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Strong to Endure

As 2014 begins, we should bear in mind important anniversaries in the history of the Church. The Council of Constance, which was the high water mark of conciliarism in the Church and which ended the Western schism, began in 1414. The Society of Jesus, which had been suppressed in 1773 by Pope Clement XIV, was reinstated in 1814. And of course World War I, whose repercussions for the Church and the world continue to this day, began in 1914. I’m aware that the opening of a high school in New York City doesn’t match the significance of any of these events, but I hope you don’t mind if I pay tribute to Regis High School, a place that opened in 1914 and has stood for so many of us as a place of prayer and learning and of civility and community. 

Recent discussions at dotCommonweal have focused on Catholic philanthropy and Catholic high schools. These discussions have made me think of Regis. I’m also thinking of it because last weekend, some 250 eighth graders were interviewed as part of the admissions process. (Roughly 1000 eighth grade Catholic boys in the New York metro area took an admissions test weeks before that. The top 250 scorers on that test were invited for interviews.) In a couple of weeks, around 140 will receive a letter offering them admissions. If tradition holds, more than 95% of those admitted will accept. I received such a letter on my birthday in 1993. My friend Robert Imbelli did as well a few years before that. (He’s a bit older than I am; it was harder to get in then.) Anthony Andreassi, a frequent presence in our comments, teaches history at Regis, and he’s just written Teach Me To Be Generous: The First Century of Regis High School In New York City, a history of the school. This year the school is celebrating its centennial with a series of events and a capital campaign. 

I don’t pretend to offer anything important to the discussions we’ve had on wealth and philanthropy, but I’m continually amazed by the generosity that brought Regis into being. When the Jesuits, in the late 1540s, first began forming schools for adolescents, Ignatius Loyola wanted each school to be free for its students. As Regis’s website notes, “Writing to Philip II of Spain in 1556, the early Jesuits expressed themselves clearly: ‘All the well-being of Christianity and of the whole world depends on the proper education of youth.’ Ignatius desired that Jesuits run tuition-free schools available to all students who were qualified – ‘for everybody, poor and rich.’” On Christmas Eve 1912, Julia Grant, the widow of New York City mayor Hugh Grant, gave Fr David Hearn, SJ, the pastor of St Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Ave., $500,000 to found an all-scholarship Jesuit high school for Catholic boys. (That’s roughly $12,195,000.00 today.) There was to be a special consideration in admissions for those who couldn’t afford a Catholic high school education. The first class entered in September 1914, and every single student since then has received a full scholarship to the school. As far as I know, Regis is the only free private high school in America. Grant and her family asked to remain anonymous, and it was only in 2009, after Grant and all of her children has passed away, that their identity became public. Regis has survived because of the endowment that the family’s gifts and the generosity of its alumni. Thanks to such generosity, Ignatius’s vision remains alive.

The alumni themselves are an impressive lot. Although we can’t boast of a Supreme Court justice the way our elder brother and rival Xavier High School or another rival Hunter College High School can, I’m proud to be numbered among alumni who include the current bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., the presidents of Fordham and St John’s University in New York, a surfeit of attorneys and teachers, many doctors and bankers, nationally prominent news reporters, Saturday Night Live writers, actors, rock stars, and – one of my personal heroes – the priest whose life and ministry inspired On the Waterfront.

Were it just for the high caliber of Regis’s academic offerings, I doubt it would engender such loyalty among its alumni. My friends and I were fortunate to go to some of the best colleges and graduate schools in America, and all of us consider our four years of high school to be the most academically intense years we had. Certainly our teachers at Regis expected a lot from us. But that expectation went far beyond “learning the material.” (We certainly never were taught things because some standardized test awaited us.) Whatever we learned – from the ablative (or genitive!) absolute to the Krebs cycle, from equilibrium prices to the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, from the Hapsburgs and the Roosevelts to quadratic equations – we learned so that we could become, in the words of Jesuit Superior Pedro Arrupe, “men for others.” We were to become men for those less fortunate than ourselves and also men for each other. I’ve never been part of a community of learning where the people cared so much for one another. No doubt we failed – and continued to fail -- to live up to that charge, but there is also no doubt that we understood what our charge was.

