To be ignited
A parent shares what his family’s Jesuit education has meant to him
I owe a great deal to my parents and to the Jesuit education I received at the College of the Holy Cross. My father attended Fordham University on the GI Bill, and he and my mother had the vision to guide me to the college on the hill in Worcester, Massachusetts.
I have no doubt that my father learned lessons from the Jesuits at Rose Hill that fueled his passion for learning, honed his intellect, and inspired his spirituality and altruism. My mother’s gifted intellect, love of learning, and devotion to others would have been well-served by the Jesuits, too; unfortunately, my mother grew up in a time when women had family obligations and were expected to stabilize the household and were not encouraged as much to pursue college. I’m sure she would have excelled had she been able to follow the Jesuit way.
I arrived on campus at Holy Cross in the fall of 1972. The college made a bold move at the time to become coeducational. This showed a progressive understanding that demonstrates the Jesuit difference, which has to do with perspective and balance. For centuries the Jesuits have emphasized the need for intellectual and spiritual balance and the pursuit of truth. Holy Cross and indeed society in a better place with women and men acting together to improve the world, and the Jesuits knew this.
As a 17-year-old freshman, I was at a crossroads—and our nation was, too. There was great social and political unrest in this country and throughout the world. Over the course of the next four years, whether I was studying St. Thomas Aquinas or discussing Vietnam, the Berrigans and civil disobedience, or the presence of ROTC on campus, the Jesuits inspired freedom of thought. They taught me to engage in all manner of intellectual and spiritual matters, and to examine the individual and social self. In my thinking and writing, they encouraged reflection, inquiry, questioning, altruism, and social action, and stressed the need for spiritual and intellectual balance. Most importantly, they didn’t just espouse these beliefs, they were passionate participants; they walked side by side with others and gave selflessly of their time and expertise. Their spiritual and intellectual partnering taught me leadership lessons of love and dedication that I try to model every day in my life and teaching career.
My wife and I were elated when our daughters chose Loyola University Maryland for their Jesuit education. They made lifelong friends, learned with the Jesuits, and discovered many of the invaluable Jesuit values and teachings. The way each daughter seeks the truth and aspires to live a life of love, compassion, and faithful devotion to others is quintessential to the Jesuit way—and to Loyola’s motto, “Strong Truths Well Lived.”
Looking back to my parents and over my lifetime, the Jesuit way has enabled my family to grow intellectually and spiritually, and has been transformative. A Jesuit education calls each of us, as the poet Mary Oliver says, to embrace “the gospel of light” and act, to “be ignited.”
It is that light and fire that makes a Jesuit education burn so brightly and guide our lives.
Robert Darragh is the proud parent of two Loyola graduates: his daughters are members of the Classes of 2006 and 2008. He experienced Jesuit education firsthand at the College of the Holy Cross. He has taught English in parochial and public high schools in Connecticut for more than three decades.