By Rev. Mark J. Lane, CO
Director of Campus Ministry
I recently spent some time with a Regis grad and his family. Once again I was struck by an alum’s deep and generous belief in how singularly transformative was the gift of his Regis scholarship. As my friend put it, Regis changed his life and opened for him—and subsequently his family—a life “I would not have otherwise had.”
My friend, like most of his generation, attended a New York area elementary school attached to his local parish. It was there his talents were nurtured and recognized. Catholic parochial schools were the training ground and conduit for Regis admissions.
In recent years, with the steady stream of closings and amalgamation of parish schools, the demographics of a Regis scholarship recipient no longer guarantee a student arrives not only academically prepared but with the benefit of years of Catholic formation. Recognizing the consequences of an intellectually precocious student arriving at Regis not always equipped religiously, we began at Freshman Orientation last year a program that grounds the practices and beliefs of their Catholic faith in the context of the dignity and genius of faith and the mission of Regis.
This year we have further developed the program. Freshman will begin their Regis life in the school chapel. With prayer and in the context of faith we will offer them an understanding of how our Catholic faith and Jesuit identity is not only the reason the school exists but the very heart and soul of whatever success we can claim.
We want every student who comes to Regis to be familiar and comfortable with his Catholic identity, from the most basic and practical aspects such as holy water and genuflecting, to the heroic generosity and courage of the saints. We want them to be practiced in the art of prayer and meditation. We want them to learn to be reflective and thoughtful. We want to facilitate an appreciation for the intellectual richness, monumental compassion, and inspiring valor of people of faith. We want them to have experience meeting others through service and a commitment to justice, especially committed to the most vulnerable. While also giving them the means to honestly and critically recognize the Church is, in the words of Vatican II, “semper reformada” : a divinely inspired but nevertheless human community of saints and sinners “always in need of reform”.
Throughout the century of its existence the Catholic and Jesuit identity of Regis has remained fundamental to its mission. The initial and ongoing impetus of why The Society of Jesus is committed to education is the deeply human and religious heart of St. Ignatius Loyola. For St. Ignatius’s faith is the heart and fire of every undertaking. God in all things.
When the Foundress and Fr. Hearn began the noble experiment that is Regis, the Jesuit and Catholic identity were paramount to their generous and visionary initiative. On one level they saw an underserved company of Catholic students with ample drive and agile minds, but who—through no fault of their own—lacked the resources and opportunities to access an academically rigorous and personally transformative education. The establishment of Regis would provide deserving young Catholic boys what they lacked.
But the Catholic and Jesuit identity of Regis was not simply the vehicle to deliver a rigorous academic education, it was the very reason for its existence.
The school mission states: “With an emphasis on academic rigor and Catholic formation, the schools program is designed to promote each student’s intellectual and spiritual growth grounded in a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ.”
In the Jesuit model of education faith, and academics are conjoined; they are not two separate undertakings, but two sides of the one endeavor. The current Superior General Father Arturo Sossa, SJ recently expressed this so:
“Academic excellence, a fundamental dimension in Jesuit schools, was placed within the context of training for integral human excellence. It is this integral human excellence that gives purpose to academic excellence.”
Education for faith then is not an add-on but integral to every aspect of school life, from the sports field to the science lab, from the cafeteria to the classroom. Faith is not just for the chapel, service, or on retreat—though these are each constitutive in the overall mission—but animate every aspect of school life, like leaven in dough. Faith, when vibrant and vital, is the spark that enlivens the most mundane to the most exalted aspects of Regis. Faith has the power to make us fully human and fully alive.
To again quote Fr. Sosa, Jesuit education needs to be “the offering of religious training that opens students up to the transcendental dimension of life and cultivates an experience of Christian faith that can transform personal and social life.”
This is the impetus to begin the freshman orientation with the rich and complex tradition of Catholic faith. We want the students entrusted to our care for four years to emerge stronger, more aware, compassionate, and committed.
As was seen from the very beginning, we believe that faith is essential to a healthy and successful life and the fulfillment of our noble mission. Indeed, faith—expressed through our Catholic and Jesuit identity and practice—ennobles the mission of the school. It is our earnest prayer and commitment to give each student entrusted with a scholarship the ability to one day look back and say “I have lived and shared a life with others I would not have had but for my time at Regis.”