The Jesuit History Research Group endeavors to promote the expansion of Jesuit scholarship

In March 2018, initial meetings took place between Fr. Thomas Worcester SJ, President of Regis College, Jean-Olivier Richard, Assistant Professor of Christianity and Culture at the University of St. Michael’s College, and Andreas Motsch, Associate Professor in the Department of French at the University of Toronto. All three share an academic interest in Jesuits.

A series of informal conversations ensued, and it soon became apparent that a larger number of Toronto-area scholars hailing from a wide variety of disciplines such as cultural history, the history of science, religion, literature, art history, and anthropology, shared this interest in Jesuit-related matters.

Worcester, Richard and Motsch decided to take these academic gatherings a step further. In June 2019, the Jesuit History Research Group (JHRG) was recognized as an official working group of the Jackman Humanities Institute (JHI) at the University of Toronto. The JHI is an institute dedicated to advancing scholarship in the liberal arts by providing resources to support interdisciplinary collaboration. “Financial support for the Jesuit History Research Group, from the Jackman Humanities Institute, demonstrates very clearly that the history of the Society of Jesus is a major, mainstream topic of scholarly research, and not merely a small, in-house matter,” said Fr. Worcester, general editor of the Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Jesuits (2017). “Indeed, the major university presses—Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, Toronto, and others—are eager to publish on Jesuit topics. All this bodes well for Regis College, whose mission and identity has been, is, and will be Jesuit!”

The Jesuit History Research Group serves as a rallying point across the three campuses of the University of Toronto to bring faculty, students and members of the community together to discuss their work and share ideas about Jesuit-related scholarship. “Jesuit Studies constitutes a dynamic field of inquiry across the humanities and the University of Toronto is no exception,” said professor Motsch. “The Jesuits were extremely influential in the formation of a Western world view, and research on Jesuits points to central questions of human existence, knowledge production and cultural difference. In today’s global world, these questions have not lost their relevance.”

JHI is providing JHRG with one, possibly two years of support, professor Richard says. “This will allow us to establish ourselves at U of T and in the GTA more generally. The next step will be to gather additional resources and funding outside the University of Toronto so we can expand our collaboration even further.” “What we’ve realized,” he continued, “is that there is a renewed, vibrant interest in Jesuit scholarship. Networking and collaborating in a genuinely inter-disciplinary way will open up new avenues for Jesuit research, notably when it comes to bridging scholarship focusing on the Old and the Restored Society.”

The Jesuit History Research Group is currently welcoming new members and will resume its monthly activities in September 2019. The JHRG endeavors to promote the expansion of Jesuit scholarship. Interested academics are invited to reach out to Jean-Olivier Richard for more information.