Tag Archives: Jesuit

Open Love Letter from a Former USF Professor

Cuttler dons African garb while attending Father Godfrey’s homily, dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, at St. Agnes Catholic Church. (Photo courtesy of Sasha Cuttler)

Cuttler dons African garb while attending Father Godfrey’s homily, dedicated to the late Nelson Mandela, at St. Agnes Catholic Church. (Photo courtesy of Sasha Cuttler)

Editor’s note: In an effort to keep the piece as is, the author has permitted me to clarify the context of the sort of love referenced below, for the reader. It is unusual for men to talk about non-romantic love. He talked of a love that is rarely discussed: agape. 

   Agape is not only known as a love for God, but can be described as a brotherly and sisterly love. As he stated during our chat, “There is more than one kind of love in the world…[including] non-sexual love. I am all about reclaiming that love.” 

   He intends to have understood that “… it is a force that people should claim and use as a tool in their work.” Sasha believes this sort of love can be a powerful force for political transformation.  

I love Reverend Donal Godfrey S.J. At first blush, it may seem peculiar that I am professing my love for Donal Godfrey. After all, I am a Jew, and Donal is a Catholic. I am a nurse, and Donal is a priest. I was born in the U.S., Donal was not.  On the other hand, as a Jesuit, Donal has the initials “S.J.” (Society of Jesus) while my initials are also S.J. (for Sasha Jonathan). I like to think that it also represents the ideal of “social justice” which Donal and I both support.

My love for Donal is an expression of solidarity as well as affection. While I taught in the School of Nursing at the University of San Francisco, Donal was the Director of University Ministry. One day, a student asked if she could make up an examination because she was going with Donal to demonstrate outside the U.S. military’s School of the Americas. I was happy to oblige, as one of my dear friends lost her husband and brother to death squads in El Salvador. It is possible that the killers received their training at this school and I was glad that Donal was leading a non-violent protest that honors the memory of my friend’s family and the martyred Jesuits in the same small country.

I also love Donal because he made my students cry. I asked him to come speak with my students, many of whom had lost friends to the AIDS epidemic. Donal had compiled a marvelous oral history of the Most Holy Redeemer parish, in the Castro, which was at the epicenter of the outbreak. Rather than lecture, Donal suggested that we each talk about how the epidemic affected us as individuals and as nurses. Our salty tears of loving memory transcended the many differences between us at that class session.

I was really touched and honored that Donal posted a photo on social media of the two of us together, he in clerical robes, me in African garb. I came to hear Donal give a homily in honor of the late Nelson Mandela. Is this cultural appropriation? I do not think so; my intention was instead to celebrate the life of another man who fought for social justice against terrible odds. Donal and I are certainly more similar to the other than either  one of us is to Nelson Mandela. Imitation may not always be the sincerest form of flattery, but at times it certainly can be.

My love of Donal is a challenge to those who may be uncomfortable with warmth and love between two men. What’s to stop me from shouting my affection from the rooftops? After all, I love both my father as well as Father Donal. Homophobia is of course part of the answer. But I think there are other reasons. Does my love for Donal mean that we agree on everything? I would hope not. Indeed, no one would question my love for my partner or my daughters yet we disagree on many things. People like Donal Godfrey will not settle for mere tolerance of superficial differences among human beings. I love Donal because he is a pragmatic idealist working to create, nurture and embrace a better world. This is not the sort of love that is born from exchanges of candy and flowers, but it makes me smile as though it were.

Staff Editorial: On Controversial Topics Like Abortion, the Foghorn Mediates Rather than Self-censors

Even the most ideological members on staff recognize the importance of the diversity of voices that appear here. 

The idea that, because the Foghorn is the undergraduate paper of a Jesuit college, we should only run student opinions aligning with Catholic teachings is an un-Catholic call for destroying a pattern of fruitful, compassionate, respectful, and enriching dialogue with doctrines of worldviews other than that of the Catholic faith. It also assumes wrongly that the students and its newspaper are, by simple virtue of our association with USF, the spokespeople of Catholic or Jesuit values, which, despite popular belief or desire, is not necessarily the case.

One year ago, the Foghorn was in a position almost congruent to where we are today.

Predictably, after publishing a column by a student writing on a religiously charged social issue (gay marriage), the newsroom was at the receiving end of a series of critical letters and comments.

The staff replied with an editorial explaining the responsibility of a student newspaper on a Jesuit Catholic campus to be “a trusted forum for the civil, free, equitable, and productive exchange of ideas.”

The difference between the controversy of a year ago and the present point of contention— last week’s piece by Amanda Rhoades praising the legal right to an abortion outlined in Roe v. Wade— is that today’s Foghorn is answering for a perceived abandonment of a Catholic identity. Last year, while defending  the choice to run a student’s opinion in support of the Catholic stance against same-sex marriage, we answered to accusations of having a traditionalist bent.

