Pedro Arrupe, S.J., former Superior General of the Society of Jesus, called for graduates of Jesuit schools to be “educated for justice.” The Be the Light Youth Theology Institute (BTLI) at Canisius College seeks to extend this mission to high school students.

Funded by a generous grant from the Lilly Endowment, Be the Light began hosting an annual, week-long summer institute in 2016 for rising high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors. BTLI’s mission is to deepen participants’ understanding of issues of social justice and how faith informs approaches to these issues. The Institute specifically focuses on issues that arise in the urban setting surrounding Canisius. The goal for participants is that they become educated, empowered, and inspired to become future scholar-servant-leaders for justice in the Church and their communities.

Participants experience immersion opportunities, instruction in Catholic and Jesuit theology and philosophy, workshops, daily reflection, and community building so participants live “the faith that does justice” in what former Superior General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., called the “gritty reality” of the world. Even after the Institute, Be the Light hopes to see the way participants bring Be the Light back home with them. Of this Co-Director Darby Ratliff notes, “We ultimately hope to help students come up with a social justice-oriented project that can come to life in their communities.”

2018 BTLI alumni Margaret McCarthy said, “BTLI was a life-changing experience for me and others who experienced it! I met amazing people filled with love and a fiery passion for changing the world.”

For more information about the 2019 Be the Light Youth Theology Institute which will be held July 21-27, please visit or contact the Co-Directors, Darby Ratliff ( or Stephen Chanderbhan, PhD (