Contributed by Jeannine Carolan Graf, ‘87, Fairfield University

(L-R): Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D., and Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus (Photo Courtesy of Fairfield University)


Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, Ph.D., offered the welcoming address at an international conference in November that commemorated the life and work of St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J., the University’s patron saint. During this time, he also met with Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus.

The Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome was the co-sponsor with Fairfield for this theological colloquium.

Entitled “Rethinking Bellarmine Between Theology, Philosophy and History,” the three-day conference, held from November 17 to 19, commemorated the 400th anniversary of the death of St. Bellarmine (1621-2021), a professor and rector-president of the Jesuit’s Roman College—forerunner of the Gregorian—in the century after the death of St. Ignatius. Bellarmine was an Italian Jesuit and cardinal of the Catholic Church and a notable figure during the Counter-Reformation. He was canonized in 1930.

In his welcoming remarks to the assembly of scholars from around the globe, Dr. Nemec shared his vision of a Jesuit and Catholic university, drawing on the tradition of St. Bellarmine.

“I would suggest one important lesson we take from the life and work of St. Robert Bellarmine is the duality of a higher education: that it is ever-evolving and ever-true,” Dr. Nemec said. “It is value-based, student-centric and outcomes-focused, preparing young men and women of purpose ad majorem Dei gloriam.”

The colloquium concluded with the celebration of vespers at the Church of Sant’Ignazio and the incensing of the altar, where the relics of St. Bellarmine are held.

During the trip, Dr. Nemec met with Rev. Douglas W. Marcouiller, S.J., general counselor and U.S. regional assistant at the Jesuit Curia in Rome, and Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., superior general of the Society of Jesus. Dr. Nemec was accompanied on the trip by Rev. Gerry Blaszczak, S.J., assistant to the president and alumni chaplain. While there, they also toured the Church of the Gesù where St. Ignatius of Loyola’s remains are preserved, and were granted special access to the private rooms where St. Ignatius lived during his decades in Rome.

In their meetings, Fr. Marcouiller and Fr. Sosa discussed with Dr. Nemec how the Universal Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus have been incorporated into Fairfield’s Magis Core Curriculum, as well as programs offered by the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality. Also discussed were Fairfield’s plan for a new academic unit that would serve students from low-income and under-represented families, primarily in the surrounding Bridgeport region, Fr. Blaszczak said.

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