Striving to be a man for others

Photo taken at the Wimbledon College Sleep out with the homeless project

Woman prayingCan we be more for others by offering every day up to God in service?

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An unexpected refuge

Growing up in South-London, coming from a mixed Indian/Sri-Lankan family of multi-faith, multi-cultural beliefs, in a relatively impoverished part of the capital, during a time characterised by terror attacks such as 7/7 and the riots in 2011, one would not expect that I would find myself taking refuge at a Jesuit secondary school in the heart of suburban Wimbledon. And yet, my years as a student at Wimbledon College from 2005-2012 were truly some of the most formative of my life.  The College enabled me to become a leader of influence in the world around me, gaining me a place to study English at Cambridge - one of the only ethnic minority students on my course, and the only male studying English in my college.

What on the surface would appear to be unassuming staples of any Jesuit experience - writing ‘AMDG’ at the start of every worksheet, seeking to ‘find God in all things’ and striving on both corporate and personal levels to be a ‘man for others’ -  upon retrospect, not only altered the course of my adolescence but continue to mold me into the man that God is calling me to be.

A Pedro Arrupe SJ quote - Men for othersA true citizen of the world

My time at Wimbledon College, and its effect on my life now, is typified through two main areas. The first of these would be the Jesuit focus on being a true citizen of the world. We were constantly reminded of our place in God’s creation, and how our purpose was lived out by our relationship with the communities both immediately around us and further afield. The homeless sleep out that the college organised in sixth-form, where we spent a night ‘sleeping rough’, meeting those who have lived on the streets and hearing their testimonies, will forever remain etched into my consciousness.

The school’s most prominent endeavour, one which every student from Figures (Jesuit-speak for year 7; another unforgettable quirk) to Rhetoric (year 13) will be acutely aware of is undoubtedly ‘Project Manvi’. The school’s ongoing link with the ‘Dalit’ children, the ‘untouchables’ otherwise forgotten about through India’s caste system, will long be the legacy of any student at Wimbledon College. Not only through year-round fundraisers and events, but the opportunity to travel to India and literally pick up the bricks to build the schools, demonstrated so many of the virtues envisioned in the profile of a Jesuit leaver.

These social outreach projects impacted my life long after I had left the college. Just before leaving, I drew on the skills and talents of my classmates and organised a fundraising concert entitled ‘Music for Manvi’. Most recently, in my final year of University, after an incident regarding abuse of the homeless gained national media coverage, I organised an event to respond with love and feed those sleeping rough on the streets, raising not only money, but assembling a team of over 100 volunteers. The values instilled in me through my Jesuit education have primed me to act as the hands and feet of the Jesus I read about each day in school and lead the way in society.

Inspirational figures

The most important aspect of my Jesuit education was the Jesuit focus on nurturing the individual. I could speak for hours on how and why this was made possible- the countless conversations with teachers who routinely went above and beyond the call of duty to invest in my life and talents, but this can all be summarised through my relationships with those who were closest to me, namely my music teacher, Mr Rathbone, and my head teacher Fr. Adrian Porter SJ. I came to Wimbledon College not fully knowing where my passions lay, but these two individuals constantly invested their time, energy, and money into seeing me develop- and because of these two figures I was inspired to achieve some of the things I have done in the short time since leaving the college.

Ryan RodriguesGetting into Cambridge was definitely not part of the script for someone like me - a state-school educated, ethnic minority male from a single-parent background. However, seeing the joy that teachers such as Fr. Porter had for education, a sheer zest for knowledge, enabled me to achieve the unthinkable. After joining St. John’s College Cambridge I became a choral scholar, a direct result of the years I spent under the baton of Mr. Rathbone in the Wimbledon College choir.  In my second year, I became composer to the prestigious Cambridge Footlights and composed my own musical inspired by the riots in London in 2011, which was performed at the ADC theatre. These came out of the years spent serving under both Mr Rathbone and Fr. Porter in school plays, and feeding off their love and joy for musical theatre.

Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Bruno Mars

I am now about to embark on another project that I know my time at Wimbledon College prepared me for. After becoming a Christian in my final year at Cambridge, and entering into my own relationship with Jesus, I am now about to launch a project to try and demonstrate to the young generation how the Church is still relevant for them. The vision is: What would it sound like if someone like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Bruno Mars were Christian and writing contemporary worship music?

My hope is that we will be able to respond to the incredible diversity found in society in the church, raising up a diverse next generation into the Body of Christ. I’m about to record a small album in Birmingham and master the project at Abbey Road studios in London, with MOBO award-winning producers. We have to raise £10,000 to finance the project, and you can follow and support the vision here:

Support Ryan's album project

My Jesuit education truly laid the foundations for me to do what I do today. The love for the individual, the compassion for the world around us, and the academic integrity of a Jesuit education are unique in society today, and I will forever be indebted to all those who invested in me. I will forever strive to be a man for others, to the greater Glory of God.

Ryan Rodrigues

Go Deeper

Watch the video giving an insight into the Spirit of Jesuit education or listen to the examen especially for young people.

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