Jumping Into the Jesuit Tradition at Fordham

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ANDREW BEECHER/THE OBSERVER

These values are not just far-off embodiments of the Jesuit mission, but concepts that constantly impact Fordham.

By SAM ELBEDEIWY, Contributing Writer

From orientation to graduation, “being men and women for others” and “cura personalis” are two Jesuit phrases that are drilled into every Fordham student’s head. Whether you strive to embody these values or not, they establish the foundation of Jesuit philosophy upon which Fordham was founded. 

Aside from emphasizing “care for the entire person,” what do these Jesuit values really mean in the greater context of Fordham University … and how exactly are Jesuit values enforced beyond just cura personalis? Is every Fordham student a Jesuit?

The Society of Jesus, also known as “God’s Marines” or more colloquially as the Jesuits, was founded in 1534 by the ex-military priest St. Ignatius of Loyola. Under his vision, the Jesuits became a Roman Catholic order of priests driven by spirituality and reflection to ultimately “find God in all things.” A philosophy was ultimately spread to three different continents by means of founding 74 colleges premised around ethics, leadership and community service. 

Fast forward approximately 300 years, and Fordham University (initially called St. John’s College) was constructed and opened in 1841 by Bishop John Hughes. A lot has changed —  like the impressive growth from the six students in 1841 to the 16,000 that wander Fordham’s halls today and the construction of the Lincoln Center campus — in the place that we now call our home.

That being said, being a Fordham Ram doesn’t make you a Jesuit. Rather, the Jesuit Order is a group of over 16,000 priests, brothers and scholastics who are dedicated to the “greater glory of God.” By dedicating themselves to poverty, chastity and obedience — both to God and to the worldwide mission — the Jesuit title is a highly impressive designation within the Catholic domain. The United States is home to only 3,000 Jesuits, and Fordham itself has around 30 Jesuits among its campuses. As one of 27 Jesuit universities in the United States, Fordham is a frontrunner in Jesuit education. Fordham plays an important role in integrating Jesuit ideals into a collegiate environment.

Built upon the foundation of the Society of Jesus, it starts to become clear as to how Fordham embodies Jesuit ideals every day. In addition to the “IHS” symbol on Fordham’s logo — the  Greek abbreviation of the name Jesus — the Jesuits are responsible for creating a safe space for expressing curiosity that urges you to push beyond the “self” through service, contemplation and taking part in the many ways you can experience New York City. 

Mia Colanero, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’22, grew up attending various Catholic schools. Colanero said that many of her “super Catholic” teachers thought that the Jesuits “were not real Catholics” because of their more accepting outlook on certain points of controversy within the church. 

When she found Fordham, she was relieved to be at a place that was not so “high and mighty, and more about serving people.” To Colanero, “the Jesuit order is the most Catholic; I think this is how it should be.” 

“I think the values of the Jesuits are super honorable. Service is insanely important no matter what your religious beliefs are. To me, the Jesuits are based around loving and serving others and that’s something that I also try to base myself on.” 

In that sense, Jesuit values like “being men and women for others” and “cura personalis” don’t necessarily define Fordham, but they underpin the incredibly diverse, self-explorative, boundary-pushing experience that describes every Fordham student’s journey from orientation to graduation. So the next time you are bored in your Eloquentia Perfecta class, remember that you are being cultivated to learn the graceful art of rhetoric rather than just taking a dull English class.