April 27-May 3,2006
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Father Robert Scully Leads a Contemporary Vocation in the Society of Jesus
The role of the Society of Jesus in relation to the greater culture of Catholicism has changed throughout its five centuries of history. Although not founded as an agency of the counter reformation, the order’s earliest years were spent in conflict with Protestantism and revitalizing the Catholic Church.
In the mid-16th century, the Society of Jesus was recognized as the first true “teaching order.” In the U.S., the Jesuits run 28 universities and 50 high schools. In Syracuse, the local representation of the Society of Jesus is concentrated at Le Moyne College.
Ordained in 1996, Father Robert Scully, SJ, has been teaching at Le Moyne for 10 years. A native of Manhattan, he spent several years as an attorney in the tri-state area after graduating from Rutgers and receiving his law degree from Seton Hall. “I just felt that this was what God wanted me to do,” Father Scully said. After entering the society, Father Scully studied philosophy and history at Fordham and then Jesuit history at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley in California before being ordained and arriving in Syracuse. After a decade in Central New York, Father Scully said he has grown accustomed to a quieter lifestyle far from the bustle of the big city. At any rate, the day-to-day duties of a member of the order consume him. Father Scully primarily teaches history courses, including legal history, an introductory world civilization course, British history and the history of the Jesuits.
“I try to approach each subject as an academic discipline but I also try to integrate a moral and social dimension,” Father Scully said. On a recent morning, his 100-level Western-civilization course had covered the most horrendous elements of World War II: the Holocaust and the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
“Dropping the A-bomb was primarily a military decision…when we look at this we shouldn’t just look at this as a military issue. We should also see it as a moral issue. It’s a very complex issue,” Father Scully said. In addition to his classroom and scholarly duties, Father Scully celebrates Mass at St. Mary’s of the Lake in Skaneateles. He is also the resident-hall chaplain at Foery Hall on the Le Moyne campus. Father Scully finds minimal challenges living among students, most of whom are juniors and seniors. Father Scully is also active in the Jesuit honor society Alpha Sigma Mu. Several times a year, he celebrates Mass at Unity Kitchen in downtown Syracuse and, in the past, he has celebrated Mass with the De La Salle Christian Brothers at Christian Brothers Academy in DeWitt.
A popular phrase directed at scholars over the last 15 to 20 years has been “publish or perish.” While that isn’t necessarily a maxim for the Jesuits, Father Scully has published a number of papers on the Jesuits in Britain during the 16th century, when Catholicism was illegal and its adherents were a despised and hunted element of the population. Ultimately, he hopes to develop this series into a book.
Friday afternoon, Father Scully’s first class after lunch is an installment in a 300-level course on Jesuit history and spirituality. The current discussion focuses on the eras of popes Pius IX, Leo XIII and St. Pius X. Those popes reigned during one of the most turbulent periods in history, the Industrial Revolution, and their writings and teachings were critical in shaping Catholic thought. Father Scully relayed that while he derives a considerable amount of satisfaction from impacting young minds, the years of immersion at Le Moyne have yielded certain lifelong relationships with former students. Over the course of the decade since he arrived on campus, former students have returned to ask him to marry them and to baptize their children.