Photo by Josh Spano ’18 | A statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola stands in front of the Brophy Tower on April 16, 2018. Since the inception of Brophy in 1928, many Catholic symbols are seen throughout the campus.
By Hayden Welty ’19
Sitting in most classrooms on campus, it is hard to miss the obvious signs of Catholicism––from portraits of Jesus to variegated crucifixes.
Although there are about a dozen Catholic high schools in the state of Arizona, only Brophy is Jesuit, an affiliation that has many implications for the school’s culture, mission, and faith.
While Brophy abides by the same Catholic teaching, President Mrs. Adria Renke said that she could not work in a school that was not Jesuit.
“It comes down to one sentence that I say all the time,” she said. “We don’t try to develop any of you boys in a cookie-cutter fashion… Our job is to turn [students] into the [children] of God [they are] created to be and that’s like no other––that’s uniquely Jesuit.”
Mrs. Renke said that the retreat program at Brophy, encompassing Magis and Kairos, is geared around the goal of developing a human being.
“We’re concerned about you––guts, brains, heart, soul––all of it, all of it,” she said. “Yes, the academics, we better do that; that’s a given. The rest is you and your God. A Jesuit education is unique, and until people get here, they can’t understand the difference.”
Mrs. Renke said that Brophy emphasizes educating the whole person.
“We don’t graduate robots here,” she said. “We graduate fully alive young men.”
She said that the platform of a Catholic, Jesuit school like Brophy is completely different from a platform of a Catholic school like Xavier, identifying the philosophy of cura personalis as the difference.
“I need to deal with your head, your heart, and your physicality, and I need to deal equally with all of them, or else I’m not giving you the opportunity to be fully alive,” Mrs. Renke said. “That is uniquely Jesuit [and] that is the platform we stand on.”
Father Phil Postell said that the Jesuits do not think they are better than anyone else.
“We’re different… which is not to say we’re better than anyone else,” he said. “We have a lot of things going for us, which help us.”
Father Postell said that the five Graduate at Graduation concepts, which are standards to which all Brophy students aspire before graduation and include Loving, Committed to Doing Justice, Religious, Open to Growth and Intellectually Competent, are an articulation of the Spiritual Exercises and Jesuit philosophy.
“Being a Jesuit institution, we are fundamentally inspired by and focused by Catholic teaching first…,” said Assistant Principal for Ministry Mr. Paul Fisko. “But we are also inspired by and directed by [Saint] Ignatius’s way of proceeding when it came to feeding the spirit and knowing where God is at work.”
Mr. Fisko said that while the Office of Faith and Justice welcomes all faiths, the Catholic faith directs all the work of the Office of Faith and Justice. He said that studying and emulating the life of St. Ignatius as well as the school prayer life, as seen through the examen and the Spiritual Exercises, are ways in which Brophy lives out its Jesuit identity.
Additionally, Mr. Fisko said that Brophy teachers are informed by what is called the Paradigm of an Ignatian Educator, which advises an instructor on how to best help a student experience, find and know God in their life.
“There’s a profile of an Ignatian Educator that we utilize here and expect our teachers to use that is you always begin where a student begins…,” he said. “Students here at Brophy, they know we’re a Catholic school, but they like the spirit of how things are done here, and they identify it as the way Brophy does things makes students feel like they have a little bit more ownership.”
Mr. Fisko said that although teachers encourage their students to consider their relationship with and faith in God by asking a lot of “why” questions, there is still a strong commitment to Catholicism.
“If it’s a matter of Catholic teaching, it’s everywhere all the time here,” he said. “It’s a matter of the questions that we ask.”
Mrs. Renke also said that another important component of being Jesuit is how all Jesuit schools are founded on the idea that they should be open to educate to every qualified child that applies, regardless of their ability to pay.
“Brophy probably gives out more financial aid than anyone in the state,” she said. “We’re at $5.2 million a year.”
