A Short Autobiographical Statement (2000)

The material below was originally prepared for the Jesuit Community page on the Le Moyne College server. It is a reasonable summary of what I have been doing for much of my life and of those things which motivate me and in which I believe. At least one browser wrote me to remonstrate against some of the activities which I pursued during my period of training. Alas! If I were only perfect!

I was born and raised in Manhattan. Until I entered the Jesuits at the age of 18, I spent all my life on that fantastic island in an era when even youngsters could explore the City by subway and bicycle and on foot. Founded after the Second World War, our Catholic parish, St. Emeric, embraced a broad range of social and ethinc groups in a faith community of energetic lay folk, hardworking priests, and a superb cadre of excellent elementary-school teachers from the Sisters of Charity of Mt. St. Vincent. I loved that parish for its vitality and sense of welcome.

I first encountered Jesuits at Regis High School which I entered as a freshman in 1962. For four years both scholastics (non-ordained Jesuits in training) and young priests -- they were all younger than I am now -- stimulated me intellectually while caring for me personally in ways I admired. High school was a tough time in my family. My mother died after a long bout with cancer when I was a Senior. Throughout those years I found myself supported personally and spiritually by the Jesuits and chose to enter the Society of Jesus after my graduation.

The years of formation as a Jesuit led me first to Poughkeepsie and two years of novitiate training. After that, I spent a year at our seminary in Westchester County and two years on the Bronx campus of Fordham University. An undergraduate major in both European history and philosophy, I taught at Xavier High School in Manhattan for two years before beginning three years of theological study at Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, MA. Ordained a priest in 1976 I completed a pastoral internship at St. Ann's Parish, Somerville, MA. Over these eleven years of training, the Jesuits sent or let me work in a cancer hospital as an orderly, coach a speech and debate team, organize anti-Vietnam War protests in the Bronx, tutor inner-city kids in English and math, serve as a news commentator and reporter for a college radio station, run a printing press, maintain the grounds of the cemetery where Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is buried, serve as a hospital chaplain to neurologically-impaired and terminal patients, construct a 250-page collection of teaching materials for a high school course in European history, and provide spiritual direction and counseling to recovering alcoholics. In all these experiences I deepened my bond to the Jesuits as a religious family and listened for where God next wanted me to work.

From 1977 through 1983 I completed a doctoral degree in clinical psychology at Fordham University and received my Psychologist's license from NY State in 1985. I returned to Regis High School as a psychologist for eight years where I provided mostly diagnostic, treatment, and consultative services to students and their families. Many of my clients there were highly talented young men who needed support as they struggled with the burdens of depression or anxiety or the effects of parental loss or discord. I also had the chance to teach Seniors regularly in an introductory course to my field.

In 1991 I left Regis and came to Le Moyne College to begin a new focus to my Jesuit work, principally now as a college professor. It has been a challenging time to be at Le Moyne. Our department has tripled its enrollment of Psychology majors in less than a decade (from 130 to 400+ students) and I have worked with excellent lay colleagues in responding to these students' needs. I bring a clinican's experience and judgment to the classroom in order to help students appreciate the sorts of challenges many of them may face in their own professional careers as human service workers. I've been responsible for directing our department as its Chair in recent years. At the same time, I have become extensively involved with other teachers of psychology through Division 2 of the American Psychological Association -- the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. I am primarily responsible for designing this group's entry into cyberspace and have constructed several Internet sites hosted by LeMoyne to provide resources for psychology teachers nationally on behalf of this group. I also conduct my own research which has centered in recent years on the role of narrative or storytelling as a powerful metaphor underlying many contemporary approaches to psychology.

All of these tasks reflect, I believe, my Jesuit understanding that God calls us to be involved in the "stuff" of the real world and to find in that world a reflection of God's manifold goodness, creativity, and loving embrace of each person. Jesuits have a special responsibility, I believe, to work within the intellectual and educational communities as witnesses to the integrity of that Catholic vision of reality as profoundly sacramental and incarnational. So much of my daily life as an academic tries to make a little more real just these beliefs. In more traditionally priestly fashion, I continue to celebrate the Eucharist each month at the Syracuse Catholic Worker's Unity Kitchen and to cooperate with our Campus Ministry team on their "second level" retreats for upperclass students here at the College.

In 1987 I was on a break from my work at Regis to complete "tertianship" -- the last official period of Jesuit formation. I made the 30-day Spiritual Exercises for a second time and studied our Jesuit documents and worked in both a hospital and a retreat house as part of tertianship. Before returning to Regis I was given the chance to go to Europe for the first time and saw some of the splendors of that region's art and culture for ten extraordinary weeks. The memory of those sights as well as tertianship was to support me during the late summer when, instead of returning to my Regis office immediately, I spent almost four months hospitalized with a rare neurological illness called Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). It both paralyzed me and rendered my arms, legs, and feet almost completely numb.

As I recuperated from the GBS and completed a rehabilitation program at Mount Sinai Hospital on my favorite island of Manhattan, I had the chance to recall the sight of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the man who had been Superior General of the Society of Jesus throughout all of my Jesuit years of training. Dom Pedro, as we affectionately called him, had suffered a stroke in 1983 which led to progressive debilitation and physical loss. Less than ten weeks before I got sick, I had stood for some brief minutes in Dom Pedro's room in the Jesuit headquarters in Rome to visit this frail, helpless man whose vigor and energy had animated so much of the Society of Jesus for years. More than a decade later I am still moved profoundly by the memory of that encounter for I am sure that I have never known anyone closer to God. I mention this very personal experience because it serves as a background to my favorite Jesuit quote -- one which Dom Pedro is supposed to have written and speaks to me about what it really means to be a Jesuit. Here's what Fr. Arrupe is reported to have said:

"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything."

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© 2000 Vincent W. Hevern, SJ, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.