgical designer and artist with an international portfolio. As a graduate student, Lucas designed and directed the restoration of St. Ignatius' apartments in Rome. He has received an award from the American Institute of Architects and has been involved in a variety of projects, including the restoration of the St. Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai, which was badly damaged during the Cultural Revolution.

Dean Phillips in Rome

March 26, 2012

By Joe Phillips, dean of the Albers School of Business and Economics

Earlier this month, I traveled to Rome for a board meeting of the International Association of Jesuit Business Schools (IAJBS). The meeting took place in the Jesuit Curia, which is very near the Vatican. The Curia is a series of buildings containing offices, residences and meeting rooms, something like a very crowded college campus (not a lot of open space). Although not in the boundaries of Vatican City, the Curia is considered part of the Vatican from a legal standpoint and not part of Italy. 

Most of the IAJBS board consists of business school deans from around the world. In addition to board members from the U.S. like me, members came from Belgium, Spain, India, the Philippines and Korea. 

The meetings took place March 8-9. The highlight was our visit with Superior General Adolfo Nicolas. I was very impressed with the Father General. He has a very self-deprecating sense of humor and seems very humble. He was amused that everyone wanted a picture with him and maybe even puzzled by it. The purpose of the meeting was to familiarize him with IAJBS and to learn how IAJBS could assist the work of the worldwide Jesuit order. 

The Father General emphasized the important role of business schools at Jesuit universities, noting that business "has more attraction" than philosophy and theology. He noted that business without ethics leads to "disaster," and said that due to recent events the world is now more open to an ethical approach to business. He would like to see the Jesuit business schools lead the way in thinking about business in a different way, one that is more holistic and dedicated to the common good.

The rest of the meeting was taken up with planning for the IAJBS conference in Barcelona in July, reviewing the finances of the organization and discussing the relationship between IAJBS and Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education (CJBE). CJBE has historically been a U.S.-centric organization, but the plan is to become an organization to serve business faculty at Jesuit schools around the world. 

We also were updated on plans to establish Jesuit business schools in Africa. Projects in Kenya, Rwanda/Burundi, Ivory Coast, the Congo, Burkina Faso and a new one in Nigeria are all at different stages of planning. The hope is that IAJBS schools in other parts of the world will assist with this initiative. It does not seem like much progress has been made in this effort, and at this point there is not an obvious way that the Albers School can assist. We will continue to monitor how this develops and how we might contribute.

Janowiak and Eblen on Vatican II

March 12, 2012

St. James Cathedral is marking the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council with a speaker series, and the first two lectures will be delivered by scholars with SU ties.

Paul Janowiak, S.J., left, will get the series started with a talk "On Liturgy...Ever Ancient, Ever New: Liturgical Reform as an Expression of a Vatican II Vision of the Church" at 7 p.m. on March 15. Father Janowiak had been at the School of Theology and Ministry before leaving last year to join the Jesuit School of Theology (JST) of Santa Clara in Berkeley, Calif.

Father James Eblen, associate professor in the School of Theology and Ministry, will present "On Dei Verbum and the Council's Insights Into Scripture" at 7 p.m. on April 30. Both lectures will take place at Cathedral Hall.

Jesuit leadership redefined

February 27, 2012

Increasingly, as we know, non-Jesuits are becoming presidents of Jesuit institutions in the United States, but in case you've lost track of how many there actually are, the latest issue of the magazine Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education has made it easy by running profiles of the 10 non-Jesuits who are currently serving as president. The list includes a Catholic priest of another religious order, Rockhurst's Rev. Tom Curran of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, and a Protestant, David Burcham of Loyola Marymount. Burcham was featured in a recent LA Times article, reprinted by The Seattle Times, titled "Protestant president helps cultivate university's Jesuit roots."

