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By Fr. J. P. Hough, SJ, and Paula K. Parrish, CFRE

Fr. J.P. Hough, SJ, and Raymond Hyer

Raymond Hyer and Hector and Claire Vila want to challenge friends of the Jesuits to support formation financially.

The three Tampans recognize the impact Jesuits have on the communities in which they serve. And they know a big part of that is because of the formation process Jesuits undergo. So, together they pledged a $1.5 million donation to help sustain Jesuit formation – the largest non-bequest gift in the history of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern (UCS) Province. They hope other benefactors will accept the challenge to sustain Jesuit training into the future.

“This is an unprecedented gift with transformative power,” said Very Rev. Thomas P. Greene, SJ, provincial of the UCS 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 Claire and Hector Vila.”

Jesuit formation is a lengthy process. Following a path laid out by St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus, the period from entrance to ordination can take as many as 13 years. It can be another 10 years before a Jesuit is called to final vows. The formation period for Jesuit brothers is similar in length, depending on their academic focus.

Academic studies, experiential learning, direct ministry with the marginalized and opportunities for spiritual growth create Jesuits who 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 – in short, wherever they are called.

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 65 men in formation.

Mr. Hyer was motivated by a desire to support the Jesuits in formation that he has met personally. “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, Hector, 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!”

Hector and Claire Vila

Recognizing both the value of the formation process and its stress on province finances, Mr. Hyer and the Vilas determined to make this 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 to support formation.

“God has called incredible men to join the Jesuits,” said Fr. J. Patrick Hough, SJ, 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 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.

The province is blessed with donors who understand, appreciate and support Jesuit formation – and its results. Mr. Hyer and Dr. Vila have agreed to make calls on donors with Fr. Hough to encourage other significant gifts for formation.

“We have just begun to take on this challenge to ensure the faithful throughout our province that the Jesuits they depend on for their sacraments and their spiritual direction will be following the same rigorous path St. Ignatius traveled on more than 500 years ago,” Fr. Hough said.

To discuss a gift to support Jesuit formation, contact Paula Parrish, CFRE, at UCSAdvancement@Jesuits.org.