Jesuit Gardens: Finding God in All Things

Jesuit Gardens: Finding God in All Things

By Emily Rust

After the caps are tossed, the degree is framed and the end of a college career is upon you, where do you take your Jesuit education? What are its lasting effects?

James Howard, DDS, associate professor emeritus of general dentistry in the School of Dentistry, who now serves as a contributed services faculty member, graduated from a Jesuit university five decades ago, but still uses the lessons learned in both his life and profession. He shared how to find God in everyone and a path for a life well-lived with fellow alumni of Wheeling University in West Virginia (a former Jesuit institution).

He presented “Give and Take in Jesuit Education” during his 50-year class reunion this summer.

“When you look at Jesuit education, you learn to think critically,” says Howard, who served as associate dean for clinical services and director of clinics for more than a decade. “You’re continually immersed in the values that the Jesuits espouse in your education system.”

Values such as finding God in all people, something Howard teaches students in the dental school.

It can be frustrating, Howard says, when you don’t see eye-to-eye with someone with whom you interact. In that instance, “what you need to do is develop a time to ask God to give you the wisdom, the patience, the understanding, the insight to know how to work with this person,” Howard says.

“When you get up in the morning, whoever your God is, whatever your personal introspection is, ask, ‘Help me today,’” Howard says. “Continually try to bring that up in your head and your heart. You’ll be able to work with people a lot more effectively.”

Howard stresses that as a dentist he uses this mindset to find the inherent dignity in every patient. To follow the words of St. Ignatius’ Prayer for Generosity, “Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous, teach me to serve as you deserve, to give and not count the cost.”

Howard says that as an educator he has the privilege not only to teach students but to mentor and counsel them. One thing he shares with them is the importance of serving others.

In a world in which many think it’s paramount to be “better than” others, Howard encourages his students to think about how, through service, they can benefit their community and their profession, as well as themselves.

It’s a philosophy that has served him well throughout his career, serving as a dentist in the Air Force and as a faculty member at Creighton.

“As you grow older and you’re exposed to many different aspects of life, you realize how important the things that you learned really are,” Howard says.

And, he adds, the difference a Jesuit education can make.