Fr. Luke Sweeney is a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, ordained in 2001 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A native of Irvington, NY, he is a 1992 graduate of the Prep. Currently, he is serving as an Official of the Holy See’s Congregation for Bishops in Rome.
When the Second Vatican Council addressed the relationship of the Church with the modern world, it pointed out that “only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. Christ, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (Gaudium et Spes #22). It is very appropriate that the East Wing Project expansion includes an upgrade of the Religious Studies offices and classrooms because learning about Jesus is at the very core of Fordham Prep’s Jesuit goal of forming the whole person, and of preparing the next generation of young men to know who they are and their mission in the world.
When I started freshman year at the Prep, I was already discerning a vocation to the Catholic priesthood. I had felt the call during elementary school thanks to my parents, the religious sisters in the school and the parish priests. But I decided to keep my vocational yearning private at the Prep and only address it in guidance meetings. Religion classes provided particular nourishment and challenged for me to grow my knowledge of Jesus through the scriptures, Church history and morals-ethics, all with the help teachers like Mr. Benedict and Mr. Homer. Much of what we studied became the substance of energetic discussion in the Commons over lunch. Religion classes were an important part in my search for answers and coming to the truth through the life of Jesus.
Thanks to the upcoming changes to the East Wing, there will be more room for the religious studies classes and offices. This is truly a blessing. Just as science and technology need appropriate space to educate, so too Religious Studies will benefit from a modern learning environment. It is as an essential part of the Prep curriculum to bring Jesus, the Church and our mission in the world to the generations to come. The inspiration of our faith down through the centuries has inspired the creation of magnificent cathedrals and religious art throughout the world. A young man needs his space as he ponders and learns about the mystery of the one who created him, loves him and who calls us all to the fullness of life.
In seeking to care for the whole person, I was always grateful that the daily instruction in the Catholic faith was complemented by sacraments, fraternity, service and wonderful mentors. To reinforce and deepen our faith there was class Confession services during Advent and Lent, impactful retreats with Mr. Baisley and the inspiring Jesuit presence, the Campus Ministry offices with Brother Boccabella and, most importantly, the availability of daily Mass celebrated by Fr. Leonard and other Jesuits. They all played an important part in helping this soul discern how God was guiding me to choose between the priesthood and the practice of medicine. I discovered that my heart was filled with greater joy picturing myself as a priest. The Ad Amorem senior retreat graced me with the clarity to apply to the seminary and my wonderful classmates were sincere in their encouragement of my decision.
Fordham Prep was my first taste of Jesuit education, and I just kept going back! I was blessed to continue at Fordham University during my philosophy years of the seminary, and then when I moved on to theology, I was given the opportunity to study at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, an institution going back to St. Ignatius of Loyola himself. As a priest, Fordham Prep’s religious education has helped me to be sensitive to the importance of a young man’s transition in faith from elementary school to high school, and how that faith needs to be deepened, challenged and cared for. Our teachers showed us how essential the embodiment of the faith they taught is. I am very happy to see the Religious Studies classes and offices getting the needed update for the next chapter in Prep history.