SPOKANE, Wash. --- Fr. Craig Hightower’s first couldn’t help but think of how quickly the Catholic Church elected a new pope when he heard the news. Then, the Gonzaga University priest learned the new pope was, too, a Jesuit.
“I really did not think they would get someone this fast, but there’s a lot of excitement with all believers and Christians around the word,” he said.
Fr. Hightower is the director of campus ministry at the university. He says he was surprised to see the new pope is a member of the Society of Jesus, commonly knows as Jesuits.
“We are not supposed to advocate for those roles and try to be climbers that way.”
The order has been reluctant to get deeply involved in church politics and tends to steer clear of high ranking jobs, but Hightower says when the church comes calling, the Jesuits respond.
“To have a Jesuit who’s responded to the church in a way that is totally free and responding in a leadership role that way is pretty exciting.”
Hightower says Jesuits have a strong commitment to education. Gonzaga sits one of numerous Jesuit universities.
“We are known for our education, so to have a pope who has the kind of training and that ability to discern the gifts of the Holy Sprit, and has the academic background is exciting.”
It’s been know that Jesuits and the Vatican sometimes have a tense relationship over issues like birth control and homosexuality. Hightower does not see that changing and calls the tension healthy.
Hightower himself sits at the end of the GU men’s basketball bench and signs have appeared at games reading “Hightower for pope.” He says, fortunately, many of the Cardinals are probably not big basketball fans and did not see that.