The purpose of a Catholic and Jesuit education is perhaps best summarized by the words etched upon the entrance of Lauinger Library: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

The search for truth is the root principle of a Catholic and Jesuit education and animates the spirit of Catholicism, setting us free to serve the common good and drawing both Catholic and non-Catholic students to Georgetown University. Our Catholic and Jesuit identity makes Georgetown unique and distinct among institutions of higher learning.

Georgetown is guided by this spirit of seeking the truth and serving our fellow man in its prominent role of engaging the public sphere on a broad range of issues from our Catholic perspective, which President John J. DeGioia recognizes. The recent editorial, “A Legacy in Progress” (The Hoya, A2, Aug. 26, 2014), would like to ignore DeGioia’s important contributions in strengthening our Catholic heritage that drive this pursuit of truth.

The editorial board distorts DeGioia’s legacy by pushing for a greater distance from our Catholic identity, a position that reduces his achievements to mere political and private issues. The editorial suggests that the greater part of DeGioia’s success has not been facilitating a better learning experience for students, but providing access to abortion and contraception under the guise of women’s health care.

As students, we should not seek to undermine the very identity of our school’s faith tradition, which is intimately tied to the presence of the Jesuits. Our Catholic mission is what makes us who we are. It does not bind us under rigid dogmas, but frees us to do good and serve one another.

I believe that DeGioia recognizes this and will be remembered for his love of Georgetown’s heritage and Jesuit identity. This is seen most clearly in his support of the newly launched Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life, the Religious Freedom Project and The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. We students must support him and show our love of Georgetown’s faith tradition and the Jesuits.

We should welcome DeGioia’s efforts to support our heritage and the educational mission of the Jesuits, regardless of our individual faith backgrounds. For the past 500 years, the Jesuits have cultivated ideals that resonate in the hearts and minds of college students. Their relentless pursuit of the truth, justice and the magis has, as St. Ignatius said, “set the world on fire.”

We students of Georgetown also recognize this same character among our Jesuit professors and chaplains. Copley Crypt on weeknights at 10 p.m. boasts a packed chapel of students quietly in prayer for nightly Mass. Fr. Pat Rogers’, S.J., last nightly Mass was standing-room-only. Students have selected various Jesuit professors such as Fr. Stephen Fields, S.J., and Fr. Matthew Carnes, S.J., for academic teaching awards. Fr. James Schall’s, S.J., last lecture in 2012 drew an audience in Gaston Hall that rivaled attendance records for the most famous politicians and celebrities. Our university-wide Masses such as the Mass of the Holy Spirit, Advent Mass and Jesuit Heritage Week Mass are jam-packed.

Why is this? Why are the Jesuits so popular on campus? Is it only because they are intelligent, funny and cool? Or is it because they bring something much deeper to students?

The Jesuits bring to us the peace and truth that we are seeking as students in a world of high stress, temptation and anxiety. The Jesuits bring to us the best of Catholic education throughout the centuries. They bring to us the love of God and the truth that sets us free.

President DeGioia recognizes the contributions that the Jesuits have made on campus. He will be known for strengthening the Society’s presence and our Catholic and Jesuit tradition, which not only dates back to John Caroll in 1789, but to the first Jesuits some 500 years ago. Let us not reduce DeGioia’s legacy to personal and private political motivations, which would abandon the very heart of Georgetown — the Society of Jesus.

Louis Cona is a senior in the College.

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One Comment

  1. Fan of Jack DeGioia says:

    I have been a member of the Georgetown community for over 25 years, and could not agree more with the sentiments of Mr. Cona’s opinion piece. Sadly, 25 years ago, there was a sense that Catholic identity competed with the prestige of the university. It was consciously down-played, I literally had classmates who did not learn that Georgetown was a Catholic university until some time during our freshman orientation. President DeGioia’s immediate predecessor only exasperated that problem with one decision after another that undermined the Catholic identity of the university. Ironically, it took Georgetown’s first lay president to bring the place back. Georgetown is a much more Catholic place today, and I credit this entirely to President DeGioia’s leadership. So . . . has this change undermined the university’s prestige from where we were 25 years ago? Has it made non-Catholic members of our community feel less welcome? Has it stifled academic freedom for anyone wanting to do anything except, perhaps, experiments using embryonic stem cells? (That’s literally the only exception I can think of.) I would say no to all of the above. Congratulations to Jack DeGioia on all he has done for Georgetown and the Church. John Carroll would be very proud.

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