Transformation is deeply rooted in the DNA of the Society of Jesus, and, for centuries, the Jesuits in the eastern United States have adapted to serve the changing needs of people in regional population centers and in places like Jamaica, Jordan and Micronesia.
This fall, the USA Northeast Province announced a major capital campaign to create the Jesuit Center on New York’s East 83rd Street. This center will be the home to a community of priests, brothers and scholastics, and the Jesuits and their colleagues who, together, oversee the mission and Ignatian identity of Jesuit ministries throughout the Northeast.
In 2020, when the Maryland Province unites with the USA Northeast Province in the final stage of a national restructuring of Jesuit provinces, the Jesuit Center will house the offices of the more than 40 Jesuits and lay colleagues who serve ministries from Maine to Georgia.
“The Jesuit Center will be the premiere apostolic center for the province, to model how a residential community and an apostolic space can co-exist—to have, within it, conference areas and spaces created precisely for workshops, gatherings and meetings,” said Fr. John Cecero, SJ, provincial of the USA Northeast Province.
The Jesuits and lay colleagues who work on the province staff are challenged with creating new ways to serve people at our parishes, retreat centers, social ministries and schools, while sustaining thriving partnerships across our region that have had a life-changing impact on those we serve.
The Jesuit Center will function in much the same way that individual Jesuit communities do. Following the inspired model of viewing Jesuit communities as apostolic centers, staff at the Jesuit Center will use discernment and collaboration to recognize the needs of God’s people and respond effectively using the Society’s pastoral, educational and spiritual resources.
Throughout the East, Jesuit formation, spirituality ministries and social service ministries are already united in their efforts, but the close collaboration that will take place in the Jesuit Center will provide the structure that will benefit our ministries in perpetuity. Deeper partnerships between ministries, among assigned Jesuits and through the strategic plans of those who head different parts of the province will enhance the connections between the Jesuits and the people they serve.
“In 2020, the USA East Province will comprise more than 750 Jesuits, and our combined ministries will include some 90 parishes, high schools and middle schools, colleges and universities, formation houses and retreat centers,” said Fr. Philip Judge, SJ, provincial assistant for strategic planning for the USA Northeast Province. “When you look at our ministries in the East and our international works, it would be hard to imagine a province serving a greater range of people in need.”
Jesuit ministries in the Maryland province currently serve more than 100,000 students, parishioners and retreatants each year. By 2020, it is estimated that more than 220,000 people in the eastern United States will interact with and take part in ministries that stem from the Jesuit Center.
To accommodate expected growth, the Center will include the addition of six new offices and seven conference center guest suites to accommodate guests, alleviating unnecessary travel expenses for staff whose jobs call them to traverse different parts of the region. The project will also include the construction of a chapel and updated common space facilities for those working in the province offices.
“The work that will take place at the Jesuit Center will involve decisions that are truly going to affect parishes, retreat houses, colleges, universities—all of the places where people encounter the Jesuits,” said Fr. James Martin, SJ, a member of the Jesuit Center campaign committee. “This is an exciting step as Jesuit ministries in our region become more collaborative, interconnected and responsive to the needs of God’s people.”
Jesuit priests, brothers and scholastics are called to live in community—a hallmark of the Society of Jesus. For that reason, the Jesuit Center project also includes an ambitious renovation of the St. Ignatius Loyola Community. Since 1954, the community has been a home to Jesuits, but it was built for a different style of life, when many needed to live in a location close to where they served. The residence offered dormitory style living, with small, private bedrooms and a shared bathroom at the end of each hallway.
While Jesuits continue to live in the St. Ignatius Loyola community, critical improvements are needed to allow the residence to meet contemporary needs. Chapels and kitchen facilities remain integral parts of modern Jesuit communities, but common spaces and multipurpose rooms are recognized as important places that will transform the space into an open and inviting home where Jesuits intentionally gather to support one another, to eat together and to pray together.
A complete revitalization of the residence will include the creation of 16 bedrooms with individual bathrooms, new living and dining spaces, and a beautiful chapel— similar to the improvements to the New York’s Xavier Jesuit Community, which were completed in 2014.
A committee comprising Jesuits and lay partners has been established to oversee this unprecedented campaign. The Jesuit Center campaign committee is headed by longtime friends of the USA Northeast Province John Meditz and Dan Denihan, who join Fr. Keenan as co-chairs.
“There is no doubt that this renovation that we are going to do is going to reinvigorate the Jesuits,” said Dan Denihan. “The idea of helping the Jesuits personally resonates with me, and I know it will resonate with others as we continue this important and unprecedented campaign.”
For more information, including our in-depth video, project details and naming opportunities, please visit www.JesuitCenterCampaign.org or contact Joe Naylor at jnaylor@Jesuits.org.