I can say about Regis what de Lubac said about the Church: without it, I wouldn’t know Him. The school offers its students a rich liturgical life complete with school-wide masses and small group retreats. Each student partakes in service projects throughout his time at Regis, and spends a considerable amount of time his senior year in direct service. The theology curriculum explores Church history, biblical studies, and ethics. Discussions of Christianity extend into each of the subjects beyond theology class and permeate the entire curriculum. The teachers are models of Christian discipleship. They help the students realize that the Catholic tradition is not a yoke that burdens or constricts, but a frame through which to understand. They taught us that love requires our intellects and that being a thoughtless Christian is a contradiction in terms.

As you can imagine, I could go on. Like any group of people, Regis High School has its faults, but I hope you can forgive me if I leave those to another day. I should note, however, that Catholic girls in the New York metro area do not have the opportunity to attend an all-scholarship Catholic school. Even though I am a great defender of single-sex education at the high school level, I would love to see an all scholarship girls’ school built with the help of Regis alumni.

Regis stands on 84th Street between Park and Madison Avenues. On the building’s façade, there is an inscription that reads “Deo et Patriae Pietas Christiana Erexit.” Christian piety built this for God and country. The most important lesson I learned on 84th Street was that “Deo et Patriae” and “Men for Others” aren’t snazzy mottoes, ready-made for brochures. They’re not “brands” created to distinguish Regis from the many fine schools in New York. Instead, these words are calls to action and ways of life. Students and alumni are fortunate to have models for these ways of life: the generosity of the founding family, the stewardship of the Jesuits, and the dedication of faculty, staff, and alumni. All of these people have been shaped by the One who took the form of slave, washed his friends’ feet, and loved them to the end. May Regis’s next hundred years be as faithful and fruitful as its first hundred.

Comments

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"I would love to see an all scholarship girls’ school built with the help of Regis alumni."

Me, too. My daughter in 8th grade is waiting to hear back from schools now.  My only concern about an all-girls all-scholarship Catholic school is that it might peel off the brightest girls from the regular all girls Catholic high schools, most of which have pretty modest tuition.

An all-scholarship need-based school would be a different story; like an all-girl Christo Rey type school. I believe the Holy Child sisters operate a free all-girl midle school on the Lower East Side.

I have been most favorably impressed by the Jesuit schools run along the lines of Christo Rey.

So I have just been astounded to read the explanation Fr. John Dear gives today in National Catholic Reporter online for leaving the Jesuit order. How doea all this add up? I'm just flabbergasted.

I had no idea John Dear was in the process of leaving the order. I admire him. I do not understand this. http://ncronline.org/blogs/road-peace/leaving-jesuits-after-32-years

Bernard Dauenhauer

I am as shocked as you over John Dear's portrayal of his provincial, Fr. Jim Shea, S. J.  I have known him for a long time, and I cannot imagine he woud ever say the things Dear has reported.  Don't know what to make of this.  The Christo Rey schools show that that the Maryland Povince has not abandoned the mission of faith and justice.  It is nevertheless sad that John Dear felt he had to leave the Jesuits.  He is a tireless advocate for peace. 

Hope he stays a priest. There must be some bishop somwhere who would welcome him.

I married in to the Regis cultus. Haven't started prepping my boys for the test just yet, but I will note that my older son manifested an early fondness for owls ("owl" was one of his first words, in fact). Coincidence? I'll make sure it goes on his application, either way...

Sad about Fr. John Dear.  I've read a couple of his books.  What he seems to be saying about the Jesuits in the US also seems to be true of the Catholic Church in the US, if The Economist article on how the church spends its money is accurate .... the article states that the church spends 28% of its money on colleges but only 2.7% on charity ... http://www.economist.com/node/21560536

Re :John Dear

This is very sad, especially to people like me who have been members of Pax Christi.  I look at him as one of the successors of the charism of the Berrigans.

