By: Sarah David for the Paw Print
Mr. Talarico, President and Interim Principal recently announced that Father Spitzer has accepted the Interim Rector position at JSerra Catholic High School. “We are truly blessed to have somebody with Fr. Spitzer’s deep knowledge and vast experience as our Interim Rector. His decision to lead our campus’ rich spiritual life serves as influential testimony of JSerra’s place as one of the finest and most well rounded educational institutions in the region. I encourage students to introduce themselves to him – and take every possible opportunity to glean everything they possibly can from him.”
Father Spitzer comes to JSerra with an impressive background. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on May 16, 1952. He is a Catholic Priest of the Society of Jesus. He entered the Jesuits on August 17, 1974, took his first vows on August 21, 1976 and was ordained a priest on June 11, 1983, with final vows on April 4, 1992. His educational background is equally impressive; Ph.D. Catholic University of America, 1984-88. Philosophy , Summa cum Laude; Th.M. Weston School (Cambridge), 1983-84. Theology Scripture, Summa cum Laude; M.Div. Gregorian University (Rome), 1980-83. Theology, Summa cum Laude. M.A. St. Louis University, 1976-78. Philosophy. (Research) Magna cum Laude; B.B.A. Gonzaga University, 1970-74. Public Accounting and Finance, Magna Cum Laude; High School Punahou High School (Honolulu, Hawaii), 1970 National Honors Society. He is currently the President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith, the Spitzer Center on Catholic Organizations and the Chief Educational Officer for the Ethics and Performance Institute. He was President of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington from 1998-2008. During his time at Gonzaga University, he increased the student population by 75% and increased the faith, leadership, and service programs. He also raised millions of dollars in scholarships. He has published five books and is currently working on three new books.
I had the honor of sitting down for a one-on-one with Father Spitzer to discuss his experiences and ideas as well as plans for our JSerra community.
Question Sarah David: As our new Rector, what goals and plans do you have for the faith formation of the JSerra student body, freshman to senior?
Father Spitzer: First of course is to continue the good work that the Norbertines have already been doing in conjunction with our board. We have a goal statement for our religious faith that has been submitted to the board. It has all the various areas outlined and my job will be to try to implement it. They are already in great part implemented we will just moving to the next level both on an intellectual level and spiritual level and also to try and make the religious identity of our school very central to its general identity. In other words, our religious identity takes on the same force as our other identities like sports etc.
Question Sarah David: With your vast spiritual and academic experience at Gonzaga, do you have programs, plans, and goals in mind to meet the spiritual needs of our students, faculty, staff, and families?
Father Spitzer: My experience is at the university level but I see it as similar to this level because I want to listen and not reinvent the wheel. At mass today the students very clearly participate and they were attentive so there are a lot of things going well at the school. Alternatively, I can see some opportunities especially in the intellectual, school identity and academic development areas where I can make a difference. I had a huge role at Gonzaga in these areas and I want to allow the faculty’s great strength to come out. I also want to use my experience and background in the academic discussion of Faith and Reason, the evidence for GOD from physics and philosophy, and the historical study of the New Testament to benefit the faculty and students as we pursue making religion central to our purpose and our identity.
Question Sarah David: As our Rector, what is your measure of success for the spiritual growth of a JSerra student?
Father Spitzer: Measure success in many ways, number of programs or service opportunities. I do not feel these are the most important but rather how are our students relating more and more deeply to GOD! Are they aware of the presence of GOD in their daily lives…the unconditional love of GOD for them…the many ways in which GOD guides them and how to discern this…but above all is the they have confidence in GOD’s love ever more deeply and their interior life of each student and the life of the school is measured by Faith, Hope and Love as they become faith leaders in their church and schools. We can anecdotally measure trends now in the importance of faith in a student’s life, their awareness and confidence in GOD’s love and even how drawn they are to live a faith filled life as the school retreats bring these traits out. . If the JSerra alumni are not faith leaders of the future we have got a problem because who will the leaders be…? These are good signs but I will see the success in 12 years as they write books, serve on parish boards and become heads of ethics boards at universities as well as emerge front and center for our hopes as Catholic leaders of the future. I will assume the fruits will be good!
Question Sarah David: As a graduating senior, what advice would you give a potential graduate who is completing their faith walk at a safe environment and beginning a journey in the adult world of higher education?
Father Spitzer: I say definitely pick a school where your faith will be allowed to be nourished. Make a campus visit. Do not just go to the best academic school for undergraduate…maybe for graduate work… but if you have a chance to go to a top school like Gonzaga or Notre Dame, the presence of GOD will knock you right over on your campus visit. You will see these kids really BELIEVE and more importantly, they will be very supportive of your faith…at Gonzaga, a freshman student told me after a mass of 700-800 students …”what I like best about Gonzaga is that it is not uncool to be religious here.” It is a message of faith support and safety among the students. Faith nourishment is a vital part of campus life. In other non-faith based schools, you must step up and join activities like the catholic student center but they are automatic at faith centered schools. I often wonder …if I had not gone to Gonzaga… I am not sure what I would have done or where I would be today but now I believe I have the best possible life because of that experience. That is why it is so important to make that choice of higher education centered on faith nourishment.