Getting Closer to the Light: Canadian Mayor Finds Inspiration in School of Religion’s Program

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At the end of each day, Maurizio Bevilacqua asks himself a fundamental question.

“I review my day and ask myself, did my actions bring me closer to light or farther away from it?” he said. Bevilacqua, who currently serves as mayor of the City of Vaughan in Ontario, Canada, describes the ‘light’ as one’s destiny. “You can be a follower of change or an agent of change, and I prefer to be an agent of change.”

Two years ago, Bevilacqua enrolled in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education’s hybrid-online master’s program in Christian spirituality. Having studied various spiritual teachings throughout his life, including the spiritual practices of St. Francis of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola and Lao Tzu, the founder of philosophical Taoism, Bevilacqua saw the Christian spirituality program at Fordham as a unique opportunity for personal and professional growth.

“In public life, you must always put the public interest and the public good ahead of any self-interest that you may have, so that what drives you every morning is how to make things better for people and how to strive toward excellence,” said Bevilacqua, who has held elected office for nearly 30 years. “This is very much in keeping with the Jesuit values of magis and giving of yourself in a selfless way.”

Besides fostering his own spiritual journey, Bevilacqua, who grew up Catholic, is receiving training in scripture, theology, and spirituality through the program. He said a curious mind must be nurtured at every stage in one’s life.

“You have to really go deep within your own heart and belief system to recognize who you really are,” he said.

The son of a seamstress and a champion Italian cyclist, Bevilacqua immigrated to Canada from the Italian town of Sulmona, Abruzzo, in 1970 when he was 10 years old. His zeal for service and spirituality stems from his early years as an altar boy, where he attended traditional Latin mass with his family every Sunday, he said.

“I remember that I felt very comfortable in that space,” Bevilacqua said, noting that the desire to be a servant leader was always within him. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do, and where I wanted to go, early on in life.”

At age 28, Bevilacqua became the youngest Member of Parliament (MP) in the Canadian House of Commons. As the MP for 22 consecutive years for the City of Vaughan, which has a population of more than 300,000, Bevilacqua has held a number of positions in Canadian federal government, including Minister of State for Science, Research and Development, Minister of State for Finance, and Chairman of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. He holds the record for most votes received by a federal candidate in Canadian political history.

As he looks back at his journey from a young immigrant living in the basement of a home with his family to a public official sitting in the House of Commons 18 years later, Bevilacqua credits his own growing spiritual practices and positive approach toward life with helping him to realize his lifelong purpose—to “change lives for the better” and “be an example to others.”

“I lived through challenges in my life, but the fact that I had these thoughts, ideas, and principles ingrained in me made my journey much more meaningful and worthwhile,” he said.

For Bevilacqua, life is fueled by hope and optimism.

“One of the things that our Jesuit faith teaches us is that desolation is always followed by consolation,” he said. “That’s very important in life because if you can internalize that thought, then whenever you’re going through challenging times, you know that there are better times ahead.”

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