The mission of study
At the start of the academic year the Jesuits in Britain welcome new post graduate students from around the Jesuit world who have come to study at British universities.
This week the Mount Street Jesuit community were introduced to six men of wide-ranging talent embarking on new courses of study, by biblical scholar Fr Nick King SJ, who is the Provincial’s Assistant for Formation.
“There are four elements to the Formation job, so far as I can see,” Fr Nick explained. “First, calling this welcome meeting; second, there is a meeting of all Jesuits from overseas who are working in Britain. This year it will be held in December at the Kairos Centre, Roehampton; thirdly during the year I aim to have a one-to-one conversation with each of the men, touching on four major points, namely their academic progress, the community situation, their pastoral work, and their spiritual growth. The fourth element is simply to be there for them at any time.”
“Studies are a mission as much as work in a parish or social apostolate,” he concluded.
The six men, all from the Americas, bring great gifts to the intellectual apostolate in a wide range of disciplines.
Max Koch SJ from Argentina is in London to study for an MA in Education at University College, having completed a PhD in international law in Madrid. He is living with the Jesuit community at Stamford Hill and undertaking pastoral ministry within the parish of St Ignatius, which has a strong Latin American community. He was struck by the great cultural diversity of the parish, “it is an amazing parish,” he said, “I am very pleased to be based there.”
Joe Simmonds SJ from Milwaukee Wisconsin is one of three new arrivals to the community at Campion Hall in Oxford. It turns out that he was taught NT Greek at Boston College by Fr Nick King. Ordained last year, he is embarking on a PhD in Theology and Literature.
He will be joined by Henry Shea SJ from Minnesota who will be studying for his DPhil in Systemic Theology under Fr James Hanvey SJ. He has previously undertaken pastoral work with immigrant Hispanic communities in Richmond Virginia, “I found it really fruitful and rewarding,” he observed.
As a Spanish speaker, he is hoping to assist at the Oxford University chaplaincy with the monthly Spanish mass. Henry recalled Fr Nick King teaching his junior class when he made a brief visit to Georgetown Prep, teaching them New Testament out of the original Greek. “I was very grateful,” he remembers.
Also moving into Campion Hall will be Matthew Dunch SJ from Ohio, who will be studying for a PhD in the Epistemology of Mystical Ascent. Matthew was ordained last year. His previous work with physically disabled people as a hospital chaplain and as a member of the L’Arche community, have led him to study how the brain narrates sensory perception.
“I noticed how amputee war veterans who had reduced mobility, also talked in more abstract terms, as though the world collapsed into the room. The way we conceptualise space forms the basis of how we develop speech,” he explained.
Eric Studt SJ will be studying for his PhD in the Philiosphy of Art at St Andrews University. He will be joining the Edinburgh Jesuit community, travelling each week to St Andrews, and hoping to contribute to the musical life of the Sacred Heart parish as well as taking a turn on the mass rota. “I’m also hoping to spend all the time I can in museums,” he commented.
Thomas Flowers SJ from California, a specialist in Reformation history, spent some time researching the right tutor for his PhD subject – Peter Canisius SJ and his Catechisms – and found him in Simon Ditchfield of York University. Thomas will be a member of the Manchester Jesuit Community, spending half of each week on the campus at York, and helping the university chaplaincy team in Manchester.
“My Superiors’ long-term plan for me is that I should research the history of the early Society of Jesus,” he explained, “so this research will be very relevant.”
Fr Damian Howard SJ, provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, said “I am delighted that you have all chosen to study here. It is a long haul you are embarking on but it will go quickly. It will be very good to have young and gifted priests of the Society alongside us. I would like you to find time to be present with young adults here in our ministries and schools, inspiring them and showing them by your way of life that being a Jesuit is a life of love and peace.”