Director of Ignatian Service and Religious Studies Instructor Mr. Will Rutt ’08 said that he acknowledges there is a perception that Brophy is a more liberal school than some of its Catholic counterparts.
“Historically, the students and the community that feed into this school are traditionally conservative; that’s changing and has changed in the last 10 to 15 years,” Mr. Rutt said he has perceived. “But as for the school and how it carries out its mission and its day to day, it comes off as liberal because, especially in recent years, like in the last five years, it’s become more politically active.”
Mrs. Renke said that a part of the mission of Brophy is to elevate Catholic social teaching to a level of advocacy.
“We abide by total Catholic social teaching; otherwise, we’re a sham. We are a Catholic school…,” she said. “But we take that social teaching to another level, to a level of advocacy”
She said that Brophy’s social justice platforms are based on progressive dignity of the individual.
“We’re coming from a place of ‘this individual deserves dignity, this individual deserves a life that’s fully alive, so let us help him do that,’” Mrs. Renke said. “People would label us liberal; I would prefer to label us forward thinking and progressive and always looking at the needs of the world and trying to solve them, and that will involve a political platform or a social justice advocacy platform.”
She said that sometimes Brophy is criticised for its political leanings, but that characterization is misleading.
“That’s where we take hits––because our social advocacy often gets confused with politicizing. It’s not,” Mrs. Renke said. “Why doesn’t everyone deserve the dignity of a fully alive human life?… We owe it to humanity to love one another.”
Mr. Rutt said he agrees that the school’s stances can get confused with the Church’s official teaching. He similarly said that he doesn’t like how social justice has been politicized.
“When you really look into the Church’s teaching on social issues, many times it lands on the liberal side of things naturally, not purposefully…,” he said. “That is not the case for all issues by any stretch of the imagination.”
Mr. Rutt also said the fact that we don’t put the sacraments at the center of campus life may appear like a liberalizing of Catholic tradition, instead saying that the sacraments are kind of an afterthought, which is a component of campus faith on which he said Brophy needs to improve.
Mr. Rutt added that this was a critique raised by the accreditation committee, a group responsible for either renewing or denying the extension of Brophy’s Catholic affiliation.
Additionally, Mr. Rutt said, the location of Brophy in the more outspoken and less traditional Jesuits West province, as well as the inherent liberal nature of education and educators, have contributed to the school’s liberal reputation.
Father Postell, a Jesuit priest himself, said that Jesuits are more progressive, not liberal. He said that progressive means being forward thinking.
“We’re open to positions that meet the needs of people,” he said.
Father Postell also said the Jesuits, in general, are more progressive because of their openness to change in the Church.
“I don’t think Jesuits would be necessarily shocked about women being ordained,” he said.
Mrs. Renke said that Father Postell is the master of the right word and has the right one in this case as well: progressive.
“Certainly the Jesuits are progressive,” she said. “Ignatius in 1550, he was a disruptor, he pushed the envelope, [and] he established an order of priests that got out of clericalism: they dressed like the people they served, they took hits for that, they were always looking on the frontiers for how do we help the underserved, how do we give hope to the hopeless.”
Mr. Rutt agrees with the characterization of Jesuits as progressive.
“The Jesuits definitely are pretty politically active and known for pushing the envelope…,” he said. “They are constantly challenging the Church to re-examine itself.”
Father Postell acknowledges he does not always abide by the book in every way.
“I would do a lot of things differently, say, up at a retreat with forty or fifty guys…,” he said. “I’m looking at that as a way to be a lot more human in meeting the needs of the kids who go to this school”
Mr. Fisko echoed the sentiment that he thinks the Jesuits are willing to be flexible if it means better meeting the needs of their parishioners.
“It’s the Jesuit way of doing things that are essential, and if it has to be simple, let it be simple…,” he said. “I can see why people say the Jesuits aren’t as by the book, but they still abide by the most central parts of the book.”