After the Fall
By France Griggs Sloat
Psychology professor David Hellkamp was shivering. It was October on his first trip to Lithuania. Snow had fallen, and the Baltic state was settling into winter. The living quarters of the 350-year-old school where he was staying had no heat, and his room in a wing where the Jesuits had lived for centuries was 54 stair steps from the bathroom. Cold showers were the rule.
Hellkamp learned to wash quickly and dress warmly. But the significance of experiencing the medieval remnants of Cold War Europe didn’t escape him. That was in 1997, six years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It was also five years after the University began a relationship with the country’s two Jesuit high schools. In 1992, University vice president for mission and ministry Leo Klein, S.J., first traveled to the Baltic country, which sits just west of the Russian border along the Baltic Sea, at the request of a close friend from the Jesuits’ Chicago province. While that first visit was just an informational session, in the intervening years, the University has taken a proactive role in laying the foundation for the rebuilding of the country’s religious schools and educating its students to become its future leaders.
“The progress they’ve made has been phenomenal,” says Hellkamp, who has made three more trips to the schools. “They are a Second World country, no doubt, but their energy and aggressiveness to develop their infrastructure and other issues is really developing.” What kept Klein interested and led him back four times since was twofold: The effort, first of all, is a natural sideline to the University’s mission of education and service to others, no matter where the need. “From the beginning of the Society of Jesus,” says Klein, “our whole scope is to go anywhere in the world where the need is expressed, where the greater glory of God calls us to go. That’s significantly different from the orders before us who had monasteries and prayer. And Ignatius wanted us to go at the sound of the bell.”
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