The Offerings of Jesuit Education - Social Justice
I was baptized into the Catholic religion, but it has never subsisted as a consistent part of my life. In fact, I have travelled down spiritual paths that are very different from the teachings of the organized Catholic Church. Yet, while traveling and living in Europe, I was drawn to Catholic cathedrals like a magnet and ended up researching the symbolic presence these cathedrals held in medieval Europe. When it came time to find a university that most fit my needs and personality, I chose a Jesuit university.
It seems like I keep being drawn back to Catholicism. But actually, I’m drawn to both the traditional beauty of the Catholic Church and the value of social justice that the Jesuit education provides. In fact, Catholic social thought is easily related to the foundations of many social movements.
The Jesuits and Social Justice
The service of faith and the promotion of justice are important in the Jesuit education, but it doesn’t only revolve around the idea of religious faith; it also emphasizes the need for everybody to be aware and committed to the common good. Jesuit universities promote the service of faith. They also promote the idea of justice in order to help those who are oppressed. My experience in a Jesuit institution showed me that social justice service is not only expressed by professing a belief in a cause, but by acting it out as well. There is a theme of communitarianism in these ideas, the interconnectedness of faith and justice bringing communities together in order to help humanity.
Being able to bring these themes together entrusts that the possible will be done for the common good. This means that the focus is more on the belief that what is possible will be done more than the idea: “We will do whatever is possible.” People have a skewed vision of what is and is not possible, and we are often surprised at what does end up being possible. Social justice takes out the human responsibility of choosing what is possible, and entrusts that we will be able to bring the possibilities to fruition.
Through actions that back up the beliefs stated in Catholic social teachings, it is possible for the good of all, the good of humanity, to be prosperous. One of the most effective methods of doing this is through the role of education. Education plays an important role in the promotion of faith and justice.
A Christian university must take into account the Gospel preference for the poor. This does not mean that only the poor study at the university; it does not mean that the university should abdicate its mission of academic excellence—excellence needed in order to solve complex social problems. It does mean that the university should be present intellectually where it is needed: to proved science for those who have no science; to provide skills for the unskilled; to be a voice for those who do not posses the academic qualifications to promote and legitimate their rights. –Father Kolvenback
By promoting social justice in educational institutions, a foundation for future work is being established. More people will be learning how to change the injustices in the world, not only in charitable, immediate ways, but also in long term and institutional ways.
There is a general lack of thought for the common good and a huge disparity in a connected community within society. Catholic social thought provides guidelines on how to change these fundamental problems that our society is plagued with.
Choosing a Jesuit University
A Jesuit university was the right step for me. I’m a very liberal person, so I was a bit hesitant about enrolling at a Catholic university. While I was required to take some theology classes as a way to round out my educational experience, the requirements were not nearly as intense as many other religious universities have. As well, the basic theology classes focused on the study of religion, as opposed to promoting one religion. The teachers worked double time to impress upon us the idea that one does not have to subscribe to Catholic beliefs in order to be successful at the school, or do well in the theology courses.
If you are interested in finding a school that focuses on education, social justice, and provides an open discussion of both religion and spirituality, I suggest you look into Jesuit universities.