Laurence J. McGinley Professor of Religion and Society Patrick J. Ryan, S.J. is spending a month in Africa, a continent where he previously lived for 26 years. During his time there, he will be blogging about his experiences. Here is his first post:

I arrived in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, at noon today, Dec. 17, after a 12-hour journey on Delta that included a 90-minute stopover in Dakar, Senegal. Many Nigerians and Senegalese on the flight were traveling with young children. I had forgotten how hard it is for the ears of small children to take the process of landing.

I arrived at our Jesuit high school, Loyola Jesuit College, where I was president from 1999 to 2005, an hour or so later, after dropping off Tony Akande (FCRH ’07) who is visiting family at Christmas.

The students have gone home for Christmas since last Saturday. The nearby village is now electrified, which means there are competing charismatic churches making a joyful noise to the Lord. I hope they won’t go all night.

Karl Marx wrote that religion “is the opium of the people,” but more interestingly, just before that, wrote that religion “is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.” I feel that the people of Gidan Mangoro –“home of mangoes” — are finding the heart of a heartless world tonight, even if I am jet-lagged and would like to go to bed.

I offered mass this evening for legendary Graduate School of Social Service Dean Mary-Ann Quaranta. May she receive the reward of her labors!