Serving with spirit
A Q&A with Fr. Jack Dennis, S.J., as he returns to Loyola as university chaplain
After working for six years in Indianapolis as president of the Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, Rev. Jack Dennis, S.J., has returned to Loyola University Maryland as university chaplain in Campus Ministry. In his new role, he will advise and counsel students, facilitate the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program, and direct a number of retreats. A Baltimore native, Fr. Dennis received his Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and spent a year of volunteer service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. (JVC), working as a community organizer. He then entered the Society of Jesus and went on to study philosophy at Fordham University.
He has since received his Master of Theology, as well as a master’s in Educational Administration, from Harvard University. Fr. Dennis has held leadership positions at Jesuit institutions of higher education and high schools—including serving as president of Loyola Blakefield, in Towson, Md.
Fr. Dennis, who was Loyola’s director of Campus Ministry from 2008-12 and a Loyola trustee from 2012-2018, looks forward to inspiring students to be the men and women God dreams them to be.
What are some programs or initiatives you would like to start or continue at Loyola?
I like getting involved with facilitating retreats and meeting with students in pastoral ways. I’ll also be working up to 20% of my time in the office of undergraduate admission. I’d like to work with the rugby team and other club sports, because it’s something I did previously and I really enjoyed it! It’s important to understand how students are connected to their faith and provide them with opportunities to talk about any challenges they are facing. I’m also looking forward to getting personally involved in one or more service projects with Loyola students.
Why did you want to come back to Loyola?
I love working with students, and this opportunity seemed like the perfect fit! I think some of my strong suits are being relational with students, because it’s easy for me to go up and introduce myself. It also helps that my family is close by, so I can spend time with my mother, who also lives in Baltimore.
What do you like most about being a member of the Loyola community?
I like the people, and I like that we are a Jesuit institution, because I am a great believer in Jesuit education. We have a terrific Jesuit community and it’s so important that we promote the Spiritual Exercises to help instill Jesuit values. I love being a part of Campus Ministry and their diverse programming, from retreats to immersion projects to spiritual direction. Finally, I love the students! They are fantastic to talk to, and they always amaze me with their independence, energy and excitement, even when they first arrive on campus.
What are the distinct benefits of a Jesuit, liberal arts-based education when it comes to students pursuing a career?
Graduates often get jobs in fields they may or may not be specifically trained in, because employers want students who are well-rounded, and Loyola provides that experience. Loyola’s core classes animate your heart and soul, forcing you to look at who you are, who you aspire to become, and what role faith plays in your life. A Loyola education helps you adjust to global change and empowers you to notice and engage social injustice in your community. A Jesuit education makes you think and pushes you past your comfort zone.
What is something your students don’t know or would be surprised to learn about you?
Perhaps that I attended a Catholic military grade school, Mt. Washington Country School for Boys, run by the Sisters of Mercy. That I love going to the FAC on a daily basis. I hurt my back three years ago and have had six back operations in the last 15 months, so I am trying to return to lifting weights appropriately again.
What is your favorite time of the academic year—and why?
I like fall because there are so many events, new faces, and new connections to make.