Jesuits at Prep: The Past Present and Future

Eamon Mohrbacher, Staff Writer

There have been many changes to Seattle Prep since it was founded in 1891, but the one constant? Jesuits. At the turn of the 20th century, Jesuits roamed the campus. When Prep converted from an all-boys school to co-ed in 1972, the Jesuits helped incorporate the change. As every alumni passed through Prep’s halls and graduated, the Jesuits prayed for their success. Old buildings were demolished, and new buildings took their places as the steadfast Jesuits adapted. When the ’20-’21 football team defeated O’Dea for the first time in 40 years, the Jesuits cheered with the rest of the school. Despite the ongoing evolution of our school and world, the Jesuits consistently provide the backbone for life at Prep.

Many may wonder what the life of a Jesuit looks like outside of teaching theology or leading the school in mass. At Prep, our Jesuit priests are immensely active and involved in many aspects of the community. Speaking on behalf of current Jesuits on campus, Fr. Celio explains, “Fr. Rallanka and I both teach theology classes and serve on the Community Ministry team.  That means we direct retreats, preside at liturgies, lead the student music ministers, and support students’ spiritual lives in whatever ways we can.  On the side, Fr. Rallanka moderates the Video Game and D&D clubs and I coach baseball.”

Academic responsibilities have transitioned over the years, and as Fr. Rallanka depicts, there used to be a lot more than two or three priests on campus: “The school was founded in 1891, and back in the day, almost all of the teachers were Jesuits, so try to imagine a school where all the classes were entirely run by Jesuits.”

Not only was theology taught by the Jesuits, but also math, science, English, history, and nearly everything else that fills out the Prep academic roster. Fr. Celio shares, “In the past Jesuits have served on the Community Ministry team (most recently Fr. Paul Fitterer) and have served as administrators (presidents and likely principals too), teachers, and coaches at Prep. You name it, and we’ve likely done it.”

With all of these academic and leadership commitments, it is hard to believe that many “typical priestly” activities can be achieved as well. Despite all their other work, Jesuits live a rich life of prayer and develop strong relationships with God. Fr. Celio describes, “I pray about an hour a day, not counting mass (which is another 30 min). In the morning, I pray with the readings of the day, and with some psalms. In the evening I pray the Examen. By this point in my Jesuit life, no one tells me that I should pray more or less. But I have found that this rhythm of prayer helps me to stay rooted in my relationship with God and helps me pray through my experiences each day.”

At one time, Jesuits lived on campus, making it more convenient to manage their busy schedules. Fr. Celio illustrates, “Back then, the school was not as large as it is now, so it was convenient to build one building that housed the school and the Jesuit community.”

Even though Jesuits do not live on campus anymore like the priests of the past, being surrounded by students, staff, and many school activities can be spiritually and emotionally fulfilling. As Fr. Rallanka tells, “The morning masses are really helpful on my end, especially since I am a theology teacher. I also always appreciate the morning prayers that are over the intercom. Both the faculty and the students give thoughtful reflections that give our day a good start.”

Although Jesuit life may have more contemporary looks and practices than the Jesuits of the past generations, the foundations of their faith, and the massive positive impact they bring to the Prep campus remains.

Later in life, when some of us come back to Prep to serve as an ASC member or watch a game of Prep football as an alumni or parents, or even when we come back for our high school reunions, many things may have changed.  Some of our favorite teachers may be gone, some of our classmates may be spread around the world, new buildings and new students may be present, but the one familiarity that we will all recognize will be the presence of the Jesuits.