Java with the Jesuits serves SLU


On Friday mornings, students are running on empty at the end of a busy school week. It is the perfect time for a pleasantly surprising pick-me-up. Campus Jesuits have an answer to that need: Centrally located at the clock tower, the Java with the Jesuits program provides weekly installments of free hot beverages, fruit and other morning treats for the SLU community from 8:30 to 11 a.m.

Thirty-seven gallons of hot cider, tea, hot chocolate and coffee are provided every week, and each gallon provides about 10 cups of beverage. Based on this math, approximately 350-370 people take advantage of Java with the Jesuits every Friday according to Patrick Hyland, one of the Jesuits in charge of the program.

Though many students stop by the clock tower on Fridays to pick up free food and drink, some are likely unaware of how the program works and why it came to be. According to Hyland, this is the first year that Java with the Jesuits has been a weekly event. In the past, it took place just every other week, and it was located in the BSC. When his incoming class of Jesuits arrived on campus, they suggested that it be moved to the clock tower.

“We wanted to put it right in the middle of the crossroads of campus where more people could accidentally find us or could come by on the way to class,” Hyland said. “Every week there’s at least one person who says ‘What’s this?’ or ‘What’s going on here?’. Even though it’s the same time every week, we still seem to capture somebody new every time.”

These accidental encounters and the recurring regulars are exactly what Java with the Jesuits is about. “If  there is a way we can create the space for the younger student Jesuits to be available, then we want to take advantage of that,” Hyland said.

“According to the writings of St. Ignatius, we’re supposed to be ministers of consolation. When somebody begins a conversation with us, they’re meant to leave that conversation in a better spirit. I think we are able to do that to some extent at Java just by creating a space for that kind of thing—to ask those kinds of questions that you normally wouldn’t ask a complete stranger.”

Hyland said topics on Friday mornings range from how the semester is going or weekend plans to asking about Catholicism or asking for guidance. He described one instance where a student exchanged numbers with one of the Jesuits and asked if he could talk. As it turned out, the student was going through an extremely difficult time and had been hospitalized amidst a sort of breakdown. The student told the Jesuit later that he did not know who else to call.

“That was more than enough to validate for us why we’re doing this,” Hyland said. “It made me think this really isn’t just about theological discussion. Maybe there’s a deeper need here. You can just tell by the kinds of questions students ask.”

Java with the Jesuits is paid for in part by the Health and Wellness fund, a collection that all students pay into each year. $100,000 of this fund is set aside for student proposals. Each year since its conception, Java with the Jesuits has won a grant to use part of this for their program via a student Jesuit’s written proposal.

Hyland said that the program makes an effort to get all their food from ethically sourced locations.

Currently, Java with the Jesuits gets their cider and hot chocolate, fruit and bagels from CaterSLU, Schnucks and Panera, respectively. Coffee is provided by Northwest Coffee, a local black-owned business, and the cinnamon rolls come from Bridge Bread, a bakery that hires homeless or recently incarcerated individuals to help them get back on their feet. Hyland said that they would like to continue improving in this area and mentioned that Northwest Coffee is in talks with Aramark about potentially coming to campus, too.

As the program looks ahead to the future, Hyland said he is excited to see what incoming classes of Jesuits will do to help shape the program.

Next year’s class is larger than normal; it will consist of 13 Jesuits as opposed to five and seven in the last two incoming classes. “At the very least I hope that this can be something people can come to count on, even if it changes shape in some way,” Hyland said. “Pope Francis has reminded us what a great impact a person willing to listen, willing to be in dialogue can have,” Hyland said. “We don’t think it’s a coincidence that he is a Jesuit.”

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