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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

What’s the Value in Jesuit Values?: Exploring Spirituality on an Interfaith Campus

Illustration by Claire Min/ The Hoya
Decisions like the Georgetown Lecture Fund’s choice to host leaders of the Satanic Temple have sparked campus discourse about the role of Jesuit values in Georgetown’s mission today.

From Holi to Holy Week, the Georgetown University campus is constantly buzzing with celebrations, events and services from a variety of faith traditions.

The spiritual diversity present at Georgetown is no accident. Founded by the Catholic order of the Society of Jesus — the Jesuits — Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States. The United States’ first Catholic bishop, Fr. John Carroll, S.J., formally chartered the school in 1789 with a founding vision for the university that intentionally included students of all faiths and backgrounds. 

Over two centuries later, Georgetown continues to espouse Jesuit values. The university conducts a self-study, known as the Mission Priority Examen, every few years to deliberately reflect on its institutional commitment to its Jesuit mission, with its most recent reflection process finishing April 12. 

Georgetown’s resources for spiritual growth include the theology curriculum, regular services and celebrations and the Residential Ministry program, in which trained pastoral ministers live in on-campus housing. 

Fr. Mark Bosco, S.J., the university’s vice president of mission and ministry, said Jesuit values and traditions, including the Jesuits’ Latin motto, continue to inspire students. 

“Ad maiorem Dei gloriam — for the greater glory of God — prompts us, as a community, to strive for the deeper, more effective good,” Bosco told The Hoya. 

Fr. Christopher Steck, S.J., a professor of theology and residential minister in first-year dormitory New South Hall, said this motto — including its extended second half — prompts students to better align their goals with service.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem translates to ‘For the greater glory of God and the service of humanity,’” Steck told The Hoya. “This phrase is a reminder to students that the greatness, the achievement, the worldly success that they seek is meant to serve something greater than themselves.”

Tradition, Diversity and Education

John Carroll founded Georgetown at a time when both the Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church faced suppression. Jesuits in Europe and South America faced widespread oppression from the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the school’s founding. In 1773 Pope Clement XIV officially suppressed the Society of Jesus, forcing Jesuit missionaries to move their operations underground. 

According to Bosco, Georgetown was born in a new context, into a young nation with the potential to embrace religious pluralism that European authorities had rejected. In establishing a Jesuit, Catholic university, Carroll hoped to utilize a humanities-based education to form virtuous members of society.

Bosco said this history of suppression makes Carroll’s founding of Georgetown as an explicitly Catholic, Jesuit school particularly profound.

“John Carroll’s decision to found the university on Jesuit and Catholic principles was a revolutionary thing, a radical idea,” Bosco said. “Catholicism was considered a ‘European thing’ at the time of the university’s founding.” 

Bosco said he believes that Georgetown’s founding illuminated a path for religious acceptance at the advent of the United States, which has since compelled the university to invest in a rich history of interfaith dialogue and emphasize Catholic social thought and values like cura personalis, or care for the whole person. 

“John Carroll realized that pluralism is not something to be afraid of, and he realized that Jesuit values function as a catalyst for religious pluralism,” Bosco said

Bosco said Georgetown has aimed to better facilitate religious pluralism, particularly in the last 30 years. In 1999, Georgetown became the first U.S. university to hire a full-time Muslim chaplain, Imam Yahya Hendi, who serves as the school’s director of Muslim life.

“Jesuit values are also Muslim values, one could say, as well as being universal values,” Hendi told The Hoya. “They are not only in one religion, they are not only in one tradition, rather they are universal values that all human beings can find meaning in.”

According to Bosco, Campus Ministry’s expansion only progressed the university’s mission of promoting justice.

“After Imam Hendi arrived, the campus ministry team realized that we need to take care of everyone — Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists — and that we needed to be a team doing it,” Bosco said. “The role of a religious institution is to inspire people to be their best selves.” 

In the same vein, the university’s call for students to become “people for others,” a Jesuit phrase which Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., a former Superior General of the Society of Jesus known for his dedication to social justice, coined, encourages students to empower those around them. 

Bosco said Georgetown students uniquely understand this call to social justice as a result of their Jesuit education. 

“When you attend a Jesuit institution, you go through a way of understanding who you are,” Bosco said. “This leads to an understanding of how you can create a better and more just world.


Georgetown University has adopted several core values of the Jesuit Order, including cura personalis, emphasizing the well-being of students. (Georgetown University)


Campus Discourse and Social Justice

Conversations on how Georgetown should incorporate traditional Jesuit and Catholic values into modern student life have at times created tension on campus, particularly on issues like religious and political freedom. 

In October, the Georgetown Lecture Fund, an organization that invites speakers to campus and aims to spark student dialogue, invited the co-founders of the Satanic Temple, a religious institution that aims to fight against Christian values in American politics, Lucien Greaves and Malcolm Jerry, to speak on campus. 

The event prompted widespread outcry from various faith organizations and students on campus, with Catholic Ministry hosting a service in Dahlgren Chapel at the same time as the event to respond. 

Over 100 students signed a petition of discontent, believing that the event stood in direct opposition to the university’s Jesuit mission and ideals of mutual respect.

Michael Chorabik (CAS ’24) said he signed the petition because he thought the event went against the university’s Jesuit mission. 

“I find it disheartening that, in inviting this group to campus, the university seems to prioritize free speech as its own end, as opposed to a means by which it can create a flourishing community,” Chorabik wrote to The Hoya.

However, Zan Haq (SFS ’24), the Lecture Fund’s chair, said the organization’s goals aligned with the university’s aim of fostering dialogue.

“It’s about creating dialogue on campus with what’s happening in the world and making sure students both understand the perspectives that are important in the world but can also be critical of them,” Haq told The Hoya.

