Part of Gonzaga University’s unique culture stems from the presence of Jesuits on campus, and it’s values being rooted in the Jesuit education which

focuses on the whole person. Students at GU come from different religious and social backgrounds, not all of them familiar with the role of the Catholic Church or the Jesuits. 

Distinguished Professor of Pastoral Theology from Seattle University and Special Jesuit Assistant for Mission Formation at GU, Fr. Pat Howell S.J., will be exploring the Catholic Church in the context of the 21st century, and examining the first Jesuit Pope, Francis. 

This event titled ‘Pope Francis and Reforms on the Church: Can They Last?’, taking place on Friday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Hemmingson 201, will be the first part in a three-part series led by the Office of Mission and Ministry, "The Church in the 21st Century."

"The series asks how the leadership of Pope Francis, the call to listen to those marginalized by society and the church and the gifts of African Catholicism invite and challenge all members of the Gonzaga community, including students, to live into its mission, which is rooted in the Catholic tradition, in new and creative ways," said B. Kevin Brown, senior specialist for faculty and staff formation for the Office of Mission and Ministry. 

This first event will be centered around Pope Francis, and will address the changes implemented to the Catholic Church, specifically since the second Vatican Council, which took place from 1962-1965, and focusing on the 21st century in particular. 

“The Church in the 21st Century series attempts to address the vital issues facing the religious/secular world today," Howell said. "For centuries the Catholic Church prided itself on being ‘changeless’ in a changing, transient world. But since the Second Vatican Council, 1962 to 1965, change is the order of the day,”  

For Howell’s specific presentation, he will be focusing on the changes Pope Francis has brought about in the Catholic Church, which Fr. Howell describes as a “rather incredible transformation.” 

“We’ll be exploring what [Pope Francis'] driving message is, what inspires him, and especially, as the first and only Jesuit Pope, how does his Jesuit spirituality inform his leadership and his emphasis on vigorously advancing the key insights of the Second Vatican Council and the theological insights of a cast array of lay people,” Howell said. 

Further, Howell, in his first year at GU, said he thinks students are often curious about the Jesuits, and a deeper look into Pope Francis and the Catholic Church is an opportunity for students to better understand the richness and vitality of the Jesuit education they are receiving. 

In the spring, the series will continue. On Feb. 13, Jodi Brian from Seattle University will present "Radical Listening, Radical Kinship: A Way Forward for the 21st Century Church" and on April 2, Fr. Patrick Baraza will present "African Catholicism and the Church of the 21st Century."

Karlie Murphy is a staff writer.

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