ConversationsSpring2012_ATJThe 10 non-Jesuit leaders listed alphabetically by institution with the years they assumed the presidency are: 

Canisius College - John Hurley (2010)
Georgetown University - John DeGioia (2001)
Gonzaga University - Thayne McCulloh (2010)
LeMoyne College - Fred Pestello (2008)
Loyola Marymount - David Burcham (2010)
Rockhurst University - Rev. Tom Curran, OSFS (2006)
St. Joseph's University - John Smithson (Interim, 2011)
St. Peter's College - Eugene Cornacchia (2007)
University of Detroit Mercy - Antoine Garibaldi (2011)
Wheeling Jesuit University - Richard Beyer (2011)

You can read more about them at Conversations or on pages 18-19 of the hard copy version, which all faculty and staff receive. By the way, Conversations is published by the National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education, of which Pat Howell, S.J., rector of the SU Jesuit community is chairman.

A new book for the Bible?

February 1, 2012

Jesuit playwright Bill Cain has done it again. Following his critically acclaimed play "Equivocation," which premiered in 2009, Father Cain is back with his latest offering, "How to Write a New Book for the Bible." Rector Pat Howell, S.J., attended a preview of the play, which is at the Seattle Repertory Theatre through Feb. 5. In his latest column for The Seattle Times, Father Howell writes: "(Cain's play) invites all of us to discover our own symbols and to write our own sacred story.  Simultaneously, it's a revelation about the Bible itself as the intimate, confusing, ongoing saga of God's love for every family."

Visit Seattle Repertory Theatre for more information on the play.

Magis gets a new look

January 9, 2012

Having just celebrated its fifth anniversary this past year, Magis is rolling out a new logo and campaign called “I am Magis. We are Magis.” There’s also a special party you’re invited to attend at the end of the month (more on that in a moment).

The new logo incorporates a flame “to signify the spirit of the Jesuit, Ignatian tradition that is first ignited in students and then lived out by alumni in their various vocational paths,” explains Brooke Rufo Hill, director of Magis. The office also tweaked its tagline to read “Alumni Living the Mission.” (The previous version was “Alumni Committed for Mission.”)

Since 2006, Magis has served more than 1,300 graduates of Jesuit institutions in the Puget Sound area each year. Alumni from all 28 U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities are invited to participate in Magis events, which include opportunities to explore Ignatian spirituality, serve others in the Jesuit tradition, and pursue further leadership formation.

The “I am Magis. We are Magis.” campaign will feature a series of Jesuit-educated men and women who are living the mission. As for the party, it will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 31, in the LeRoux Room (STCN 160). To RSVP, please e-mail Magis  by Jan. 25. The Magis staff, advisory board, campus and community partners and program co-founders Mike Bayard, S.J., and Erin Swezey, hope to see you there.

Selfless in Seattle

December 6, 2011

Fifteen recent college graduates are serving as Jesuit Volunteers (JVs) right here in Seattle. In fact, there are two Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest communities in the city, with eight volunteers living in the Seattle Cherry Abbey house and seven in the Seattle Mercy house. Of the 15 Seattle-based volunteers, seven attended Jesuit colleges and universities.  

Jesuit Volunteers commit to a yearlong experience that is steeped in the values of spirituality, social justice, community and social justice. Following are the JVs at each Seattle community, along with their alma maters, their specific volunteer roles and the agencies at which they are placed.

Seattle Cherry Abbey (top photo):  Kevin Duffy-Greaves, University of Portland, asylum advocate and intake coordinator, Northwest Immigrants Rights Project; Sarah Moran, Providence College, outreach and communications coordinator, Puget Sound Sage; Clare Garvey, Boston College, grassroots advocacy coordinator, Food Lifeline; Alissa Cowan, Gonzaga,  JV assistant, Noah Sealth (Seattle); Chelsea Wagner, St Olaf's, assistant, Providence Hospitality House; Caitrin Coccoma, Villanova, JV café manager, Recovery Café; Matthew Pazderka, University of Saint Thomas-MN, housing support specialist/Case Aide, Community House;  and Wesley Leftwich, University of Georgia, clinical case manager and peer support, Community House.

