I feel like I haven’t been writing as much this semester as I used to. It’s probably safe to say it has something to do with the increased workload – both in the classroom and in the activities I’m involved in on campus. But, hectic schedule aside, I plan to make more of an effort in writing to you guys. So, I figured, what better place to do so than on the ride back to school after Easter break? A good 2.5 hour drive, a bag of Chex Mix, and the Riverdance soundtrack keeping my mom and me entertained. Yep, even getting stuck in Philly traffic provides an opportunity to admire the multitude of church steeples we drive past.
Church steeples…Church…Spirituality….If there’s one topic I haven’t really talked about on here, it would have to be the Catholic/Jesuit tradition at Loyola and the role it plays in shaping the student body both in and out of the classroom. And honestly, that’s a very complicated topic to address.
Sure, it’s easy to point out that Loyola’s core requires students to take 2 Theology classes, and one of the key community organizations is Campus Ministry, but there’s more to the individual’s exposure to religion than that.
Personally, I was raised Catholic and am currently…not sure. I’ve been told that my moral/ethical values align strongly with Catholic thought, but my societal views cause me to question some of the Catholic teachings. That isn’t to say that I’ve ever felt out of place or uncomfortable at a Jesuit school with the student body being mostly Catholic.
If anything, I’ve felt accepted here.
Both by students and faculty members, no matter their department. Some of my friends are Catholic, some atheist, some protestant, and some are everywhere in between and beyond. I’ve been able to have debates about the existence of God without feeling uncomfortable with them, either during or after. The professors I’ve encountered encourage questioning and a search for meaning in life, even if it isn’t strictly Jesuit or Catholic in the end. In this regard, there aren’t boundaries or restrictions to spirituality at Loyola.
Yes, there’s a chapel on campus, but no, I don’t feel its presence looming over me. At Christmas it hosts Lessons and Carols, one of the school’s well known and much anticipated traditions (good luck finding a seat, it’s packed within 15 minutes of the doors opening). Year round you can see alumni wedding parties arriving or taking pictures on the quad.
But even with a heavy emphasis on religious tradition, I’ve never felt like Jesuit teaching was shoved down my throat. True, it’s a big part of the campus culture: service, core values and classes, care of the whole person, insert school catch phrases here. But these are what make Loyola appealing, and I think define the school itself. Personal spirituality helps the transition into college and the progression through it, but it isn’t required.
So to those of you who wonder (and I promise I’ve been asked this), Is being Catholic required to enjoy the Loyola experience? I say No, But learning about Jesuit values shapes the way you think and interact with the world around you.