Fr. Pedro Arrupe & the Call to Action

Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, the Jesuit Superior General from 1965 to 1981, gave SI another reason to move in this new direction. He visited SI in 1971 where he told students that if we have “suicidal blind irresponsibility and lack of courage, we will have no right at some later date to mourn the passing of our schools.” Two years later, in a speech to the Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe in Valencia, Spain, he spoke to alumni from Jesuit high schools and universities, many of whom felt that their primary duty as Jesuit supporters was to donate money. He challenged them to do far more, to dedicate themselves to become “men for others” and to rise out of their complacency. He asked his listeners — and challenged those who taught and studied at Jesuit schools — to live simply “and in this way to stop short, or at least to slow down, the expanding spiral of luxurious living and social competition” and to “draw no profit whatever from clearly unjust sources. Not only that, but going further, to diminish progressively our share in the benefits of an economic and social system in which the rewards of production accrue to those already rich, while the cost of production lies heavily on the poor.” He asked all to be “agents of change in society; not merely resisting unjust structures and arrangements, but actively undertaking to reform them.”

Priests at SI, like Jesuits throughout the world, were unclear on how to respond immediately to Arrupe’s words. Some priests at SI embraced the speech and invited students to become these “men for others.” Priests invited students to join picket lines in support of the United Farm Workers’ grape boycott, and others created more opportunities for SI students to minister to those in need.