About the Author
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
General Congregations for Jesuits are both important—they are the highest legislative body—and infrequent; since 1540 there have been only thirty-four of them. There is an obvious need for one when the superior general dies and a new one has to be elected. Such was the case for twenty-six of these congregations. On only eight occasions was the congregation summoned for “matters of greater moment.” This was true of the Thirty-Fourth General Congregation (GC 34) in 1995, which reflected carefully and prayerfully on the life of the Society from 1965 to 1995, a truly momentous period in the life of the Church and of society in general. The main thrust, however, was to the future and to setting out those orientations needed by all Jesuits as they enter a new century.
A key document of GC 34 entitled “Cooperation with the Laity in Mission” went to the heart of the Society’s apostolic action: “Cooperation with the laity is both a constitutive element of our way of proceeding and a grace calling for individual, communal, and institutional renewal. It invites us to service of the ministry of lay people, partnership with them in mission, and openness to creative ways of future cooperation” (decree 13, no. 26).
I am thinking particularly of our Jesuit educational institutions so caught up in discussions of Jesuit mission and identity, and how this book will be of great help to trustees, faculty, administrators, and staff, as well as to students and alumni. We Jesuits have been negligent in communicating to the many laypeople associated with us in a host of activities in schools, parishes, retreat houses, social centers, publishing houses, research centers, etc., who we are, what we do, and what people can expect of us. We need to explain what we mean by our expression our way of proceeding if we expect others to enter into a partnership with us.
In a style that is personal and enlightening as well as inviting to discussion and conversation, Father Byron shares with us a vision of Jesuit life today as seen and lived by a man of uncommonly rich experience. This book will appeal to a large and varied audience, but the two chapters on higher and secondary education will have a special appeal for those involved in educational institutions. This is the type of book that administrators, especially those concerned with the vital topic of Jesuit mission and identity, will want to make available to many people in their institutions. It will provide a natural basis for discussion and conversation. Jesuits will enjoy it and will want to share it with their colleagues as they work toward a partnership in mission. I would find it an excellent reference for young men interested in learning more about Jesuit life.
The publication of this volume will be a fitting way for Father Bill Byron to celebrate his golden jubilee as a member of the Society of Jesus during the great Jubilee Year of the Church.
Superior of the Jesuit Community
at America House in New York City
General Assistant to
Superior General Pedro Arrupe, SJ, 1965–83
Fifty years a Jesuit. July 31, 2000, is the marker for me. Fifty years a Jesuit and, as I’ve found myself remarking in recent years, I’ve never had a really unhappy day in the Jesuit order, the Company that was founded by the grace of God and the genius of Ignatius of Loyola in 1540. I’ve had difficult, even painful, days in the Society of Jesus, but I’ve never had a fundamentally unhappy one.
Now, with the publication of this paperback edition, it is almost sixty years a Jesuit for me. I wouldn’t change anything in that opening paragraph, taken from the first edition, except to identify the pain I, along with all Jesuits and so many colleagues and friends, experienced when news of the clergy sex abuse scandal broke in America in 2002. I would also add the discouraging fact that additional Jesuits have left “the Company” since the year 2000 and fewer have joined. So I was both impressed and encouraged to note that when Spanish-born Father Adolfo Nicolas, SJ, was elected superior general of the Society of Jesus in January 2008, the Catholic News Service in the U.S. lifted the following words from an interview appearing in the newsletter of the Australian Jesuits that Father Nicolas had given the month before. Father Nicolas asked:
This is a book of personal reflections similar to those I published as Quadrangle Considerations and the commencement-address chapters in Take Your Diploma and Run: Speaking to the Next Generation.1 The present book is not an autobiography, although personal experience is part of the story. It is simply one Jesuit’s perspective on aspects of Jesuit life that appear to be of growing interest to others, particularly lay colleagues and friends. The primary audience I have in mind is the group of committed laypeople I’ve met worldwide who serve as trustees, faculty, staff, and support personnel in Jesuit educational institutions, parishes, research and retreat centers, publishing operations, and other ministries. I speak to students, alumni, parishioners, retreatants, benefactors, and friends—all those people who cast their lot in one way or another with Jesuits. I hope that this book will also be helpful to young men who are in the process of discerning whether God is calling them to Jesuit life.
So many people in various partnering or associative relationships with Jesuits want to know what it is that makes us tick; they are curious about who we are and what we do. They are quite open these days in asking us to tell them more about ourselves. My students often heard me say, “You are the world’s leading expert on your own opinion” when I invited expressions of opinion in the classroom or in written assignments. The only area of expertise I can claim is related to my own opinions and experiences, so I offer them here simply for what they are worth, to lay friends who want to better understand the Jesuit way, style, approach, and tradition.
Why the title Jesuit Saturdays? Because Saturdays (every one, in the Jesuit tradition, a day of special devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus) have always been an important part of my Jesuit life. On Saturday afternoons during my novitiate (“boot camp” or “basic training”) from 1950 to 1952 at the Novitiate of St. Isaac Jogues, Wernersville, Pennsylvania, other novices and I would go off on missions to the Berks County Jail or to what was then known as the “Negro section” of the nearby city of Reading (the fictional Brewer in John Updike’s Rabbit novels) to teach catechism and engage in some form of social ministry. Seeds planted within me then grew into subsequent academic degrees in economics, a lifelong interest in social ethics, and an abiding concern for interracial and social justice.
At every stage of my Jesuit life, Saturdays have allowed some extra time and freedom for writing and reflection that the weekday press of study, teaching, or administrivia did not permit. From 1953 to 1956, as a Jesuit scholastic studying philosophy at Saint Louis University, I walked through a lot of poor neighborhoods on Saturday afternoons and often made hospital visits with, I must confess, the mixed motivation of seeing sick patients and watching with them the televised sporting events not available for viewing on Saturday afternoons in the somber scholasticate of that era.
Once ordained in 1961, after three years of theological studies at Woodstock College in Maryland, my classmates and I stayed on as “fourth-year fathers” for a final year of weekday study and weekend ministry in hospitals and parishes in the nearby Baltimore-Washington area. That initiation into ordained pastoral ministry, especially hearing confessions on Saturdays and preaching to large congregations of practicing Catholics on Sundays, was, for all of us, the realization of a deep and genuine vocational desire. And being able to catch an occasional Baltimore Colts or Orioles game before making the photo-finish return trip to rural Woodstock in time for Sunday vespers was, for us young priests, all part of the hundredfold.
Saturdays became regular writing days for me in 1973 when, well after graduate study for a degree in economics and several years of teaching economics (at Loyola in Maryland) and social ethics (at Woodstock), I became dean of arts and sciences at Loyola University in New Orleans. I got into the habit of doing what I enjoy, namely, sitting down at the keyboard after breakfast on Saturday mornings (ranging over the years from manual to electric typewriter, to word processor, to personal computer) and writing until an early afternoon lunch break followed by a long walk (occasionally interrupted...