Seattle Mercy (bottom photo):  Kevin Nuechterlein, Loyola University Chicago, rehabilitation counselor, Transitional Resources; Karin Holmgren, San Diego State, case manager, Full Life Care; Matt Driscoll, Boston College, financial literacy coordinator, El Centro de la Raza; Caitlin Lanigan, Holy Cross, mainstream services liaison, LIHI Urban Rest Stop; Jennifer Leard, St. Louis University, volunteer coordinator, Recovery Café; Kandace Arens, Santa Clara, community support coordinator, The Wintonia; and Matt Tyksinski, Holy Cross, client services coordinator, Real Change.

For more information, visit JVC Northwest.

Becoming a Jesuit

November 22, 2011

(This is the final profile of the three new Jesuits who have joined Seattle University this academic year. You can scroll down to read the previous two.) 

At various stages in his life, the Jesuits were a presence in Matthew Pyrc’s life. Eventually, he decided to join them.  

After earning his undergraduate degree at Franciscan University, Pyrc joined the Franciscans. “I did my theology studies with them, but we actually studied at a Jesuit school (Regis College at the University of Toronto).”  

Pyrc was in his final semester when he decided to leave. He returned to his native Michigan and, after finishing the theology degree on his own—with some financial help from the Jesuits—he worked with juvenile delinquents in a group home. Pyrc (“pier-urch”) then moved to Spokane, Wash., where his brother lives. He worked for 10 years with at-risk youth, first providing employment training and later running an intervention program to help keep students from dropping out of high school.  

While living in Spokane, Pyrc became involved with St. Aloysius Parish which is near Gonzaga University and steeped in the Jesuit tradition. “That’s where I met the Jesuits,” he says. Through the parish, Pyrc became involved in social justice ministry and did the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life (SEEL).  

Around this time, he and his friend took a vacation to Africa. “It was in the back of a pickup truck on a safari that we were reflecting on what a life-changing trip this was and talking about what we would do next. 

“I was thinking Peace Corps at the time, but what I wanted was an experience of spirituality and community, and as wonderful as the Peace Corps is, I wasn’t going to find those (there). So I started talking with the Jesuits, and the rest is history.” 

Of course, that history continues to be written. Pyrc, who entered the Jesuits in 2006, arrived at SU this summer after completing his theology studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. He’ll be here two to three years for the regency phase of his formation. Pyrc is part of the Campus Ministry team, working with students on social justice ministry, immersion trips and other service projects, as well as providing spiritual direction. 

His early impressions of SU? “People have been very welcoming. The students are fun and full of energy, and the Sunday night liturgies are just amazing. There’s a lot of life on this campus.” 

In his free time, Pyrc likes bicycling and spinning class. He’s recently gotten into photography and is sitting in on a digital photography class taught by Claire Garoutte of the Fine Arts faculty. 

Is the Seattle rain bothering him? “Not yet,” he says, with laugh, adding, “When I was in Berkeley, I did an immersion program in Colombia. So I experienced the rainy season there, but, there, it was more of a torrential downpour, so it’s very different from the rain we have here.”

Engaging the world

November 7, 2011

After serving in the Peace Corps, Jason Welle was pretty certain he was being called to the priesthood. What he wasn’t so sure of was what sort of priest he wanted to be. 

For part of his vocational discernment process, Welle did what any reasonable person with a questioning mind—and computer—would do in the early 21st century: he took to the Internet. And the more research he did online, the clearer it became that he belonged with the Jesuits. 

“I knew the Jesuits by reputation only, mainly for their commitment to social justice,” he says. “And I knew I wanted to do something that combined my interest in international development with a deep spirituality and service as a priest. I could see myself fulfilling both of those desires as a Jesuit.” 

Welle entered the Jesuits in 2006. After completing his master’s in philosophy at Fordham University, he joined SU in August. He expects to be here for the next two or three years, for the period of a Jesuit’s formation that is known as regency. During this phase, Jesuits work in a variety of ministries before returning to school for theological studies. 

