“Education helps build peace and stability and gives hope to many young refugees.”
Fr Tom Smolich laughs as he recalls how his life as a Jesuit is nothing like the one he imagined when he entered the Society as a 19-year-old novice. “I was attracted to the Society when I was in high school, and I imagined that after ordination, I would return to teach at a Jesuit high school. That didn’t happen, but it’s been a terrific run.”
Fr Tom Smolich earned his MBA from Stanford University (1996), a Master’s Degree in Religious Education from Loyola Marymount University (1992), and a Master of Divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley (1986).
From 1996-98, he was a project manager for the Mid-Peninsula Housing Coalition, developing affordable housing for families in the San Francisco Bay area. He then joined the staff of California Province Jesuits as Assistant to the Provincial for Planning and Programs in 1998. Fr Tom Smolich served as the Provincial of the Jesuits of the California Province from 1999-2005 and then as President of the Jesuit Conference USA from 2006-2014.
„The Church often is called upon to do dangerous work. I think one has to prepare for this as much as one can, but ultimately, realise that this is where we are called to be – on the frontiers – and the frontiers are sometimes dangerous“, he says.
Since October 2015, Fr. Tom Smolich SJ has been the International Director of the Jesuit Refugee Service which accompanies, serves and advocates on behalf of refugees and forced migrants. “As human beings, we are often at the mercy of war, of nature, of governments – of forces beyond our control. For this reason, nearly 60 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes, constantly moving. But for people living in motion, those who cannot take possessions can bring knowledge and change their world,” he says. “We are convinced that education helps build peace and stability and gives hope to many young refugees and displaced in the 46 countries where JRS works.“ Fr Tom Smolich speaks of education as a precious tool for refugees as well as being one of the basic human rights and of how it helps them rise up to the challenge of making a new life for themselves and making a huge difference in their individual lives. “All of us have challenges, but the life of a typical refugee or migrant poses challenges that many of us who have not had to make that struggle can’t even imagine. Being able to think, to understand what others have to say, being able to write, perhaps speak a different language – the language of the country I am going to arrive in – makes a huge difference” he adds.
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