Friday 2 February 2018

Inaugural Message from New College Rector, Fr Jack McLain SJ

So, here we go. A new year in the life of the College, new horizons to explore, and new challenges to overcome. This year will hold something for every single one of us. Some of it will be much more pleasant for us than other parts. For some of us, it will be a fantastic year, for others, it’ll be more challenging and not our favourite. But even in those less than stellar years, we learn things. We usually learn more about ourselves during difficult and adverse situations than in the easy ones.

As the person the Society of Jesus has missioned to be the steward of the College’s spiritual life and a trustee of our heritage, I think it’s only fair to let you know a little bit about what you can expect from me during my tenure as Rector. I owe so much to Father Ross Jones, SJ as my friend, mentor and predecessor that I’ll never be able to adequately express my thanks to him. I’m also keenly aware that he has left enormous shoes to fill, and that I’ll fill them… differently… than he did. So just what is it that I hope to bring to our community?

Three things and a reflection:

1) I don’t think conventionally.
It’s always been that way. This was both a delight and a frustration to my parents, since I was usually ‘that kid’ in school who had the weirdest questions and saw bizarre possibilities… and didn’t mind sharing them. Parts of the US Army and the Society of Jesus both think highly of this trait of mine and worked hard to reinforce and grow it. One had me ordained and one gave me a green felt hat. I love looking for the possibility in things and seeing things from a different angle.

2) I value creativity.
I believe the world’s problems will be solved by the people who think the most creatively and look for beauty in problem solving. Creative solutions, created by creative, imaginative people, will do far more to both heal us as a species (they could potentially harm us as a species, too, that’s why we need people who realise the value of service). People who see and love beauty, and find an expressive outlet for it, whether in an engineering problem, a piece of music, a field of scientific research, wherever, they’re the ones who will find the solutions we need. It’s one of the reasons I love photography, to capture the world I experience from perspectives that aren’t often seen.

3) I love tradition, but I always want to innovate to make things better.
We’re a community that is deeply indebted to the people who have gone before us. We have so much that we should be grateful for that we owe to history, but if we become too attached to it, we won’t become who we are called to be, but we’ll just be a copy of history; an anachronism that is quaint, but irrelevant. We have to cherish who we’ve been and walk the path toward who we, as a community desire to become, just like those who went before us did.

Finally, a picture and a reflection. This is what you’ll see a lot of from me in this space. Something short, to the point, and hopefully useful in your spiritual life.

This is from the Nepal Immersion a couple of years ago, as we left one village to trek up in the hills to stay in Ratamata, where we taught school for a week. No electricity, no running water, no shops. Getting there was an amazing experience, but it paled when compared to the way people opened their hearts and homes to us. Who are the people welcoming you as a stranger right now? Can you be grateful for what they offer?

Fr Jack McLain SJ