July 28, 2023 – The Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province has received a $1.5 million gift commitment from Raymond Hyer and Hector and Claire Vila, all of Tampa, Florida. The donation is the largest non-bequest gift in the history of the province.
Mr. Hyer and the Vilas have designated these funds for Jesuit formation, the famously lengthy process Jesuits undergo to prepare for serving the Catholic Church and society. They want their gift to challenge other friends of the Jesuits to support formation financially.
“This is an unprecedented gift with transformative power,” said Very Rev. Thomas P. Greene, SJ, provincial of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. “We have been blessed with gifts from foundations, corporations and other organizations for formation, but never one of this magnitude from individuals. We are deeply grateful to Ray Hyer and the Vilas.”
Mr. Hyer was motivated by a desire to support the Jesuits in formation that he has met. “They give me such hope for the future,” he said. “I did not attend a Jesuit high school, but I love the Jesuits and all they have done, especially here in Tampa.”
Claire Vila and her husband have a long history with the Society of Jesus. “Hector and I were both educated by Jesuits, married by a Jesuit priest and our grandchildren were baptized by Jesuit priests,” she said. “We want to ensure that future generations will be blessed by having Jesuit priests enrich their lives!”
The Jesuit formation process – from entrance as novices to priestly ordination or final formation for Jesuit brothers – was outlined nearly 500 years ago by St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Formation – a combination of academic study and experiential training – typically extends over 10 to 13 years.
At the conclusion of their formal training, Jesuits are prepared to serve the needs of the Church and the Society of Jesus in high schools, universities, parishes, retreat centers and other ministries around the world.
The cost of this training averages more than $50,000/year for each Jesuit. The expense is borne by the Jesuit province. The USA Central and Southern Province currently has more than 60 men in formation.
Recognizing both the value of the formation process and its stress on province finances, Mr. Hyer and the Vilas determined to make a transformative gift, one that will significantly impact the province’s ability to train Jesuits for the future. The province hopes their gift will encourage other friends of the province to support formation.
“God has called incredible men to join the Jesuits,” said Fr. J. Patrick Hough, executive director for advancement for the province. “I have placed my trust in God to provide the resources to form them into the future priests and brothers that the Church expects of us today.”
Both Mr. Hyer and the Vilas are long-time generous donors to Jesuit High School in Tampa. Before his retirement, Mr. Hyer was chief executive officer for Gardner-Gibson and Gardner Asphalt Corporation, privately owned family businesses in Tampa. A graduate of the College of the Holy Cross, he values Jesuit education and sent his sons to Jesuit Tampa. His grandsons have also graduated from the school.
Dr. Vila was recently named Alumnus of the Year by Jesuit High School in Tampa. A graduate of the Louisiana State University School of Medicine, he is a managing partner in Pediatric Dental Anesthesia Associates in Tampa.
To discuss a gift to support Jesuit formation, contact Paula Parrish, CFRE, at UCSAdvancement@Jesuits.org.