Thursday, July 06, 2006

Lord of the Gesu

Keeping on the Jesuit beat, just closer to home, one of the Society's big names in the US has taken on a new role at a time when many of his confreres are well-settled into retirement.

Fr William Byron, who served as president of the Catholic University of America from 1982-92, is returning home to head his alma mater, Philadelphia's St Joseph's Prep High School, from which he graduated in 1945.

Since leaving Catholic, Byron has served as distinguished professor of the practice of ethics at Georgetown and rector of the Georgetown Jesuit Community. The recipient of 25 honorary degrees, he earned his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Maryland.

St Joseph's -- or, as it's known in town, "The Prep" -- has held its place at 18th Street and Girard Avenue for generations, educating many of the city's future leaders. The twin steeples of its splendid Church of the Gesu can be seen for miles, and many older students remember the multiple morning Masses which took place simultaneously at its two levels of side altars in a bygone time.

The campus also includes the Gesu School, an independent K-8 Catholic school which serves as a beacon of hope in one of the city's most blighted areas.

The Prep is also notable for its unusually high number of bishop-alums; the school has probably given more of its sons to the episcopacy than any non-seminary high school in the country. Among these distinguished grads are Bishops Joseph Galante of Camden, Joseph Martino of Scranton, Auxiliary Bishop Robert Maginnis of Philadelphia, and Archbishops Francis Schulte, emeritus of New Orleans, John P. Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications and (San Damaso hidden-treasure) Edward Adams, a Philly product currently serving as apostolic nuncio in Zimbabwe.

Not long after learning about the appointment, I mentioned it as an aside to one of Byron's familiars down in DC. And I distinctly recall getting the repeated reply of, "I don't believe you."

Well, ecco qui.