An Invitation to a Conversation
Jesuit Center Looks to Provide Faculty & Staff with ‘Faith-Filled’ Answers
Years ago, as a young educator at St. Joseph’s Preparatory in Philadelphia, Ryan Maher, S.J., first learned of the devoted community at The University of Scranton from his former students who returned home from college.
“I taught at St. Joseph’s for a number of years. We sent all types of students to Scranton and they all came back and said, ‘I love it, I love it, I love it,’” Father Maher recalls. “When I would ask them why, they would all say, ‘It’s a family; it’s a home; it’s a community. I feel loved. I feel taken care of it.’ It happened so many years in a row, I knew it wasn’t a fluke. These kids were articulating a reality.”
As he settles into his role as founding executive director of the University’s new Jesuit Center, Father Maher will get to experience first hand the community he has heard so much about.
In his new position, Father Maher is charged with engaging Scranton faculty and staff in the University’s mission, ensuring its Catholic and Jesuit identity remains at the core of their work and, equally important, their lives. He says The Jesuit Center’s purpose boils down to a simple question for University of Scranton employees, “What difference does it make that I work at a Jesuit university?”
“We want to be a resource to help them come to an answer,” he says.
Father Maher knows that, with its pristine campus, energetic students and bustling faculty and staff members, Scranton may resemble other institutions of higher education.
“It’s very easy to lose track of what’s important because we look like every other university at the surface,” he says. “But one of the wonderful things about working at a Catholic, Jesuit university is that a faith-fed worldview underlines everything we do. The point of The Jesuit Center is to help people realize that The University of Scranton isn’t about the surface.”
While the center is still taking shape, Father Maher, who will be supported by assistant director Ryan Sheehan, Esq., knows where to begin: with conversation.
“Human conversation is a privileged arena of the action of the Holy Spirit,” he says. “When intelligent people honestly talk to one another about things that really matter, powerful things can happen.”
Through conversations – created at lectures, retreats and service trips – Father Maher hopes to give Scranton employees resources that will help them recognize and respond to God’s invitation.
“One of the underpinnings of Jesuit education – and it’s why Jesuits are so successful at educating young people – is this felt-to-the-bone knowledge that God is active in every single part of life,” says Father Maher. “Through our many educational and formational programs, the University invites our students, professors and staff members to choose to cooperate with this activity of God, which is always happening in and around them.
“The question before us everyday is, ‘Are we willing to cooperate with God?’”
The center’s success truly hinges on the quality and quantity of the conversations it produces, concludes Father Maher.
“In a year from now, if people could say, ‘The center is a place where you can go to get a sane, intelligent, faith-filled answer to the question, ‘What are we doing here, and why are we doing it?’ That’s success,” he says.
Meet Father Maher
Prior to joining Scranton, Ryan Maher, S.J., was an associate dean and a professorial lecturer in theology and Catholic studies at Georgetown University. He previously served as the director of Catholic studies and was the founding faculty member of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service campus in Doha, Qatar.
He previously worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative assistant to Sen. Jeff Bingaman, and as a teacher at Gonzaga College High School, Washington, D.C., and St. Joseph’s Preparatory School, Philadelphia.
Father Maher entered the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus in 1986 and was ordained a priest in 1997. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University, a master’s degree in philosophy from St. Louis University, St. Louis, Mo., and a master’s degree in divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif. He earned his doctorate from the University of San Francisco, San Francisco, Calif.