At SU, Welle is serving as special projects coordinator in Global Engagement. He’s currently working on the office’s website to make it more engaging for SU students interested in studying abroad and prospective international students who might want to enroll here. He’s also researching some potential new exchange partnerships and doing some student advising in Education Abroad. 

For Welle, entering the priesthood was not a completely out-of-leftfield decision. He attended a high school seminary, but left to enroll at UC-Santa Cruz. After earning a degree in community studies, which is a social justice-oriented major, Welle bounced around for a while, working as a travel agent and eventually a flight attendant. He loved the chance to travel and see the world, but after a while, it got old. Welle decided to engage the world in a deeper way. He took a leave of absence from the airline and joined the Peace Corps.  

Placed in Malawi, Welle did field work as a community health volunteer. “The Peace Corps is really where I discovered my vocation to enter the Society,” he says. “Getting out of the U.S. fish bowl, gave me a new perspective on the world and America’s place in it.” 

Welle was in Malawi for 9/11, an experience that he says completely reshaped his view of the world. “I was living in a country where 3,000 people died every week from HIV and AIDS—that’s about what the death toll was in the towers. People there were living at a level of poverty that we just don’t know in the same way here in the U.S. They had hardly even seen a two- or three-story building, much less a 150-story tower. It was just beyond their worldview. 9/11 just sort of awakened me out of a slumber or a complacency about America’s role and my own place in the world.” 

The event was transformative for Welle in other important ways, too. “There’s a lot of downtime in Peace Corps, especially in Malawi, where there’s 12 hours of night, without a television and not much radio. I became very introspective. I think, without realizing it, I was praying, really yearning to understand who I was.” 

A Jesuit usually applies to either the province where he’s living at the time or the province where he’s from. When Welle applied, he was living in Washington, D.C., but didn’t feel a strong connection to the area. “I’m from California, so it would’ve been natural for me to join that province, but since I was looking on the Internet and didn’t really understand the provincial system, I was reading about the Oregon Province and its historic relationship with the Province of Zambia-Malawi. So that connection is what first drew me in this direction.” 

For Welle, his enjoyment of hiking and interest in skiing (which he plans to take up this winter) are added benefits to living in the Northwest. He’s just as well-suited to SU, saying that the care the university gives to individual students was readily apparent from the conversations he had with faculty and staff during his interview. “You don’t find that in a lot of universities, and even at a lot of Jesuit universities, it’s not as strong (a commitment) as it is here.” 

SU’s eco-friendly ethic is also not lost on Welle. “Especially from my time in the Peace Corps, I developed a really strong awareness of sustainability issues, and I’m really impressed with the way Seattle U has made that a priority and incorporated so many things into its basic operations.”

The journey to Yes

October 26, 2011

Some Jesuits take a fairly straight path to their vocations. For others…well, not so much. Lorenzo Herman would fall into the second category, having come to his calling by way of a somewhat circuitous route. 

Herman, who arrived at SU this summer as a scholastic to study in the School of Theology and Ministry, was raised a Baptist and spent the first part of his life in Georgia. His family relocated to Cleveland, and while he was still in middle school, he was strongly encouraged to attend St. Ignatius, the city’s Jesuit high school. He did, and got very involved in campus ministry, even helping to lead retreats. 

When Herman was a senior in high school, he was invited to dinner at the Jesuit residence. To Herman, it was simply an opportunity to see the newly built house and get a good meal. His hosts had something else in mind. They started talking about vocations and asked Herman and the other classmates who were attending the dinner to consider becoming Jesuits. 

“This was bizarre for me,” Herman remembers. “For one, I wasn’t Roman Catholic, and number two, I thought, ‘Maybe there’s something wrong with me that they think I don’t want to get married and have kids.’” 

Herman let the Jesuits know he was not Roman Catholic. “They said, ‘Yeah, we know. We’ll take care of that later.’” 

