Scholar Links Jesuit Pursuits to Professions - Georgetown CollegeText size: A A A
Scholar Links Jesuit Pursuits to Professions
February 25, 2010
When Jesuits began establishing schools during the 16th century, it may have come as a surprise for them to realize the vast number of professions they would come to influence, says Rev. John O’Malley, S.J.
The university professor of theology explores this idea through his own research and his current doctoral seminar, Jesuit Enterprises: 1540-1773.
Involved in everything from farming to pharmacy the Jesuits’ focus on education and scholarship served as a gateway to the array of professions that are found within their order to this day.
“Once they got into the schools, they realized they had this broad spectrum of subjects that the students needed to learn,” O’Malley says.
Missionary work also played a role in the variety of vocations found among Jesuits. They learned how to use plants for medicinal purpose through travel and exposure to indigenous cultures.
“Almost every major city where the Jesuits were had a pharmacy.” O’Malley explains.
The professor says involvement with the sciences, arts, education and other vocations wasn’t a new convention during the early years of the Jesuit order -- founded in 1540 -- but it was a new concept among other orders of the Catholic Church.
“Although a few other orders had begun to run schools, the Jesuit influence was overwhelming just in terms of sheer number,” O’Malley says.
Spiritual and Scholarly Pursuits
O’Malley says he finds satisfaction as an educator, scholar and Jesuit. It’s those aspects of his profession that initially drew him to the Jesuit order at age 18.
“I had never seen a Jesuit, but I read about them,” the scholar recalls. “I saw that they were missionaries, but I also saw that they were teachers.”
His interest in the Jesuits and infatuation with history propelled him into his scholarly pursuits.
O’Malley is best known for penning The First Jesuits (Harvard University Press, 1993), but also has written extensively about 16th-century history as it pertains to the Catholic Church among other topics. His most recent book is What Happened at Vatican II (Harvard University Press, 2008). More recently, he assumed the editorship of a new series of monographs from St. Joseph’s Press, Early Modern Catholicism and the Visual Arts.
His next project will focus on the Council of Trent, considered one of the Church’s important councils, and the impact it had on the 16th-century Reformation period.
Guidance in the Classroom
As an expert in all things Jesuit, O’Malley provides his seminar class with lessons about Jesuit influences.
Taught through the history department, the seminar has graduate students researching aspects of the order -- from its 1540 founding date through the late 18th century. They also study anti-Jesuit writings of the 17th- and 18th century and the emergence of Jesuit schools in Peru.
Luke Jackson (G’15), a doctoral student in the history department, is researching anti-Catholic sentiments in America’s 13 colonies during the 17th and 16th century. The American history student says he chose O’Malley’s course out of interest in pursuing a minor in religious history. But he also chose it for personal reasons.
“As a Christian, the class appealed to me,” he said.
Jackson is impressed with the professor’s ability to teach from the perspective of a historian as well as a Jesuit.
“That sort of exposure rounds a scholar out,” Jackson says. “And he’s able help us consider our own work from multiple, different perspectives.”
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