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#JesuitEducated – A Reflection from President Cornacchia

For nearly 500 years, millions of people across the world have experienced the power of a Jesuit education, including Pope Francis. In honor of the Pope’s upcoming historic trip to the United States this September, Saint Peter’s University has partnered with the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) and the other 27 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States to explore what it means to be #JesuitEducated. Eugene J. Cornacchia Ph.D., president of Saint Peter’s University, has shared what Jesuit education means to him. Join in on the conversation and share what Jesuit education means to you by using the hashtag #JesuitEducated.

Gene_Selfie_StIgnatiusStatistics, facts and figures…I have always appreciated the value of data and the use of quantitative methods in seeking answers to compelling research questions. Data can be extremely useful in understanding and addressing public policy problems and in the ultimate pursuit of truth. In fact, an entire industry focused on data is growing exponentially every day. Regardless of the value data can provide, any leader, teacher or student knows that this type of analysis can only go so far in addressing real world problems. This is where my passion for Jesuit education and Catholic social teaching comes into consideration.

My personal experience with Jesuit education began at Fordham University in the early 1970s. From protests of the Vietnam War to Watergate, I was introduced to the Jesuit ideals of intellectual rigor, critical analysis, integration of knowledge and deep concern for moral and ethical questions, during a time of great social and political upheaval. Jesuit education and Catholic social teaching calls us to be agents of change for society and the world and this calling is what attracted me to Saint Peter’s University, where I served for decades as a professor, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and today as president. Here on the frontiers of urban society, we educate first generation students from incredibly diverse backgrounds to go forth and change the world.

While Jesuit education is ingrained in who we are and what we do at Saint Peter’s, the Jesuit tradition was not as readily familiar to the general public, that is until Pope Francis was elected as the first Jesuit pope. Pope Francis truly is an extraordinary example of Jesuit education and Catholic social teaching in action. He has already had a greater impact than any pope in recent memory. He has been a catalyst for young people and Catholics who have fallen away from the Church to reconnect. His welcoming message of inclusion and compassion is connecting with the Saint Peter’s community as we have seen an increasing number of our students attending Mass at our University church and participating in campus ministry activities.

The hope and promise of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States is that he will bring a message of peace, justice, love, and most importantly, grace and mercy to an America that lately has shown little of these important values. This visit provides an exceptional opportunity for us to share the ideals of Jesuit education with the country beyond our Jesuit campuses.