When Matthew J. Hayes took over as president of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis earlier this year, something seemed to be missing from his title. Specifically, two letters—an S and a J after his name, denoting that he is a Jesuit.
But there’s a good reason for that: Hayes is not a Jesuit. Rather, he’s the first permanent lay president of the high school.
While his hiring is another haunting reminder of the shrinking number of priests in the world, it’s also a comfortable message that the values and direction of such schools are in safe hands. Already well known in the Indianapolis area for his 18 years as director of religious education and coordinator of adult education for the city’s archdiocese, Hayes also served as the coordinator of ecumenical and interreligious relations for the Archdiocese of Louisville, Ky. For Hayes, who earned a bachelor’s degree in theology in 1971, his new position at Brebeuf is a natural choice. “Brebeuf has the same learning and faith community as Xavier, with a clear commitment to service, in order to foster a sense of vocation and mission,” he says.
While at Xavier, Hayes was active in campus ministry, helping to establish a coffee bar in the campus ministry house where students could go to relax and have an open arena to discuss their faith. He will continue to pursue his own faith and spend time with his new students, including leading a Kairos retreat for upperclassmen.
“My Jesuit education has certainly shaped my ability to step into this position as president,” Hayes says. “I am excited and ready.”