Jesuit Father Michael Czerny is a Gonzaga alum and was recently appointed by Pope Francis.

Throughout time, the Jesuit influence on the world has been one that has changed the way religion is viewed in society. What started hundreds and hundreds of years ago by St. Ignatius of Loyola has turned into something so big and influential, that the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, is a Jesuit.

On Sept. 1, Gonzaga alumnus Fr. Michael Czerny was appointed by Pope Francis as a cardinal in his sixth consistory, a meeting called by the Pope.

Cardinal Czerny will be specifically dealing with issues that have to do with migration, as his official title was originally “the under-secretary of the migrants and refugees section of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development,” according to the Vatican News website.

“We always try to educate men and women for and with others,” Jesuit Specialist for Mission and Ministry at GU Fr. Dan Mai, S.J. said. “I would not be suprised that we would have some dignitarian that passed through here.”

Thirteen new cardinals were named by Pope Francis, including Czerny. Furthermore, three of the 13 cardinals were Jesuits: Czerny, Archbishop Jean-Claude Höllerich, of Luxembourg, and retired Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, of Kaunas, Lithuania, according to jesuits.org.

Michael Swain of The Catholic Register gave a timeline of Czerny’s life and the events leading to his being appointed a cardinal in September. After being born in Bro, Czechlosovakia, on July 18, 1948, and moving to Canada two years later, Czerny joined the Society of Jesus in 1963.

He graduated from GU in 1968 with a dual degree in philosophy and literature, according to the Catholic Sentinel. Czerny then earned his doctorate degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Chicago in 1978. After doing work in El Salvador, Brazil and other countries, Czerny, along with Jesuit Fr. William Mbugua, founded the African Jesuit AIDS Network, which “today supports Jesuit pastoral work with AIDS-affected communities in 30 countries,” Swain writes. Czerny was in El Salvador at Central American University shortly after the murder of six Jesuits, a housekeeper and the housekeeper’s teenage daughter, where he assumed the role of the director of CUA’s Human Rights 

Institute, according to an article written by the Catholic Register’s Mickey Conlon. 

Last May, Czerny was named by Pope Francis as a special secretary for the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region, acting as an advisory party for the pope. Czerny was appointed as one of 13 cardinals four months later.

“I think the reason why he was made a cardinal is in order to expand his work in a much more global way,” said Fr. Bryan Pham, S.J, religious studies adjunct instructor, Law School chaplain and special assistant to the associate provost for student development. “Because Pope Francis is a Jesuit, he understands how Jesuits work. He understands how [Jesuits] function in the world. Having someone like the cardinal to work for him to be a voice in that camp would be a very good voice.”

Pham says that most of Cardinal Czerny’s work will probably be administrative — big vision sort of work, but Pham hopes that he will highlight and showcase challenges that the world faces. 

Pham is the supervising/staff attorney in the Indian Law/General Practice Clinic at the Gonzaga School of Law. He also assists in the newly-formed Immigration Law Clinic as needed. Before coming to GU, Pham practiced refugee/asylum law and immigration law at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. An alum of GU himself, Pham noted that his faith and his formation as a Catholic Jesuit priest and as an attorney helps give him the foundation needed to accompany his clients he accompanies through their legal battles.

Pham crossed paths with Cardinal Czerny both in Rome, Italy, as well as in Ottawa, Canada, attending conferences and meetings on social justice, migration and human rights issues.

Having someone like the cardinal in this position as a Jesuit, Pham said he is hoping that he will be more attentive on issues that the Jesuits have been looking on throughout the world.

Pham said he believes that, as a Catholic Jesuit institution, Gonzaga is very much committed to social justice, and to a justice that is very gospel based. Fr. Pham said he hopes that, with the elevation of Czerny as cardinal in the Catholic Church, our GU community will realize and feel that their hopes and desires for a just world are actually part of the bigger hopes and desires of the world.

“The work that we do here is actually a continuation of who we are, and that’s true whether we are Catholic or not,” Pham said. “We should be proud that one of our alums is in this position.”

As current members of the GU community, Pham believes that Cardinal Czerny would want us to continue to live in the Jesuit tradition and to continue the work of Cardinal Czerny — being men and women for and with others. Pham sees Cardinal Czerny’s appointment as a sign of hope for those of us who do this kind of work of social justice. He hopes that we will feel that our voice is really a part of a larger voice

“It’s an affirmation that the Holy Spirit is alive and well,” Pham said.

Vinny Saglimbeni is a staff writer. 

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