Driving home that evening with his mother, he told her about the invitation. She asked what he thought. “I don’t want to be a priest,” he replied. “But maybe I’ll be Catholic.”  

The following year, 1993, Herman went through the Right of Christian Initiation of Adults program at Spring Hill College where he was a student and was confirmed as a Roman Catholic. For financial reasons, he had to leave the Jesuit college in Mobile, Ala., and wound up enlisting in the Air Force.  

He was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base just outside of Spokane. Although he was right in Gonzaga University’s backyard, Herman didn’t realize the school was Jesuit. It was only when he started doing theater in Spokane in the late 1990s that he became acquainted with a few Jesuits, including Jack Bentz, S.J., current adjunct professor in Fine Arts. Herman started asking questions about becoming a Jesuit. Bentz put him in touch with the vocation director, Steve Lantry, S.J.  

Herman decided to apply to be a Jesuit. “But I had a lot of anxieties about it. I was losing sleep.” Venturing further into the discernment process, Herman came to see he wasn’t quite ready to jump from one highly structured organization (the military) to another (the Society of Jesus). He needed some time to enjoy his newfound freedom. 

Just as he was coming to that realization, Herman received a call from Father Lantry. “He said, ‘I’ve got good news and bad news, Lorenzo,’” Herman remembers. Lantry delivered the bad news first—Herman’s application was deferred. 

“I was relieved,” he says, laughing and leaning in as if to convey a secret. “That wasn’t bad news to me.”  

The good news was that he could enter the following year. But that didn’t happen either. Herman wound up moving to San Diego, where he worked for an HIV-AIDS health clinic and served as board president for a nonprofit organization. He joined a local parish that, unbeknownst to him, was run by the Jesuits. “I was thinking, ‘OK, I just can’t get away from the Jesuits.’” 

He found his work and life rewarding. “But there was something that was still missing.” In 2006, he called Lantry to say he wanted to reapply to the Jesuits. “Well, I’ve been waiting,” Lantry told Herman, before sending him the PDF of the application.  

“This time, I was yearning (to join the Jesuits), I was impatient with the process and was like, ‘Let’s do this now!’” 

One of the most meaningful experiences Herman has had as a Jesuit so far is the 30-day silent retreat, on which he was invited to reflect upon the question, “Who am I?”  

“I didn’t know much about my family history. I could only go back to my grandparents. I think that’s common for many African Americans because most of us don’t know where our family came from because of slavery. The fruit of the Spiritual Exercises was for me to do my genealogy, and it’s still ongoing. I’ve gone back to the 1700s for my African ancestry and back to the 15th century for my European ancestry." Herman has learned that he is descended from slaves on both sides of his family. 

“The graces of that retreat are still working through me now as I learn more about not just who I am but my family and discover God’s graces and movements even in traumatic events like my family’s history, and dealing with the tensions of living with the questions and not having all the answers. This has been very important in the development of my identity as a Jesuit.” 

Having earned his B.A. in philosophy and African studies, Herman is now enrolled in the School of Theology and Ministry’s Transformational Leadership program. He feels very much at home.  

“I think what makes Seattle U and STM so special is that people from all kinds of backgrounds feel welcome to come here, even if they’re not Catholic. I just find that very amazing. I would argue that what Seattle U is doing is frontier ministry. We’re working with people who are not Catholic, or may not be Christian, and finding a way to build relationships so we can find God in our own personal experiences.  

“That’s how I became Catholic. When I was in high school, I was never proselytized or told I had to be one. It was always just an open invitation to participate, and that was part of my conversion experience. I always felt welcome at the table. So being here in this way, reminds me of my introduction into the Catholic faith through the Jesuit lens.” 

In his spare time, Herman likes to cook, hike, write poetry and act. He took up the violin a couple years ago. And yet what he most enjoys doing is likely to surprise you.  

“People may consider this mundane, but I really enjoy organizational development work. I like to write grants and bylaws and do strategic planning.”