Rev. Joseph M. O’Keefe, S.J., was named the first provincial of the new USA East Province of the Jesuits (UAE) earlier this week. Rev. General Arturo Sosa, S.J., appointed O’Keefe, who was the dean of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education from 2003 to 2011, to the position just a week after creating the province.
His new position will become effective on July 31, 2020—the feast day of the order’s founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
The UEA will combine the existing Maryland and Northeast Provinces into one East Coast Province. This merger will make it the largest province in the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, a body that includes the seven provincial superiors of the Society of Jesus in both the United States and Canada.
“This is an exciting milestone in our move toward creating a new province,” Sosa wrote in his decree. “We offer a heartfelt prayer of gratitude to the Lord as we progress in our journey to create a unified East Coast province that will continue to grow in service to others.”
The Jesuit Provinces work with Jesuit universities, schools, and retreat centers to establish curriculums. They also help train and staff prison and outreach centers, in addition to setting up refugee camps and humanitarian aid programs in underdeveloped countries.
Under the unification plan, O’Keefe will be responsible for taking over the duties of both provinces.
The Maryland Province has jurisdiction over the entire state, and the Northeast Province consists of the Bronx-Fairfield Region, the Manhattan Region, and the New Jersey-Long Island Region.
O’Keefe has primarily worked as an educator, according to the press release, first as a faculty member at Fordham and Georgetown and later through his decades-long career at BC. Currently, O’Keefe is the superior of the Ciszek Hall house of First Studies and the Spellman Hall Jesuit Community at Fordham University. O’Keefe has also previously served as a Province Consultor for younger Jesuits in First Studies.
Sosa explained in his appointment decree that O’Keefe was given the designation because of his “extensive apolistic experience and noteworthy personal gifts” that make him well prepared to serve the Society of Jesus in this position.
O’Keefe expressed gratitude for the support he has received from the Jesuits of the provinces he will be assuming responsibilities for, and is looking forward to working alongside his colleagues, fellow Jesuits and lay people alike, in the construction of this new Province.
“I am humbled and gratified by the confidence that Father General has placed in me,” O’Keefe said in the press release. “God has been so good to us in the past; God will lead us anew into a hopeful future.”
Featured Image by Sam Zhai / For The Heights