A shame NCR eliminated comments.  It would be interesting to see what Dear's fans think about his dismissal from the Society of Jesus.  (Maybe Mollie will open a thread about it here.)

Joshua McElwee has a follow-up piece in NCR about Fr. Dear's dismissal from the Jesuits.

I don't know enough to say anything else now. But I do think that both Fr. Dear and someone speaking for the Jesuit order owe the Catholic community at large some dispassionate clarifications. It's not inconceivable that neither party deserves censure, but in the absence of any clarification, some of us will be tempted to make some unfair comments about one or the other party.

"A shame NCR eliminated comments."

Not at all.  Over the last couple of months, culminating in last week, the comments sections of ANY article had turned in a vitriolic cesspool of scatology and homophobial.

I applaud Dennis Coday and Pam Cohen for taking swift and necessary action.

I hope they can find a way to reopen them in a manner in which better and quicker control can be exercised to eliminate the abuses that happened recently.

It is a shame that NCR HAD to eliminate comments, but not that they actually did.

Didn't realize there was a problem.  (I rarely read the comments.  Not because they're bad, but because they're boring.)

But I would like to see what people have to say about John Dear.  (I thought it was a little harsh of the superior general to use the word "obstinately" in describing his disobedience.) 

Strange that none of the Jesuits at In All Things has posted about the situation with Fr. Dear.

I hope the Jesuits who run America magazine aren't equally in danger of being reassigned to work in a high school.

 

Interesting that Bernard and Allen found this matter shocking. That the Provincial would do this. Just as the clergy many times do not know their parishioners, many of us do not know what goes on in clerical and religious circles. The vision is very different when you are not in the club. No matter how many people you may know in the club.  In 1967 I went to see Dan Berrigan who was at that time quite active against the war in Vietnam. I was taken aback by how upset he was by the mistreatment and hostility of his fellow Jesuits at the time. It was hardly a conversation as Dan was so upset he just kept saying how hostile his fellow SJs were to him. In the room  a television was showing General Westmoreland, the chief general of the Vietnam war. Dan yelled out "murderer." Dan is still with the Jesuits....

As far as the Jesuits at America, they are clearly buying the emphasis on the poor that Francis has made. No way do they talk like this particular Provincial. 

As with Thomas Reese the Jesuits find a way to get around things They accomodated the pope by transferring Reese. Reese still writes for America. But his more pungent pieces are either in NCR or other venues. 

John Dear is clearly a prophet and "no one is a  prophet in her own country" It is arguable whether Jesus or Paul would hack it in the church today or for that matter , the church of the last 1700 years. 

I hope the Jesuits who run America magazine aren't equally in danger of being reassigned to work in a high school.

Odd, in a thread about one of the Jesuits' great high schools, to describe "work in a high school" as being "in danger."   

 

The short answer is the that the One Holy, Apostolic Catholic church has to find room to accomodate Fr John Dear. SJ..Another job for a Pope Francis intervention.  

 

Bill Mazella,

You do not have my opinion quite right.  What was shocking to me was Dear's representation of why was leaving the Jesuits and his  account of his conversation with Jim Shea. S.J. the Maryland Provincial.  I know Shea very well and Dear's characterization does not ring true.  Shea is a man committed to social justice and to Arrupe's legacy. His track record in this matter is flawless.

We now know, after an update at NCR, that Dear was dismissed from the Society and did not "leave" the Jesuits of his own volition because he found remaining a Jesuit to be intolerable.  There is much that we do not know in this very difficult decision on the part of the Jesuits, and I will not speculate here, but Dear's NCR article represents only one side of the conversation, which is doubtless much more complicated than what we know from what he has written.    

I agree with you that his ministry of peace is propjetic, and like theprophets of old he has personally suffered for it.  This is one of the reasons why I admire him.  In my opinion, his dismissal is a loss for the Jesuits because his unwavering committment to peace is so neceaasry today.  On the other hand, knowing Shea as I do, I am confident that Dear's NCR piece does not tell the whole complicated story.  I encourage readers to exercise caution in coming to conclusions in this matter.  This is not a win/win situation.

