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Jesuit Superior General Graces 175th Anniversary Celebration

Date: 10/4/2006

Mark Motz

Jesuit Superior General Graces 175th Anniversary Celebration

Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus, highlighted an evening of celebration in honor of the 175th anniversary of St. Xavier High School and Xavier University. XU President Fr. Michael Graham S.J., St. X President Fr. Walter Deye S.J. (’66) and Provincial of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus Fr. Edward Schmidt S.J. jointly hosted the evening for about 400 invited guests at XU’s Cintas Center Oct. 3, 2006.

 The event included a cocktail reception, dinner and a short play and slide presentation by XU’s Chuck Sambuchino. Fr. Leo Klein S.J. of Xavier University served as emcee and Fr. Schmidt introduced Fr. Kolvenbach. Father General’s remarks follow…

My thanks to all of you for the invitation to be present with you for the celebration of 175 years:


From the modest beginnings of the Athenaeum and St. Xavier College to today’s St. Xavier High School and Xavier University. Quite a history.

Cincinnati’s first bishop, Edward Fenwick, saw the importance of educating leaders for his new diocese. His Athenaeum was the first institution of higher learning in what was originally the Northwest Territory of the new United States of America. We celebrate Bishop Fenwick’s vision today.

On June 16, 1841, John Baptist Purcell, the second Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cincinnati, wrote to Fr. Jan Roothan, then the Superior General of the Society of Jesus:

"I thank your Paternity most cordially for having remembered the word given to his servant in which you held out hope to him that the Fathers of the venerable Society (of Jesus) over which you preside so worthily and successfully would take in hand as soon as possible the management of our college in Cincinnati. This godly pledge was redeemed several months ago as an occasion of joy shared with me by not only all the faithful of this city but also by not a few non-Catholics, who realize that the scepter of education of school-going youth can nowhere be entrusted to or held by more skillful hands, the experience of three centuries to witness."


 Indeed, just a few months before, in the autumn of 1849, three Jesuit priests, two Jesuits scholastics and three Jesuit brothers had arrived in Cincinnati to mark the beginnings of the Jesuit educational work at St. Xavier College. One of the three priests, Fr. John Elet, was the first Jesuit rector and president of the school.

Fr. Elet and his successors brought with them the intellectual, moral and spiritual tradition of the Society of Jesus that stretch back to the time of St. Ignatius Loyola and his first companions, one of whom was St. Francis Xavier. The early Jesuits quickly saw the benefit of investing their apostolic resources in the ministry of education.

The first Jesuit College was established at Messina in Sicily in 1548, only eight years after the founding of the Jesuit Order.

The original six-year model of the Jesuit College in Europe was transferred to Sycamore Street in Cincinnati where it developed into an eight-year program typical of American education. Eventually it became St. Xavier High School and Xavier University,

St. Xavier High School: You have played and continue to play a leading role among other Jesuit secondary schools in the country to train leaders for our globalized society, preparing your young men for undergraduate and professional education. Xavier University: You have played a major role among your colleagues in Jesuit Colleges and Universities in articulating your Jesuit and Catholic identity, in following through with successful programs, and in bringing that identity to strategic planning as you dream of your future.

You can all be proud of your efforts, and the Society of Jesus is proud of you. God has done great things through you. As our world moves and changes very quickly today, please continue to bring the resources of your Ignatian and Jesuit heritage to your apostolic mission as God continues to do great things through you.

I understand we have as dinner companions this evening some of the major benefactors of the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus. How good of you to join us here in this anniversary celebration. The Jesuits with their lay and religious colleagues in all their apostolates can never be too grateful to you for your gifts of personal devotion.

Thank you all once again for asking me to join with you in this festive year of grateful memories. May our memories lead us forward with new hope for the future, and may the Lord of Life bless you all the days of your life.

To see Fr. Kolvenbach’s keynote address for Xavier University’s sixth annual Academic Day Oct. 3, please visit the XU web page at

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