By Becky Sindelar
March 4, 2016 — As the new general editor of Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, Father Bart Geger, SJ, looks forward to continuing the tradition the journal started over 45 years ago.
Written primarily by Jesuits for Jesuits, Studies was founded by Father George Ganss, SJ, and the then-U.S. Jesuit provincials in 1969, “for the edification and education of Jesuits,” explains Fr. Geger, who is quick to add that he hopes the readership transcends a Jesuit audience.
Fr. Geger sees Studies as unique among Jesuit publications. “As far as I know, there’s nothing quite like this in the English-speaking world. We certainly have scholarly reviews and journals on Jesuit history and spirituality in various languages. But one that is intended for Jesuits in general, whether they’re scholars or not, is relatively unique.”
Issues have covered such topics as what it means to live the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the Society of Jesus; various aspects of Jesuit history and their implications for today; how to interpret contested points of St. Ignatius’ spiritual doctrine; and famous Jesuit saints and heroes and what they say to Jesuits about their vocations today.
Fr. Geger, for instance, wrote a Studies article entitled “The First First Companions: The Continuing Impact of the Men Who Left Ignatius” in 2012 about early Jesuits who left the Society and the effect their departures had on Ignatius. “I wrote it to be a consoling piece; this is something we’ve struggled with for 500 years. It’s not a new thing and I think guys needed to hear that.”
Every U.S. Jesuit automatically receives Studies; other Jesuits and all other readers are subscribers. The journal is published four times a year, and each issue features a single extended essay on a topic. Fr. Geger says Studies straddles a middle ground between scholarly articles and pure reflection.
“Spirituality, by its nature, requires one to talk about personal experience, anecdotes and perspectives, so we need to be able to allow these in the essays. But at the same time, it can’t be just a Jesuit sharing his opinions about something. I would like every writer for Studies, to the extent that it’s relevant, to substantiate his or her points with reference to our foundational texts: the Constitutions and Complementary Norms, the Spiritual Exercises, the Autobiography of St. Ignatius, the Spiritual Diary, relevant letters from Superior Generals, and so on.”
Fr. Geger’s background makes him well-suited for the job. After he was ordained in 2001, he helped found a Jesuit community in Colorado Springs and then worked on a doctorate in Jesuit studies and spirituality at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas in Madrid. He wrote his dissertation on the Jesuit Constitutions.
For the last six years, he’s served as the rector of the Jesuit communities at Regis University and St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Denver and taught classes on Jesuit spirituality, while also doing as much writing as possible. For the past three years, he also served as a member of the Seminar for Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, the publication’s de facto editorial board.
Now Fr. Geger will continue the work of his predecessor, Father Richard Blake, SJ, who served as editor from 2002 through 2015. Fr. Geger, as a member of the Seminar, had the chance to work with Fr. Blake for three years before taking on the new role. “Fr. Dick is a wonderful writer. He dedicated himself to composing learned, cultured introductions to each essay that was published. It was a way of helping a Jesuit see the relevance of whatever the subject was for his own particular life and ministry. He really understood the importance of making these essays come alive for our readers.”
As editor, Fr. Geger says he will focus on developing younger Jesuits as writers. The good news is that there are a lot of younger Jesuits who are passionate about Jesuit spirituality and history, according to Fr. Geger. He would like to identify these Jesuits and then, if needed, have members of the Seminar guide them through the writing process. “It’s time intensive, it’s labor intensive, but ideally at the end of it you have a young Jesuit who knows what he’s doing — and who can write for us again in the future.”
Fr. Geger also plans to hold a yearly summer conference where Jesuits from the U.S. and Canada can meet and discuss papers they’re writing, whether a thesis, a term paper for class, a journal article or dissertation. “We can come together for a few days and critique each other’s work. Ideally some of the things we talk about at the conference will become fodder for later Studies articles,” says Fr. Geger.
Fr. Geger hopes that writers for Studies will continue to engage original sources, such as the Constitutions and the Spiritual Diary, and study them more deeply. “The last few Superior Generals have asked Jesuits to engage the Constitutions in particular, which remains relatively untreated compared to the Spiritual Exercises. I’m hoping that Studies can be a venue for that, so that writers can point readers to the relevance and importance of these texts.”
Another area Fr. Geger will focus on is publishing articles that can be resource materials for Jesuits in formation. “For example, Jesuits who work in formation tell us there’s not a lot of written stuff out there on what it means for a young Jesuit to live the vows in the 21st century. They’re still using Studies articles that came out 25 years ago.”
He hopes that Studies becomes incorporated more explicitly in the formation of Jesuits. “To see the intellectual gifts and the spiritual gifts of our brothers and what they bring to the table is a very consoling thing. I really look forward to being able to serve that.”
If you’re interested in writing for Studies, please contact Fr. Geger at firstname.lastname@example.org.