Something I forgot to mention.  The idea that Jesuits involved in non-education ministries are being reassigned to high schools and colleges is unfounded.  Search Jesuit high schools and see how few Jesuits are working in them, the same goes for colleges and universities.  The Jesuits are preparing lay people to take over these schools because they see the handwriting on the wall.  Decades ago it was evident to the Society of Jesus that their apostolates could not be adequately staffed with Jesuits and so they decided to train lay people in Ignatian spirituality to continue works that they were unabe to staff.  Regarding Jesuits, the decision was made to allow them to do the work they wanted to do because there was no way they could cover all of their ministerial cimmittments by assigning Jesuits to them.  The thought was that it was better to have a Jesuit committed to what he felt called to do thn to assign him to a ministry that he felt was not where his talents would be best used.  John Derar was a beneficiary of this mode of apostolic thinking, which is why his dismissal from the Jesuits is so tragic.  

"What was shocking to me was Dear's representation of why was leaving the Jesuits and his  account of his conversation with Jim Shea. S.J. the Maryland Provincial.  I know Shea very well and Dear's characterization does not ring true."

Alan,

Without seeing the update I felt that Dear made what were conclusions rather than what was expressly said to him by Shea. I am not questioning your judgment. Just that we sometimes think we know people when we may not. So while Dear may not be as candid as he appears, we should not conclude that what transpired between them amounts to a different person than the person you think you know. My opinion.

 

 

Much as I admire Father Dear, I don't think that after you part ways with your employer, or your family, you go out and trash them in the newspaper.

I share Alan Mitchell's caution. It would be good to have the parties make some clarifications. In the absence of clarity, it's hard to avoid jumping to conclusions, even if we don't voice them. But such jumping cannot be in anyone's legitimate interest.

 

Communication is very complicated. What Shea believes he said may not match what Dear believes he heard. 

Some of the things that Dear said - particularly that the Jesuits (or at least his province) are pulling back from their commitment to working for justice - can't just sit out there without a response.  That's my opinion.  If Dear is incorrect in this characterization, I'd think the Jesuit leadership must publicly set the record straight.  If Dear is accurate - this is something I hadn't heard before.  I'd think the Catholic media needs to tell this story.

Employers have to bear responsibility for their actions. Otherwise we have feudalism and oligarchy. It is really problematice to fault Dear when the American hierarchy was quite lukewarm in opposing the war in Iraq. Which everyone agrees now was a huge mistake which included outright lying by the US government and President. We may need more information. But what may be emerging is that this provincial had more problems with Dear than previous ones. Which may say something about him. Despite Alan's certainties. Further, prophets including Jesus often have problems with church officials. 

When within our lifetime we have seen vast amount of Christians remain silent on the Holocaust and other atrocities, it is difficult to fault John Dear. Who has shown courage and persistence when so many are tepid.

 

Firstr, re: Regis...in halcyon days of high school (62-65) debate and Forensic Club,we were awlays intimidated by and occasionally gratified to beat Regis... fond memories of the excellent preparation they always had... and we other Upstate parochial schools were thrilled to play (and once in while slay) the giant... 

Re: John Dear... his photo is on the "Path of the Peacemakers" at our parish where he inspired many of us a few years ago. Many of us have met him... it's hard to see both columns and I, like many, have no idea where the truth lies. However, I have heard that many Jesuit institutions that has been so supportive of teh protest against the School of the Americas have cut back support radically... due to Roy Bourgeois excommunication? I hope he can find peace and that the Jesuits have not "cut back" on their witness and encuragement to social justice....

 It would be good to have the parties make some clarifications.

Have to disagree.  Imho, Dear's superiors (bishops, provincials, superior general, et al.) should keep their mouths shut.  I would think that Dear's Jesuit bosses are bound by rules and regulations not to talk of matters so personal, so intimate.  Something like the seal of confession surely guards a subject in a religious order from having his personal issues bruited about on message boards, in the press, etc.

