Before earning his doctorate from the School of Education in 2011, Patrick Lynch ’80, ’82, ’11 wrote a 300-page thesis, titled “Preferential Options and Palimpsests: Transferring the Founder’s Catholic Charism from Vowed Religious Educators to Lay Educators.”
There’s a conversation-stopper.
But Lynch is passionate about restarting that conversation and moving it forward. After all, he is one of those lay people who are the focus of his thesis.
As chair of the English Department and former director of Campus Ministry at Marymount High School in Los Angeles, Lynch has embraced the charism of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary: to know and love God and to help others do the same, so that all might have life. He’s had more than 15 years at the school to learn how the sisters see their role in the world. Lynch says the R.S.H.M. approach to teaching is relational, collaborative, inclusive, and based on understanding and working with students — all of it is based on their charism, their defining spiritual characteristic.
The involvement of lay people in the work of priests, nuns and brothers is increasingly crucial, because few people today choose the religious way of life. Lynch notes that R.S.H.M. sisters, with a worldwide network of schools, offer faculty and staff opportunities for professional development with a focus on charism. The sisters also encourage lay people to make a visit, known as the Béziers Immersion, to the site of their origins in Béziers, France. That experience was profound, Lynch says, for him and his family.
Places like LMU and Marymount High, says Lynch, provide fertile ground for charism to be adapted to changing times and passed along, by lay and religious alike.
“You teach the tradition at those places,” says Lynch — and the “why” behind it. The goal is to make clear that the “whole fabric of the school” is the way it is for ultimately one reason: its charism.
Lynch’s life and work are strong illustrations of what that sort of dedication looks like. He helped develop the retreat program at Marymount High School, and his experiences led him to LMU’s doctoral program. When he first considered pursuing a doctorate, Lynch’s colleagues at the school, both religious and lay, began to ask, “How can I help you? What do you want to do? How can I help you get there?” That’s R.S.H.M. spirituality in the flesh — their charism at work — he says.