A university spokesperson said that Georgetown is deeply committed to both free speech and inclusivity. 

“As the nation’s oldest Catholic and Jesuit institution, Georgetown University is proud to be a university that deeply values our faith tradition and that encourages the free and open exchange of ideas,” the spokesperson wrote to The Hoya. “We are committed to being an inclusive campus and community that welcomes people of all faiths, races, ethnicities, sexualities, gender identities, abilities and backgrounds.” 

Bosco said it is important for students to consider the nuances of tension between modernity and traditional religion.

“How do we make sure that being modern doesn’t become a mocking satire of Judaism, of Islam, of the Dharmic communities, of Catholicism or of Protestantism?” Bosco said. “I don’t think the students on the Lecture Fund intended to hurt anyone, but when any event brings somebody that belittles or mocks any religion it’s a very painful thing for those who hold dearly those tenets or that faith.”

Bosco added that respectful disagreement is an important part of Jesuit values. 

“I think one of the great values of all of our Jesuit values is that we really listen to the other person, and that’s really what cura personalis is about,” Bosco said. “We don’t have to agree, but we have to make sure that when we disagree, that it’s not done as a pivotal moment of pain or of hurt or of this zero-sum game.”

“We can agree to disagree in a way that respects the dignity of the other person,” Bosco added.

Steck said he recognizes the need for diverse religious perspectives when discussing politics.

“I am delighted to be at a university where interreligious conversations can happen, where learning from other religious traditions can happen,” Steck said. “Especially in times of uncertainty, diverse dialogue emphasizes the importance of fostering a welcoming community for all.”

Steck said he has found that religious diversity has benefited Georgetown during ongoing protests and conversations over the ongoing conflict in Gaza. Since October, students have utilized the university’s campus as a medium of their free expression. Frequent protests, walk-outs and information sessions have only promoted the sharing of diverse opinions.

“The fact that we have a very active Muslim student body and the very fact that we have a very active Jewish student body has really served us well during the crisis in Gaza,” Steck said.

According to Steck, the Campus Ministry has aimed to respond to the conflict in Gaza by promoting dialogue. In January, the Office of Mission & Ministry hosted a dialogue between an Israeli mother and a Palestinian brother who both lost family members in the crisis in Gaza.

“There has been disagreement on how we navigate the issue of Gaza and what is happening, but I know we are doing it with civility and respect,” Hendi said.

According to Hendi, civility is the defining characteristic of a healthy community. 

“The word ‘civilization’ is always understood through the eyes of physical growth — the construction of high-rise buildings, impressive highways and innovative infrastructure,” Hendi said. “However, civilizations are not measured by their physical look or facade; rather, civilizations are measured by the sense of civility that exists within the hearts of its citizens.”

Hendi said he commends the student body’s willingness to engage in difficult conversations around religious conflict.

“I have had Jewish students come into my office to talk about what is happening, to hear me, to hear my perspective, to hear their perspective,” he noted. “I know of Muslim students who engage with rabbis, asking how they navigate issues of social justice, economic justice and political justice.”

According to Steck, these dialogues have provided students with a sense of clarity amidst violence.

“It is important that conversations were already going on before this crisis, and they mitigate the temptation to create caricatures of the other side and, instead, convince students to see people as human beings — not as abstractions,” Steck said.

Incoming, Current and Outgoing 

For incoming first-year James Long, Georgetown’s Jesuit identity offers a sense of comfort. A current high school senior from Knoxville, Tenn., Long has attended several Catholic schools and said he sees value in a religious education. 

“Even though I don’t personally identify as a Catholic, over the last seven years I realized that the Catholics do education really well,” Long told The Hoya. 

Long attended an admitted students’ weekend through the Georgetown Admissions Ambassador Program (GAAP), a student-run organization that serves prospective and admitted students, and said he noticed that Georgetown’s emphasis on Jesuit values extended beyond a verbal commitment to religious diversity and care.

“Contrary to some other Catholic institutions that are really just solely focused on ‘We’re only going to provide religious services to you if you’re Catholic,’ I thought it was really special to see that there’s something for everyone whether you’re Protestant, or Orthodox Christian, or Jewish, or Hindu or Muslim,” Long said. 

Chorabik is a graduate of Loyola Blakefield, an all-male Jesuit Catholic high school in Towson, Md. Currently in his eighth year of Jesuit education and 19th year of Catholic education, Chorabik said that he has found immense personal value in a Jesuit education focused on a commitment to God and service.

“Doing things ‘Ad majorem Dei gloriam’ is the most fulfilling thing we can do on this Earth,” Chorabik told The Hoya. “It reminds us to do things not for ourselves, but for others.”

Reflecting on his own Georgetown experience, Chorabik said he has gained from the university’s emphasis on service, justice and peace in the world.

“There is a commitment to service that the university strives to instill in its students,” Chorabik said. “In completing service, Georgetown helps you improve, becoming a better person in mind, body and spirit.”

Julian Jimenez (CAS ’24) said Georgetown’s religious diversity has prepared him to fulfill his ambitions of attending seminary school en route to becoming a Catholic priest. 

“Georgetown will actually help you to be a better Christian or Catholic by being a place that really allows other ideas, religions to do their own things,” Jimenez said. “I think it’s actually better to go to Georgetown, with its diversity, than to a school that is purely Catholic because you’re not really going to experience the friction that makes a good Catholic.”

Hendi said the true measure of Jesuit values lies in how students utilize them beyond a scholastic context. 

“At the end of the day, values are measured by their impact on the community,” Hendi said. “The essence of these values lies in the ability to translate them into action, into policies that actually show on the ground, that make a difference in people’s lives.”

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