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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Jesuit Heritage Week 2007

Dahlgren Chapel
Georgetown University
February 4, 2007

Just last month, an article appeared in magazine by Jesuit Cardinal Avery Dulles.  Dulles—the first U.S. theologian, who was not a bishop, to be named a Cardinal; an Associate Fellow of the Woodstock Theological Center; and a frequent visitor to the Hilltop—posed an interesting question.  And it’s a question that deserves our attention as we conclude Jesuit Heritage Week.  He asked simply: What distinguishes the Jesuits? 

His answer was also simple.  Cardinal Dulles wrote that “evangelization is at the heart of all Jesuit apostolates in teaching, in research, in spirituality, and in the social apostolate.

Evangelization, the preaching of the Gospel through word and deed, begins with the understanding that God is calling us to serve him…to serve each other…to serve the common good. That very same call also resonates through today’s readings.

When the Lord says to Isaiah, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah instantly answers, “Send me.”  In Corinthians, St. Paul refers to his work—his preaching—done through the grace of God so that others may believe.  And in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells the first disciples, “Do not be afraid,” from now on they will be fishers of men.

But if we are all called to serve God…to serve each other…to serve the common good, how do we best answer that call?  How do we know, to paraphrase Pope Benedict XVI on the new evangelization, which path to take?
At Georgetown, our Jesuit heritage helps provide the answer.

Our Jesuit heritage and traditions help inspire our community to care for one another, especially our students; to care for the whole person, body, mind and spirit—and to be committed to the highest standards of teaching and research.

Our Jesuit heritage and traditions help inspire our students to be thoughtful, intellectually curious, and concerned for their communities, both local and global.

And our Jesuit heritage and tradition inspire all of us—in the spirit of St. Ignatius Loyola—to engage in the world to make it a better place. In fact, our heritage requires that social justice issues are never consigned to the shadows of our consciousness. That we view global inequality as the central moral challenge of our lifetime.  That we fight for a global economy that benefits not the few, but the many. That we foster understanding among faiths and cultures while promoting peace and social justice. And that all of us who have the privilege of being part of a community like Georgetown accept responsibility not only for our own development, but for the collective development of the human family

One person who personified the Jesuit heritage was Jesuit Father Robert F. Drinan.  Father Drinan passed away this Sunday after a lifetime dedicated to his community, his church, his country. Perhaps best known for the five terms he served in Congress, we knew him as an alumnus and a distinguished professor at our law school. Throughout his life, he was a vigorous advocate for human rights, ethical standards and justice.  He certainly heard, and answered, God’s call to service, and it’s fitting that we remember and honor him during Jesuit Heritage Week.

But we celebrate and commemorate our Jesuit—and Catholic—heritage not just this week, but every week, and every day, because it is the very essence of the Georgetown experience. It has been our hallmark and benchmark since our founding.    It helps us discern the path that God intends for us. And it guides us, directs us, and inspires us as we try to answer the call to serve God…to serve each other…to serve the common good.

It is a powerful privilege to be a Jesuit institution.

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