Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Reflection and Action

In Landmarking, author Lucas devotes a few very descriptive passages to The Bowery in New York City's Lower East Side and the ways in which the Jesuits helped the impoverished immigrants escape their unfortunate situation. A Jesuit-established barroom church at The Bowery drew hundreds of Italian immigrants. When it became outgrown, the Jesuits expanded their efforts and created the Loreto School for five-hundred students from low-income families. In addition, "Jesuits live in the dangerous neighborhood where they work, exercising a ministry of presence as well as education." (21). These passsages, from page 18 to 21 inspired me to strongly examine the role of the Jesuits at Loyola; unlike the children at The Bowery, most Loyola students come from families of oppotunity and means.

If the Jesuits were so directly involved with improving the education of these poor immigrants, why aren't they more actively helping less fortunate students within the city of Baltimore? For me, what seems to be missing is the hands-on approach employed by the Jesuits of the late 19th/early 20th century. The Baltimore Jesuits that I know live in beautiful homes on an attractive tree-lined street, not in a dilapidated rowhouse in a run-down East-side neighborhood. Could it be possible that the Jesuits' focus has shifted from the active creation of justice, as described by the many examples in Lucas' piece, to a more hands-off mission like that of teaching justice to students of means who may or may not seek and promote justice themselves (Kolvenbach)?

In The Service of Faith and the Promotion of Justice in American Jesuit Higher Education, Kolvenbach writes that "The overriding purpose of the Society of Jesus, namely 'the service of faith,' must also include 'the promotion of justice.'" I think it's interesting that Kolvenbach uses the word "promotion", which suggests more of a word-of-mouth rather than hand-on approach to justice. Jesuits at Loyola are devoted to teaching students about justice and encouraging to perform service, and their focus has shifted from providing education to the poor to providing education to the privileged who may, in turn, do something about economic and social injustice in the future.

The Year of the City is another extension of Kolvenbach's beliefs and principles, which are slightly unlike those exhibited by the Jesuits described in Lucas' piece. On Loyola's Year of the City website, the mission includes three bold-face statements: 1. A Reflection of our Mission as a Jesuit Catholic University 2. A time for reflecting critically about the social realities of urban life in our time and in our city 3. A time to reflect upon the role of a Jesuit Catholic academic community in an urban environment. The Year of the City is meant as a time of reflection, not necessarily as a time for action, though Kolvenbach assumes that action will be a result of reflection. These differences make me wonder what kind of balance we should try to achieve between reflection and action.