On the last day of my Summer Enrichment Program
(SEP) class - creatively titled “Ignatius 2” by the Tsar of SEP, Mr. Brian Martin ’94 - I take the students on a walking tour of the campus. Because of the limits of time we have a very truncated route that begins in front of St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel and ends at the wall where Fr. Robert Welsh, S.J. ’54
is quoted in relation to the purpose of an Ignatius education.
Because of the fact that we have just begun the Ignatian Year
, this summer’s tours have struck a chord with me that offers a deeper look into what it means to be “Ignatian” in one’s approach to life. The men whom I feature on this brief tour - Mr. Jerry Murphy ’36, Fr. Welsh, Dr. Michael Pennock ’64, and Mr. Jim Skerl ’74 - all had one very “Ignatian” thing in common: They wanted to use their many gifts to make the world a better place for those in need.
The second theme of the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs) of the Society of Jesus focuses on two related issues: walking with those who are marginalized and working for reconciliation as well as justice. Fr. Welsh’s humility would have kept him from making this claim about himself, but he certainly would have said (and probably did say) about the other three that they exhibited this UAP “in spades” (to use one of his favorite phrases).
Jim Skerl was known to say that “an Ignatius education isn’t about making you better than
other people; it is about making you better for
other people.” As the man who formed so many ministries of service to our least sisters and brothers through the Corporal Works of Mercy, Jim personified what it meant to be educated for
Similarly, Dr. Pennock used his incredible talents as a religious educator to bring the Gospel to tens of thousands of young Catholics through his high school text book series. Here in Loyola Hall, Mike lived this UAP by the way he treated each of his students - from the brightest and most attentive to the angriest and least interested. Mike’s advice to me when I began teaching was to treat each student like he is your own: your younger brother, your son, your grandson. His way of making each student feel valued as a son of God and a brother of Jesus won over many a young man who was on the margins of the Church, the school, and often his own family.
Unlike the other three men of my Ignatius version of Mt. Rushmore, Mr. Jerry Murphy did not spend the better part of his life on campus. In fact, as an eighth grader he wanted nothing to do with the humble Jesuit school in Ohio City. Mr. Murphy’s older brother attended University School and more than anything else Jerry wanted to be a Prepper. When the Great Depression stole his dream he had to - quite reluctantly - settle for the less expensive option.
On our tour, I speak of this as Mr. Murphy’s “Cannonball Moment” where he was forced to make a decision about how he would approach this adversity. By the time the Lord took him home, Mr. Murphy had distinguished himself as a scholar both at Saint Ignatius and at Case Institute of Technology, had made Murphy’s Oil Soap a highly respected national brand, and had become the greatest benefactor in the history of our school.
Mr. Murphy, I tell the SEP campers, was a great success in life not because of his numerous accomplishments or his vast wealth, but because he used his many talents and gifts for the Greater Glory of God. He, Fr. Welsh, Mike Pennock, and Jim Skerl are worthy of our admiration and of our imitation because of their devotion to making the world a better place and to seeing the Lord in the least of their sisters and brothers.
The Ignatian Year is the perfect time to begin (or to continue) standing on the shoulders of giants such as these four Titans of Ignatius: to look at the world from their lofty height rather than the ground level where success is judged by the satisfaction of our own worldly desires. So often we are driven by the answer to the question, “What do I want for me?” Much more worthy of our efforts is the question etched into stone on the Fr. Robert J. Welsh, S.J. ’54 Commons:
The purpose of our education is to give a young man the tools whereby he can answer the question “What does God want from me?”
Not better than
others, but better for
others. Not for
me, but from
me. That is a life worthy of a daughter or son of Ignatius.