“The flame has died! The fire is out!” said Peter Vardy, philosopher and former Heythrop vice principal, addressing a valedictory conference on 5 May this year. But, he continued, “from embers new fires can be lit”.
It was an act of daring by the Jesuits to move Heythrop College in 1970 from the Oxfordshire countryside into the centre of London, first at Cavendish Square, then at Kensington Square. Here now were Jesuits running a self-standing constituent college of the secular University of London, teaching theology and philosophy to clerical and lay students alike with full academic freedom and their own Royal Charter. Surely, just what Jesuits should be doing.
Jack Mahoney, one of those early movers and shakers and principal from 1976 to 1981, looks back at “a significant achievement”. Heythrop, he points out, has equipped many hundreds of lay men and lay women with publicly recognised university qualifications in theology, to enable them to serve the post-conciliar Church.