Each year, a few hundred students venture into the mountains to reflect, bond and sing songs as part of the ESCAPE retreat. After nine years at Georgetown, the man largely responsible for shaping the retreat into its current success, Fr. Patrick Rogers, S.J., will depart to enter the tertianship program of the Society of Jesus.
Tertainship, a period of reflection, is the last step before a Jesuit takes his final vows.
“I’ve been called to finish my formation as a Jesuit priest. … Every Jesuit has to do it and you do it post-ordination,” Rogers, the current director of Catholic chaplaincy, said. “And I’ve been talking about this with my superiors and for various reasons we decided that it would be the time now to finish the process. I knew this was coming years ago, in some sense, but it was finalized back in December.”
Having entered the Society of Jesus 22 years ago, Rogers, 50, a professional musician by trade and education, was ordained in 2002. He worked in a parish and at Xavier High School in New York City before coming to Georgetown, his longest assignment.
He was originally hired to work with the ESCAPE program and conduct part-time ministry on the medical campus. Within six months, Rogers was asked to assume the position of director of Campus Ministry on the main campus, with the aim of reorganizing the department.
“When I first got here, there was just a lot of confusion in our own department … about who reports to whom, what’s our budget,” Rogers said. “I think what I’m proudest of is the fact that we have a really professional department.”
Under his leadership, Campus Ministry strengthened its integration with the rest of the university by engaging with a broader tapestry of departments, particularly the McDonough School of Business. Rogers worked with MSB deans on immersion programs that entailed working with poor businesses in Latin America.
The priest held the position of director for seven years, before the appointment of Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J. (C ’88) as vice president for mission and ministry allowed for a reimagination of the department, including the creation of a Campus Ministry managing director position. Rogers subsequently stepped down as director in order to concentrate on his coursework for a doctorate of liberal studies, which he recently completed. He will work on his doctoral thesis after tertianship.
O’Brien and Rogers have known each other for 18 years, when the former joined the Jesuits.
“Pat joined the Jesuits before I did, so in a sense, I looked up to him,” O’Brien said. “Pat is a pastor above all. He has a very engaging dynamic and welcoming personality. He is well-known among students, faculty and staff and well loved. He will be greatly missed because of his always friendly and uplifting presence.”
O’Brien described Rogers’ commitment to the ESCAPE program, which was echoed by Imam Yahya Hendi, the director of Muslim chaplaincy.
“I don’t know if we can understand the ESCAPE retreat very well without him. The ESCAPE retreat has become very known, very outreaching because of him. He has been able to help the retreat engage more [non-Catholics] than before,” Hendi said.
Rogers supervised former ESCAPE director Bridget Sherry for over three years.
“He’s a wonderful musician. … We do a lot of singing on ESCAPE and that’s a real gift of Fr. Pat’s. He really has a lot of exuberance and love of life that really comes through,” she said. Rogers extended this love of music to the larger campus community, with “Jammin’ Jesuit Java” nights.
Rogers also founded the LGBTQ Catholic Prayer Group, which predates the establishment of the LGBTQ Resource Center.
“The students that I’ve had the chance to work with in this group have changed and strengthened my faith in so many ways. Many of them live in the painful tension between their sexuality and their faith,” Rogers wrote in an email. “I always sought to deepen the students’ faith through the lens of Ignatian principles and to help them navigate that tricky road of faith that every person must walk regardless of one’s sexual orientation. The robust faith of these students continues to humble me.”
Sherry currently serves as special projects coordinator at the LGBTQ Resource Center and has borne witness to the prayer group’s effect on students.
“Fr. Pat is someone who has been an ally and caretaker for students. I think he’s brought a lot of joy,” she said. “I think Fr. Pat’s prayer group is a really real way that Georgetown and Campus Ministry can show there’s a real place for these students and that they don’t have to turn away from their faith because of who they are. … And I think that’s really healing in immeasurable ways.”
Another focus of Campus Ministry during Rogers’ time in the department has been interfaith collaboration, with programming featuring members of the Jewish, Muslim, Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic chaplaincies.
“The fact that he comes to Friday service and sits on the floor and prays with Muslims, that opened so many doors between him and the Muslim students. That made it easier for him to engage and be engaged,” Hendi said.
Hendi and Rogers led an interfaith trip to the Middle East to explore the Holy Land. The imam described the priest as the ideal travelling partner, pointing to his humility, honesty and humor, a reflection agreed upon by many of Rogers’ associates.
“I met Fr. Pat when he first arrived on campus. I remember seeing this imposing figure with a smile that welcomed everyone,” Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Jeanne Lord wrote in an email. “Fr. Pat has a generous heart, that’s matched by his wisdom and kindness. He’s one of the first people we turn to when there’s a student in need, and we can always count on him.”
Rogers’ last day at the university is June 10 and he will leave for Portland, Ore., in August to embark on tertianship, which lasts between six months and one year. During this time, the Jesuit undertakes direct ministry with the poor, a silent retreat and study of the society’s founding documents, fostering a deeper connection to the order. The stages of a Jesuit formation are directed by the Jesuit’s provincial.
“Typically, five to 10 years after theology, men do enter tertianship,” Maryland Province Communications Associate Sheila Welton said. “I do think there is a kind of typical process, and it’s mutual. It’s designed so that it is an individual experience. … [The decision] is mutual between the Jesuit and the provincial through conversations and prayers.”
After tertianship, Rogers will complete his doctoral thesis from Georgetown, but his future destination remains uncertain at this point. He expressed a deep admiration and adoration of the Georgetown community and his time here, which was slightly atypical in its length.
“Usually you would do this four to five years after ordination,” Rogers said of tertianship. “At one point I just kept my head down, hoping they’d forget.”