McDermott Named Chief Jesuit

University Trustee, Former Student Succeeds Byron

By Ian A. Palko Hoya Staff Writer

Brian O. McDermott, S.J., officially took his office as rector of the Jesuit community at Georgetown July 31. McDermott replaces William J. Byron, S.J., who left this summer to become the pastor of Holy Trinity Church located on 36th Street.

The major focus of McDermott’s position is to be a spiritual leader to the 65 Jesuits at Georgetown, but he hopes also to use his position to reach out to students. “I hope to fine-tune the [Jesuit Community’s] mission,” he said. He feels his job is to “interpret the mission for the changing times,” he said.

While working as an associate professor of systemic theology at Weston Jesuit High School in Cambridge, Mass., McDermott also served as the Weston Jesuit Community’s rector from 1982 to 1988. He has been a member of Georgetown’s Board of Directors since 1992, beginning his second six-year term in 1999, which places him among those who will choose Georgetown’s new president within the next few months.

“I work on the principle that nothing succeeds like a successor,” Byron said of his replacement. “He knew Georgetown as a student and he’s known Georgetown as a trustee,” he added, “He’s an unusually gifted theologian.”

University President Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., praised McDermott’s role in Jesuit education as well as his role as a minister.

“Father McDermott’s distinguished career . will serve our community well as we move forward,” O’Donovan said.

Before entering the Jesuit order in 1956, McDermott attended Georgetown as an undergraduate until the end of his sophomore year. “It’s really like a homecoming,” McDermott said.

The new rector enters as a new face in the Georgetown community at a crucial point in the university’s operations soon after the departure of former Dean of Students James A. Donahue and the end of O’Donovan’s tenure as university president at the end of this academic year. McDermott also must help to make easy the transition for the Jesuits from their home in Dahlgren Quadrangle to the new Jesuit residence in the Southwest Quadrangle in less than two years. “It’s going to be a major move,” McDermott said, “but we’re going to be in another center of student activity.” McDermott hopes there will be “good accessibility” to the new Jesuit community.

“I’m in a real listening and learning mode,” McDermott said when asked about his goals for the coming months. He said that he arrived on July 30 and that it was too early to make goals yet. “You have to be in a good listening mode, though,” he added.

In a telephone interview yesterday, McDermott also spoke about the close interaction he hopes to have with Campus Ministry. He said he would be having regular meetings with Adam Bunnell, O.F.M. Conv., the university chaplain and head of Campus Ministry.

In addition to his role in Jesuit higher education, McDermott has written on many subjects such as Ignatian spirituality, Christology and theological anthropology. His written works include two books on theology. McDermott holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Fordham University, a master’s in divinity from Woodstock College and a masters in Sacred Theology from Union Theological Seminary.

The selection of McDermott was made in Rome by the Superior of the Jesuits Father General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., in Rome from among recommendations. The Superior of the Maryland Jesuit Province, which includes the Georgetown Jesuit community, makes those recommendations. The decision is made independent of the university administration.

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