Helping to give others a chance
By John HudecAlthough it was the late 1960s, I remember it like yesterday.
I was a junior at St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, working on a scholarship fundraising drive administered by the students and advised by Fr. Larry Belt, SJ. Not surprisingly, none of us volunteered to take on the toughest tasks. Father Belt pulled me aside and said, “John, this can be a learning experience for you. You can take the easy way out or you can learn about accepting responsibility—and benefit from it in the long run.” I followed his advice, and I’m glad I did, because it taught me a valuable lesson that has carried on throughout my life and the lives of my children. I will be forever grateful to Jesuits like Fr. Belt, who influenced my values and helped make me the person I am today.
Following such experiences at St. Ignatius—where all seven (yes, seven!) of my brothers also attended—I had the opportunity to meet other Jesuits who have impacted the way I look at life. Fr. Eugene Hattie, SJ, was one of those men for his work as a missionary in Africa. He has inspired me with his energy, humility, and tireless efforts to give children hope of a better future.
There was no question I wanted my children to have similar inspirational experiences through a Jesuit education: four graduated from and my youngest is attending a Jesuit high school, while two went on to John Carroll University, my alma mater. One of my children now teaches and is the assistant director of admissions at Walsh Jesuit High School in Akron, Ohio.
For children who haven’t grown up with role models who value education, I can only imagine how much more a caring school means for their futures. For example, Cristo Rey-Model Schools such as St. Martin de Porres here in Cleveland, and the schools being led by Fr. Martin Connell, SJ, in Tanzania, give students living in poverty the opportunity to escape its chains. Further, because they are founded on a work-study model, Cristo Rey Schools not only provide the influence of Jesuits, but also their on-the-job mentors. Currently, four of these students work as interns in my dental office. My greatest hope is that we are helping them learn that someone cares about them and, if they work hard, they can achieve their aspirations—and go on to help others someday as well. I’m helping to give other people the same chances I had—to know a Jesuit, to be guided by one, or to be impacted by a Jesuit ministry.
These ministries are doing so much good due in large part to their Jesuit character and those who serve them. And how do the Jesuits who found them become the ministers they are? During their 10 years of formation, they are invited to explore their vocations and are supported through the Society’s “home offices” like the Chicago-Detroit Province. When they are ill or elderly, the Province provides their care.
We can all easily come up with 20 charities that need help, but we can’t be everything to everyone. The ones I choose to give to are the ones I know can make a difference. The Jesuits made a difference in my life. By supporting them, I believe I’m helping to give other people the same chances I had—to know a Jesuit, to be guided by one, or to be impacted by a Jesuit ministry.
John Hudec is a Cleveland native who has deep roots in Jesuit education. After graduating from St. Ignatius High School and John Carroll University (’72), he went on to open his own successful dental practice, which now has 15 locations across the Cleveland area. Here, John reflects on the life lessons he received from the Jesuits and explains why he continues to support Jesuit works.