Seal of the Jesuits
Jesuit USA Newsletter

January 23, 2009

New Postulator General

Anton Witwer, SJ

On November 5, Fr. Anton Witwer SJ of the Austrian Province succeeded Fr. Paolo Molinari SJ as the new postulator general for the Society of Jesus and new president of the Society’s Liturgical Commission. Molinari had been postulator general for over fifty years.

The postulator general prepares the presentation of Jesuit causes for canonization. He serves as an advocate for candidates for sainthood, encourages the initial investigation of candidates’ lives, composes an account of the candidate’s documented life, and, if a candidate’s case advances far enough, gathers evidence that a miracle can be attributed to the candidate. [Witwer]


Jesuits Killed in Russia

Jesuit priests Fr. Victor Betancourt-Ruiz and Fr. Otto Messmer, the provincial of the Jesuits’ Russian region, were found murdered in their Moscow apartment on October 28.

Betancourt-Ruiz, 42, was an Ecuadoran who taught theology at the St. Thomas Institute of Philosophy, Theology, and History in Moscow. He and Messmer, 47, served at Moscow’s Church of St. Louis de France. [National Catholic Weekly]


Superior General Urges More Time for Liberation Theology

Fr. General Adolfo Nicolás SJ spoke in favor of liberation theology in a November interview with a Spanish magazine, calling it “a courageous and creative response to an unbearable situation of injustice in Latin America.”

The superior general urged support for the still-developing theology, saying, “As with any theology, it needs years to mature. It’s a shame that it has not been given a vote of confidence and that soon its wings will be cut before it learns to fly. It needs more time.”

An overview of liberation theology, including links to a variety of media, is at [National Catholic Weekly] Up

Suspect Arrested in Cristo Rey Employee's Killing

Aysha Ring, 24, an employee at Cristo Rey High School in Baltimore, was killed at a Catonsville, Maryland, store on November 22. She was waiting in line when a young man stabbed her from behind. Police have charged David Briggs, 23, with the murder, which appears to have been an act of random violence.

Aysha’s family has established a memorial scholarship at Cristo Rey in her name. More information is available at []


Maryland Jesuits Sell Land to State for Preservation

Since the 1600s, the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus has owned nearly 4,500 acres of undeveloped land in St. Mary’s, Charles, Cecil, and Worcester counties. On December 3rd, Maryland governor Martin O’Malley announced plans to buy the land, which includes over twenty miles of shoreline, as part of his preservation program. It will be converted to public parks, trails, beaches, and ecological preserves.

The Maryland Province will use the $57 million it received for the land to cover the increasing health care expenses for aging Jesuits. “We’re honor-bound that if we do pass along the land, we do it responsibly,” says Fr. James Casciotti, SJ, the socius of the Maryland Province. “It’s also good for us to take care of our men.” [Washington Post]

St. Xavier's College in Mumbai Survives Terrorist Attacks

St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai, India, found itself at the center of terrorist attacks on the country’s financial center in late November. An alumnus, police officer Ashok Kamte, was killed in the line of fire, as was the father of an alum, India’s anti-terror squad chief Hemant Karkare.

Terrorists targeted the Cama Hospital, which shares a wall with Xavier’s campus. Despite nearby fighting, explosions, and gunfire, the campus survived the attack untouched. [Jesuits in Europe]

White House Honor for Jesuit

John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ, received the Presidential Citizens Medal this December for his work in serving the “nation’s most vulnerable youth and [instilling] in them a love of learning,” according to the White House statement. “Through his spiritual leadership of a faith-based education system that partners with the community, he has provided opportunities for young people to achieve their dreams.”

Foley founded the Cristo Rey School in Chicago, whose students, largely from inner-city families, work one day a week with corporate sponsors, gaining work experience and helping make their Catholic high school education affordable.

Foley’s Cristo Rey Network has helped replicate the school in 22 locations across the country; four more Cristo Rey schools are slated to open by 2010.

Since its inception in 1969, the medal has been given to about 100 recipients who have performed “exemplary deeds of service to the nation,” according to the White House.

Foley was waiting outside the Oval Office and was told that someone would let him in, according to a Chicago Tribune story. Foley was surprised when it was the president himself who swung open the door. [Chicago Tribune]

Around the Campuses

Le Moyne College and Georgetown University Receive Largest-Ever Donations

Syracuse’s Le Moyne College received the largest single donation in its history and one of the largest donations ever made to a Jesuit college: $50 million from the estate of longtime college supporter Robert McDevitt. Georgetown University, McDevitt’s alma mater, received $75 million–its largest gift ever.

The McDevitt Endowment at Le Moyne, which more than doubles the college’s previous endowment, will be dedicated to academic programs in computer science, information processing, physics, and religious philosophy. The donation to Georgetown will be used similarly, to fund academic positions in disciplines that reflect McDevitt’s Catholic faith and interest in science and technology.

The McDevitt estate also donated $30 million to the Diocese of Syracuse, which will use the gift to support its annual fundraising campaign, the education of seminarians, and medical care and financial aid for bishops and priests. [Le Moyne College, Regional News Network, Georgetown University]

Jesuit Colleges and Universities Well Represented in JVC

Fifty-four percent of the 2008–2009 Jesuit Volunteer Corps class are graduates of Jesuit colleges or universities. This year’s 156 Jesuit alumni represent an almost twenty percent increase in the number Jesuit alumni volunteering for JVC.

Jesuit Volunteers live in community across the United States while teaching students of all ages, providing legal services, working with refugees and immigrants, or serving in low-income communities.

More information about the Jesuit Volunteer Corps is available at [JVC]

Georgetown University Medical Professor Named to U.S. Defense Health Board

Dr. William Blazek SJ was named to the Defense Health Board, a federal advisory committee to the U.S. Secretary of Defense. The board provides independent scientific advice on matters relating to health policy development, research programs, and the delivery of health care to members of the military and their families.

Blazek has experience in health care ethics and in the military. He served as an officer with the 101st Airborne during Operations Desert Storm and Desert Shield before becoming a medical doctor and joining the Society of Jesus. [Georgetown University]

Xavier University Announces Interfaith Studies Program

Xavier University in Cincinnati has partnered with the Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion to create the world’s largest and most comprehensive undergraduate Jewish Studies program at a Catholic university.

The partnership, the first of its kind between a Catholic university and a reform Jewish rabbinical school, involves the development of interdisciplinary courses at the institutions. [Xavier University]


Remembrance of Things Past


From the Editors

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