Agape Latte: Talks on life and love, with coffee


Dan Kennedy and Patrick Hyland are both Ohio natives. They both are graduates of Boston College (BC). And now, the two Jesuits-in-formation – those who live in the Bellarmine House of Studies and attend classes at SLU – share another trait: They are starting the Agape Latte series at SLU.

Agape Latte (“agape” is a Greek form of the word “love,” in this case, love as “self-gift”) commenced at Boston College and is a monthly event that features speakers from the university (faculty, staff, or administrators) who talk about their lives – the struggles, vocations, successes and failures – especially regarding their faith, while students listen and drink coffee.

“The talk series started as a collaboration between Campus Ministry and the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College,” Kennedy said, discussing the origins of Agape Latte. “… [Boston College] wanted to provide spaces for conversations about faith, vocations [and] larger, meaning-of-life questions in an informal setting.”

In fact, Boston College has been supportive of spreading the Agape Latte brand. A number of other colleges – Holy Cross and Assumption College, for example – have started Agape Latte on their campuses. Kennedy and Hyland say that their alma mater has been instrumental and supportive in their endeavors at SLU, providing them with marketing materials and supplies to get started. The first Agape Latte talk at SLU is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 13, at 8:30 p.m. in the Billiken Club. Dr. Mona Hicks, SLU’s Dean of Students, will be the inaugural speaker for the SLU branch of Agape Latte.

Though speaker events are certainly not uncommon at SLU – or other universities – Agape Latte, Kennedy and Hyland stressed, is different.

“It’s akin to taking a Last Lecture and a retreat talk and combining the strongest elements of the two to be delivered to the wider school community,” Kennedy said.

“With retreats, sometimes you only get people who are linked with Campus Ministry. With Last Lectures, sometimes maybe larger questions about faith, their spiritual formation, larger lessons that they’ve learned about God and their relationship with God, might not come up. But Agape Latte is meant to be a … context creator to hear people [who] you might not usually get to hear from in a normal introduction at the university.”

“It’s like a retreat talk thrown in the middle of a busy college week,” Hyland added, “inviting everyone who goes to ask some deeper questions, but also making whoever’s speaking [set] the example of being vulnerable in order to reach deeper.”

Though the series has been going on at Boston College for a number of years – many of the talks from the past are available on YouTube – Hyland and Kennedy have fond memories of some of the notable speakers they heard during their years in Boston.

One in particular was Mark Herzlich, a former Boston College football star whose bout with Ewing’s Sarcoma – a form of bone cancer – nearly ended his athletic career, and his life. Herzlich survived the disease and currently plays in the NFL, and though his participation in Agape Latte broke the traditional mold of the event (when he spoke, he was not a current member of the university community), his story, Kennedy iterated, was an inspiring one of struggle and survival.

“It was like this big [BC] personality, but with this very human story that many people could relate to,” he said. “And maybe that’s the genius of Agape Latte talks, is the very relatable human story behind each of the big names they invite.”

Hyland reinforced the idea of being relatable. “People appreciate honesty,” he said. “And that’s what it’s all about.”

Agape Latte is in its infancy at SLU, but Kennedy and Hyland believe that it has great potential. They hope that it can continue and be managed in the future by the Mission and Ministry committee of SGA, of which they are members.

“It can be a great event here on campus, and we have high hopes for it,” Kennedy said. “…One of the strengths [of SLU] is that there are many people who want to talk about the mission, or use the mission, in articulating the reasons why they came here, what they’re taking away from SLU – this will be a great way to continue to form them.”

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