The Rev. Timothy Lannon, president of St. Joseph's University, can envision a time when a lay person will lead the Jesuit school in Philadelphia because of the dwindling number of his brethren. So it's important now to instill the order's philosophy on campus through curriculum and staff initiatives, he said.
"Without Jesuits, how can you call yourself Jesuit?" Lannon said. St. Joseph's is not alone, said Richard Yanikoski, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. As religious orders shrink, the critical challenge is for Catholic identity "to be built into the goals and operations and practices of the institution," Yanikoski said. The story is similar for Jesuits, whose numbers have been decreasing since the 1960s, according to the Jesuit Conference of the United States. Currently, there are about 3,000 nationwide and their average age is 60.