Dear said he "felt" certain things were being said to him, and he mentioned his health.  Maybe those things should be considered by those looking at the situation.

I think the Jesuits should respond to what Dear said.  The order has not ever been secretive - you can read the documents of their General Congregations, many Jesuits have collective and individual websites and blogs, their ways of proceeding are laid out in books, videos, journal articles.  Sure, there may be private issues that are part of the break between Dear and the order, but the question of whether they're changing their mission is of public interest.

This case makes it again clear that the Jesuits are not a monolithic group. They've been traditionally proud of the diversity of views that resides within the Society. I know that Jesuits are often thought also to be "progressive," but back in the Modernist crisis, George Tyrrell was drummed out of the Society, if I'm not mistaken, even before he was excommunicated by Rome. And Tyrrell thought that it was the Jesuits who were leading the anti-Modernist crackdown.

Like Bill Mazzella, I remember that Daniel Berrigan was much criticized within the order. Back in the late 1960's, when Woodstock was still in Manhattan, I commented to a Jesuit theologian that Berrigan might attract some vocations to the Society. He replied, "Well, I certainly hope not!"  

"Obstinate disobedience" is likely to be taken seriously in a group that modelled itself on military discipline. Do I read the report correctly: that Pope Francis has been asked to confirm the dismissal, but that he has not yet done so?  The NCR did not publish the texts of the letters from superiors that Dear sent to them.

Regs has an Intel competition semifinalist this year.

The odd thing is that the order had seemed proud of him and his work.  This past SJWeb nnewsletter (http://www.sjweb.info/news/ensPDF.cfm?PubNumID=76&DownLang=1) mentions him ...

*** USA: Jesuit Peace Activist Honored for his Advocacy
Jesuit Father John Dear, a nationally known peace activist, was recently honoured with the Pacem in Terris Peace and Freedom Award. The award, presented since 1978, is named after Pope John XXIII's 1963 encyclical, "Pacem in Terris" ("Peace on Earth"), which calls on all people to "secure peace among the nations." Previous award recipients include the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Blessed Teresa of Calcutta and Catholic Worker co-founder Dorothy Day ... ***
 

 

Regs has an Intel competition semifinalist this year.

And Jesuit High School in Portland, OR, has two.

Interesting to read the names and note the ethnicity of these brilliant students.  (The Harker School in San Jose is amazing.)  

https://student.societyforscience.org/intel-sts-2014-semifinalists

Maybe they've been forbidden to talk about him, and the above America post is an indirect way to bring readers' attention to Dear's dismissal without talking about him.

One glaring revelation is that former provincials gave strong consent to the works of Dear even if they may have winced about his actions. Why this provincial decided to take action begs for an answer. Compared to Berrigan Dear does not enjoy the support in the greater Catholic community--the universities and the bishops. Unlike the time of the Council when voices of peace and solicitude for the poor were widespread among the US bishops and universities. Both have lost a lot of their solicitude since then. Dear seems to be an embarassment to the bishops and universities.

Watching this 2008 talk by Dear.  He tells a good Jesuit joke near the beginning  :)  ...  http://youtu.be/gv3hCu9WEx0

1950s Regis alumnus here. In those pre-everything days, four years of Latin were required, and three years of Greek recommended. Plus a couple of years of French as a concession to modernity. Was there another school in the world where a young man could be steeped in nine years of foreign language in a mere four years? Not a very career-oriented curriculum, as it turned out, although I did teach a couple of semesters of beginning Latin years ago and had a class in Homer ready to go before it was canceled when only two students enrolled. I'm reading a little Livy just now and waiting patiently, if without much hope, for the return of the aurea aetas.

Youth, faith, first love, Regis. Those were glorious years.

 

Finally something in America about John Dear: http://www.americamagazine.org/issue/peace-activist-leaves-jesuits

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About the Author

Scott D. Moringiello is a Lawrence C. Gallen fellow in the Humanities at Villanova University, where he teaches the Augustine and Culture Seminar and courses in the theology department.