We explained then that, even when the author of that marriage piece, Dylan Hull-Nye, touched on a very electric topic; our decision to run his contribution was justified because his commentary on the official Catholic teaching on marriage “introduced a relevant, if controversial, element to the ongoing discussion of ‘What does it mean to be a Catholic college?’”

Then, as today, the how and why behind what this editorial page publishes comes down to our role to sustain a conversation for this paper’s primary audience: the USF undergraduate student body. The Foghorn, particularly on the opinion page, seeks to mediate constructively between parties, perspectives, or “sides” of relevant issues that might otherwise never come to understand each other, much less talk to each other.

The featured rebuttal on this page from a USF alum to Amanda Rhoades typifies the type of strong, yet compassionate and level-headed exchange the Foghorn exists for. Though we run under the wing of a Catholic institution, the Foghorn’s primary responsibility is not to gauge how Catholic or un-Catholic our content may appear to readers. Even the most ideological members on staff recognize the importance of the diversity of voices that appear here. As long as we have a say in it, the Foghorn will continue to focus on perfecting our role as a “trusted forum for the…productive exchange of ideas.”


Note: the attendance at the 2013 Walk for Life in San Francisco, mistakenly identified as “hundreds” in “40 Years since Roe v. Wade, Some Still Determined to Halt Progress” is estimated to have reached 50,000 at the end of the march. Additionally, in that piece, Amanda Rhoades’ claims on the effects on women turned away from an abortion they sought are drawn from the “Turnaway Study,” a longitudinal and continuing project conducted by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), a research group from the University of California, San Francisco.

Jesuit Uses Humor to Spread Religious Message

Fr. James Martin

University Ministry hosted guest lecturer Reverend James Martin, S.J. at the McLaren Conference Center, with over 200 in attendance, Monday, February 6, at 4:00 p.m.

In the opening remarks, Director of University Ministry Julia Dowdsaid USF faculty and staff are confronted with the following challenge, “How can colleges and universities address the needs of the whole human being—in mind, body, and spirit, in ways that best contribute to our future on this fragile planet?”
Monday’s lecture gave opportunities to think about internal quests for spirituality not strictly as a serious matter, but rather a journey where people can laugh along the way.

Official Chaplain for the Colbert Report, Martin is most commonly known for his entertaining approach to biblical rhetoric. On Monday, audience members laughed at jokes regarding the Jesuit order. They also seemed to nod in agreement of Martin’s sermon-like speech about applying humor to the practice of religion. He referred to Christianity in particular.

Martin’s addressed the need to include joy, humor, and laughter in the spiritual world. Yet Martin also said those values are not only needed in our personal spiritual lives, but also in the Catholic Church as a whole.
Martin said, “It’s not clear how it happened that joy, humor and laughter had been deemed inappropriate in religious circles, but I’m sure we’ve all met people that perceive that being religious means being deadly serious all the time—but if you’re deadly serious, you’re probably seriously dead.”

Audience members laughed, perhaps remembering their own past experiences of attending solemn masses where laughter was not encouraged.

For college students, Martin’s points invite spiritual dialogues across generations of different religions, since laughter and the seriousness with which faith is discussed goes beyond Christianity.

However, during what may have been perceived as “Jesuit comedian stand-up,” Martin spoke about why Jesus may have never been considered funny or associated with having a sense of humor.

Martin suggested two reasons for why this is often the case. Martin said some of the jokes discussed in the Bible might require knowledge of the cultural context of first century Judea. Also, some of the jokes might get lost in delivery due to lethargic presentations during Catholic mass. Martin suggested both reasons have contributed to the lack of humor found in the Bible.

Yet in some cases Martin said, “We’ve heard the jokes so many times they’ve become stale. It’s like a joke you’ve heard over and over again.

“Joy, humor, and laughter show your faith in God. Essentially having the positive outlook shows that you believe in what? The resurrection. Christ is risen,” Martin said.

The previous statement can also be applied to the Church’s desire to increase the number of people who wish to enter a life of vocation.

Martin said, “While seeking vocations we must live our lives joyfully. Why would anyone want to join a group of miserable people? We tend to forget that sometimes.” Martin’s assertion that Jesus must have also had a sense of humor was reinforced by Martin’s story of the disciple Nathaniel. He said that a sarcastic interaction between Jesus and him in the Bible was an early indication of Jesus’s sense of humor. “Jesus was fully human and to be fully human you have to have a sense of humor.” Martin said.

Seniors Natalie Luera and Mike Kuba, USF students who attended the event, said they both thought it was funny and entertaining. “I’ve never really heard someone talk about Catholicism and going to church in a humoristic way, because I’ve always associated my religion being super serious. And what I really enjoyed was it was true and thought-provoking,” Kuba said.

