Father Lucas Sharma, S.J. to serve as law dean’s Jesuit advisor

January 10, 2024 · By Nicole Jennings
Father Lucas Sharma
Father Lucas Sharma says the opening prayer at December Commencement. Matt Hagen

Seattle University School of Law Dean Anthony E. Varona has appointed Father Lucas Sharma, S.J. to the role of Jesuit advisor. Sharma, who was ordained a Jesuit priest in 2022, is a Seattle University trustee, former chair and current member of the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture Advisory Board, and a former lecturer at the university.

The Jesuit advisor provides advice to the dean, at his request, on matters of institutional mission and priorities, programming, and curriculum. The role was previously held by Father John Topel, S.J., Emeritus Stamper Professor of Catholic Traditions, who retired last year.

“As a law school rooted in the Jesuit, Catholic tradition, it is very helpful to have the presence of an ordained member of the Jesuit Order in Sullivan Hall,” Varona said. “Just as Father Topel before him, whose advice was invaluable in my first year as dean, Father Sharma possesses a keen interest in law and social justice. He will bring a distinctly Jesuit perspective to guide our decision-making and help us maximize our full potential as we continue to implement our ambitious plans.”

The advisor presides over law school Masses during the year, including Red Mass in the fall and the Law Baccalaureate Mass in the spring, and officiates commencement, a task that Sharma performed at the December Commencement Ceremony in his first official engagement as Jesuit advisor.

“The role is to help the dean and the law school to deepen our Jesuit and Catholic values, our sense of Ignatian discernment in important matters, to provide the dean with that spiritual counsel, and to think about how to deepen the already-great work of this law school and its Jesuit tradition,” Sharma said.

He explained that those Jesuit values include a commitment to intellectual and spiritual rigor, in which students engage in deep reflection about what they learn in the classroom.

“The outcome of intellectual and spiritual depth is social justice. You go out in the world and make it more just and humane,” Sharma said. “If you look deeply at the world, who we are, and see God really is in all people and all things, how could we do anything but make the world better?”

Sharma is based in San Diego, where he is working toward a Ph.D. in sociology — focusing on religion, gender, and sexuality — at the University of California, San Diego, but he is no stranger to Seattle University and the Pacific Northwest. Raised in Olympia, Sharma became familiar with the Jesuits at Gonzaga University during his undergraduate studies. His interest in the Society of Jesus and in the law led him to spend a year in Washington, D.C., with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, representing clients in Social Security hearings. After further getting to know the Jesuits while earning a master’s degree at Loyola University Chicago, he was drawn to the life and joined the Jesuit Order.

“Meeting these young Jesuits, seeing they were full of life, they were all really happy people, I thought this could be a good fit,” he said. “I desired the communal component of Jesuits; they live in communities rather than on their own in a parish. There is a strong sense of friendship.”

Sharma’s journey has taken him to Seattle University twice before — as a researcher at Matteo Ricci Institute from 2013 through 2014 and as a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology from 2017 through 2019, in which he taught classes on topics such as race, social problems, and research methods. He also worked as a research fellow for the Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture, developing programs around Catholic intellectual tradition, and formerly chaired the ICTC Advisory Board, of which he is currently a member.

Sharma is a member of the Seattle University Board of Trustees, chairs the board’s Mission Integration Committee, and has served on numerous other university committees, including the Strategic Planning Steering Committee, where he worked alongside Seattle U Law Professors Brooke D. Coleman, who is also vice dean for Academic Affairs, and Natasha Martin, who is the university’s vice president for Diversity and Inclusion.

“I’m looking forward to learning more about the great work of the law school. I enjoyed hearing about research of the law faculty at commencement — I’m inspired by the ways our faculty and our alumni are trying to make the world more just, more equitable,” Sharma said. “In a time when we’re seeing fights about diversity across the country, it’s important that this law school is committed to equity.”

In addition to Baccalaureate Mass last year, Sharma has said Mass many times at the Chapel of St. Ignatius on campus, including for the funeral of Tracey Thompson, wife of former Seattle U Law Dean Kellye Testy. He enjoys this opportunity to build connections with other members of the Seattle University community.

“The deepest thing about being a Jesuit is what it’s like to journey with people. You accompany them in some of the most joyful moments, like a wedding, as well as moments of despair, where God may be working in the struggles in their lives,” he said. “It’s being able to walk with people, to hear their stories, hear what they need help with, and hear what brings them life.”

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