Oliver Rafferty SJ
Originally from Belfast I joined the Jesuits in England having attended Heythrop College as a lay man from 1976-79 when the college was located in Cavendish Square. Religious vocations are a bit of a mystery but I was most certainly influenced by the Jesuits at Heythrop both by those who taught me and by the various Jesuit scholastics who were studying there in the mid to late 1970s. As a young Jesuit I was very interested in social and political issues and also in ecumenism. I completed my formation in such places as Dublin, Glasgow, Berkeley California and London. Those were heady and exciting years as one grew as a person and a Jesuit. After ordination I was sent back to Belfast where the Irish Jesuits were opening a house for the first time. The Troubles were still raging and it was touching to be part of the Jesuit outreach to people who were suffering from the consequences of violence in a divided society.
During the course of my time in Belfast I published several scholarly articles largely based on work I had done earlier in my Jesuit formation and started a book on the history of Catholicism in Ulster. It was decided that I should do a doctorate and I spent several years researching and writing on the Fenians, an Irish revolutionary group founded in the mid-nineteenth century and which was ultimately responsible for the Easter Rising of 1916.
After my doctorate I completed the final stage of Jesuit training, the tertianship, in India in 1996. Among the most moving experiences during my time there was to work in the Home for the Dying run by the sisters of Mother Teresa in Calcutta.
Having taught at Heythrop College and been Senior Tutor at Campion Hall Oxford I became a professor of Ecclesiastical History in Ireland. When it came time for a sabbatical I thought of going to our Mission in Guyana, South America. The superiors welcomed the idea but said it would be of more use to the Mission if I spent an extended period of time there, so I ended up living for three years in the interior of Guyana, on the border with Brazil, ministering to the indigenous Macushi and Wapishana populations. Thereafter I taught once again at Heythrop College and am now Professor of Modern Irish and Ecclesiastical History at Boston College, a Jesuit university in Massachusetts.
Most of my time is spent teaching and researching. In all I have written or edited seven books, authored more than fifty academic articles, many articles at a popular level and some eighty book reviews. I have had the opportunity to teach as a visiting professor in various universities in the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and Korea.
Thus far my life as a Jesuit has been varied and stimulating. I have received a lot from the Society and hope that in turn I have contributed something to the mission of the Church and the order.