Identifying as a Catholic University

Have you ever wondered what the ‘Catholic’ part of USF means? You might ask: Is it actually important?
Recalling the beginning of USF’s Mission statement: “The core mission of the University is to promote learning in the Jesuit Catholic tradition”, USF clearly claims the title of ‘Catholic,’ but one may wonder what the essential elements of any Catholic college are and the implications that follow.
In 1990, former Pope John Paul II gave the adress Ex Corde Ecclesiae (From the Heart of the Church). The foundation of the document’s message can be captured here: “It is the honour and responsibility of a Catholic university to consecrate itself without reserve to the cause of truth.” This may seem broad and well accepted even at non-Catholic universities, so we must dig deeper into what makes a Catholic University unique in its identity.
In another section, John Paul II specifically argues that a Catholic University ought to promote the message of Christianity and adhere to the teachings of the Catholic Church. It should be noted that the recognition of the Christian message includes promoting or at least respecting the Church’s stance on “matters of faith and morals.” This may be actualized in official University programs and promotions of certain organizations or individuals. One may then ask what happens when a University sponsored organization or University policy violates these morals and values?
John Paul II says something regarding this matter directly: “If need be, a Catholic University must have the courage to speak uncomfortable truths which do not please public opinion, but which are necessary to safeguard the authentic good of society.” What is striking here is that his address includes an institutional voice to the ‘uncomfortable’ truths of the day. This may include social issues such as the injustice of high unemployment or the unfair treatment of non-citizens in our own country. It may also include other moral issues such as the immorality of homosexual relations and the promotion of the virtue of chastity. Both students and the Institution have a right to speak up against the immorality and injustices of our vurrent times, and to promote authentic Catholic values and morals.
One learns from the Papal document that the Christian message lives at the heart of any Catholic University, including USF. How then is the ‘Catholic’ identity of USF reflected in its members, faculty and students included, and in its institutional voice? Do people outside of the University view USF as a college that remains true to the teachings of the Catholic Church? There are numerous examples at USF which reflect its ‘Catholicity,’ and perhaps there are areas of improvement.
Either way, I personally urge every Catholic at USF to examine more carefully Ex Corde Ecclesiae and continue to promote the richness of the Catholic Faith in all ways possible. And I urge all, Catholic or not, to grow in awareness of what the ‘Catholic’ part of our Mission and what that implies. We are USF, we are a Catholic school, and we ought to always learn about and remember our school’s identity. If we are to change the world from here, then we first and foremost need to know who ‘we’ are.

Commitment to Solidarity – A Rememberance of Jesuit Dean Brackley


Friends and family remembered Fr. Dean Brackley, S.J., at St. Ignatius Church last Wednesday to commemorate his life and journey to build social awareness and compassion across the world.

“[Father Brackley] really lived life to the fullest…the axiom to what you see is determined where you’re standing and he stood with the people of El Salvador, and he saw the world through their eyes and the people really influenced him,” said presider Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J. “[Father Brackley] was open to Salvadorans and to their hopes and frustrations —he was able to give a voice to those who at some point may have not had a voice,” Privett said.

In 1989, the Salvadoran army entered the University of Central America, and killed six Jesuit priests, a housekeeper, and her daughter. They were allegedly killed for speaking out against the government and for encouraging social improvement for the lower working class.

Shortly after the death of the Jesuits, Father Brackley traveled to El Salvador to take the place of one of the recently murdered priests. He devoted his life to injustice and continued the efforts of his predecessors as a liaison, teacher, and community organizer. Father Brackley worked enthusiastically with the Salvadoran people during the country’s civil war, gaining their recognition and gratitude.
“We are happy to have this memorial mass in honor of Father Brackley because so many of our students and faculty were inspired by the work he’s done in El Salvador,” said Julia Dowd, Acting Director for University Ministry.

Father Brackley helped develop Casa de la Solidaridad (House of Solidarity), a study abroad program in El Salvador. His goal was to build a bridge between U.S. and Salvadoran students during the government’s transition.

The program, which initiated in 2000, currently provides students with the opportunity to immerse themselves into the contrasting reality of El Salvador through a praxis component of their study.

Jessica Jenkins, a Stanford graduate, was part of 12 students in the program in 2001.

She said, “We were the second group to go, and Father Brackley taught a class for us during the four months we were there.

He had lived there for about 11 years and really brought so much grace and humor to the experience and really bridged the reality in El Salvador to students from more developed countries.”

In terms of the effect Father Brackley had in her life, Jenkins said, “He made a tremendous impact on me, and as well, with a lot of the students in the program.
My experience got me interested in Latin America and immigration issues and in which I decided to pursue a career as an immigration lawyer because of the experience.”

In 2003, Father Brackley was invited to join USF’s Board of Trustees to contribute and continue to the vision of social justice in Latin American countries.
In his homily Father Privett discussed of the characteristics associated with Brackley’s persona.

“Father Brackley walked with the poor on holy ground and entered a richer, more real world than he witnessed to among us with an integrity and simplicity that touched us all,” he said.

“Dean often spoke about a culture that was designed for sleeping, a culture that induced in us a kind of chronic low-grade confusion about what is really important in life—namely life and love itself,” he added.

Before Father Brackley’s passing, USF instituted a scholarship in his name.
The scholarship will be awarded to Latin students of higher academic promise and significant financial need.