It is not everyday that a Georgetown student has the chance to play volleyball against a Jesuit. During Jesuit Heritage Week – which extends from Feb. 3 to Feb. 9 – Hoyas will have the opportunity not only to challenge the Jesuits’ undefeated volleyball team but also to learn about the university’s rich Jesuit and Catholic history.
“A lot of kids go through Georgetown without receiving a real Georgetown education,” said David Gregory (COL ’10), co-chair of JHW. “In order to get a Jesuit education, students have to engage in the tradition and history of the school. This is an opportunity for students to engage in that tradition and to really get a glimpse into what that tradition means.”
Gregory, along with Amanda Murphy (SFS ’09), led a 15-member committee that developed 28 events aimed at bringing Georgetown’s Jesuit past and present to the forefront of university discussion.
“Whether in the eight Fireside Chats, in which teams of Jesuits meet with students in the residence halls prior to the week, or the wide variety of activities during the week which engage the spiritual and academic to the social and athletic, the leaders of JHW invite their fellow students, faculty, staff and alums to explore our Jesuit tradition in ways which are reflective, stimulating and fun,” said Fr. Phil Boroughs, S.J., vice president of the Office of Mission and Ministry.
Students have a multitude of events to choose from during the week – each focusing on a different aspect of the Jesuit influence on campus. Many events emphasize the educational component of the Ignatian tradition. Yesterday, Ron Hansen, the author of “Exiles,” spoke in Riggs Library about his novel on the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. Today, Rev. Daniel Madigan, S.J. hosts “Jesuit Commitment to Interreligious Dialogue” in Riverside Lounge. Among the numerous events is the “Spiritual Series,” a four-part discussion with different members of the Jesuit community on the religious elements of Ignatius practice.
The Jesuit Heritage Week ends on Sunday with a closing Mass, led by Boroughs in the Dahlgren Chapel of the Sacred Heart. Following the Mass, a closing reception will be held in Copley Formal Lounge.
“At the heart of what Jesuits do is a relationship with Christ,” Gregory said. “The series explores various aspects of spirituality. In my mind, that is what is at the heart of this relationship of God, and exploring his greater glory.”
Gregory and Murphy said that they have worked closely with the Office of Mission and Ministry, which they credit as indispensable in organizing the week’s events.
urphy said that she hopes Jesuit Heritage Week will give Georgetown students a greater understanding of how Georgetown’s past has influenced the type of university it has become today.
“Jesuit heritage includes more than just talking about Jesuits and who they are but also about people who are affected by Jesuits,” Murphy said.
Along with a focus on the university’s religious history, JHW aims to emphasize the Jesuit tradition of service. Today, students can participate in JHW’s annual service project, which involves volunteering at the pediatric unit of the Georgetown University Hospital.
Leading the service project, Kayla Towey (SFS ’10) thinks that service is a crucial element in the Jesuit experience.
“The service project is a way for students to actively live out the mission of the Jesuits being `Women and Men for Others,’ Towey said.
JHW also offers more lighthearted opportunities to interact with Georgetown’s Jesuit community. Today, students can discuss theology over a drink with a Jesuit at “Theology on Tap!” Tomorrow, students can attend “Jamming With the Jesuits,” at which respected members of the university’s religious community will perform with the Georgetown Gospel Choir and Georgetown Superfood.
“We are trying to show the students an environment in which they don’t usually get to engage with the Jesuits,” Murphy said.
JHW extends beyond the university’s Roman Catholic background to include other religions. Today, the Jewish Student Association House will host a “Jesuit Shabbat” with Rev. Kevin O’Brien, S.J.
“As the Spirit of Georgetown project indicates, one of the important values of our Catholic and Jesuit identity is our commitment to interreligious understanding,” Boroughs said. “During JHW, this learning continues through Fireside Chats, panels and invitations to speak at various worship services.”
Jesuit Heritage Week began in the spring of 2001 when several Georgetown students became concerned that their fellow classmates were leaving the university without a true understanding of its religious origins.
“It was a student impetus,” Murphy said. “It was a way to connect us, as students, with the Jesuit community and to learn what it means to be a Jesuit school.”
Boroughs said that he sees JHW as an indication of the university’s active and aware student body.
“Jesuit Heritage Week is another clear example of the creative initiative of Georgetown students,” Boroughs said. “For the past nine years they have organized this annual celebration to promote our Jesuit identity and values, not just as a part of our history, but as a dynamic dimension of a living tradition on campus.”