On Aug. 2 more than 500 Jesuits, benefactors and friends came together at Holy Name of Jesus Church in New Orleans for the first feast of recently canonized Jesuit St. Peter Faber, one of the first companions of the Society of Jesus. The Mass commemorated the provinces’ unification and honored 37 Jesuits celebrating ministry milestones.


Vocation Reflections

On Aug. 2 more than 500 Jesuits, benefactors and friends came together at Holy Name of Jesus Church in New Orleans for the first feast of recently canonized Jesuit St. Peter Faber, one of the first companions of the Society of Jesus. The Mass commemorated the provinces’ unification and honored 37 Jesuits celebrating ministry milestones.

Fr. John Padberg, who is celebrating 70 years in the Society of Jesus this year, gave the homily in which he noted the fact that this year’s jubilarians marked 1,975 years of ministry. Jesuits and guests were enjoyed a jazz reception at Loyola University’s Danna Student Center.

Prior to the celebration, Jubilarians wrote reflections on how they discovered their vocations and what they are grateful for during their years as Jesuits. Below are some comments excerpted from the brochure that was prepared for the Jubilee Mass.



Publications








Fr. Gregory F. Lucey SJ - 50 Years a Priest

People often ask, “When did you first know that you had a vocation to the priesthood?”

They are surprised when I tell them I was 12 when I heard the invitation to become a Jesuit priest. It was 1945; I was in sixth grade at the public school in the village of Ferryville, Wis. I came home for lunch to find that my brother, Roger, had returned from Campion Jesuit High School with the president of the school to announce that he had been accepted into the Society of Jesus and would be leaving for the novitiate in a couple of weeks. To my surprise, I felt clearly in my heart of hearts that I too was called to be a Jesuit priest. Though I kept it to myself and lived the normal life of a teenager through my years at Campion, I never had serious thoughts of another course for my life. On graduating from Campion, I was accepted into the Society and entered in August 1951.

My 50 years as a priest have been a rich and full experience of ministry, primarily as an administrator, though I truly love to proclaim the word of God as a homilist. For the first few years after ordination, I was an itinerant preacher traveling the back roads of the upper Midwest sharing the messages of the Vatican Council. But, then, the inevitable happened. I was asked to be principal of my high school in the summer 1969. A year later, I was president of the school and, then, rector of the community as well. With the exception of the three years in graduate school and an occasional sabbatical, I have been serving as school administrator/fundraiser or involved in the governance of the Society of Jesus for 45 years. Now, at 81, I am serving temporarily as president of Spring Hill College after having served in this capacity for 12 years previously. The highlight of these years was participating in the Thirty-fourth General Congregation as a delegate.

Whatever the title or location, whatever the failure or success, my priestly ministry has been about creating relationships that affirm people in their dignity and goodness as beloved of the Father and called to a loving service of others as the meaning and fullness of their life and mine.

 

Fr. Hernando J. Ramírez SJ

Fifty years as a Jesuit feels like a lifetime, and yet it seems like just yesterday that an 18-year old boy, recently graduated from high school, left home to enter the Society of Jesus. By the grace of God, he started his journey without the slightest idea of where the road would lead. A native of Colombia, South America, he left his blood family, and followed a call from God and destiny in order to join a new family, one that would give him the direction, support, and opportunities to become the person who takes pen in hand today – a deeply grateful, much older, and hopefully wiser, version of that same young man. ...

At the time, all I knew was that I wanted to be a Jesuit priest. Now 50 years later, I can look back and simply be amazed at the changes that have taken place in the world and within myself. The changes in society at large, politics, religious approaches in the world, adjusting as a Jesuit to new ways after Vatican II, and new inventions and technology, have all affected me personally and influenced my way of thinking.

St. Ignatius invites us to always be grateful. I have tried my best to be grateful for being given so much in the last 50 years of Jesuit Life!

 

Fr. José L. Mesa SJ

The priesthood and the Society of Jesus were not my first choice when I was considering options at the end of high school. Actually, they were not my second choice, either. With a natural inclination to sciences and math, I was interested in fields like engineering or science, but I also felt a deep desire to serve people. The roots of that desire went back to my formation with the Jesuits in Cuba.

Then, a question snuck in: “Why not a priest?” I was surprised. The idea of the priesthood outshone other choices. When things settled, I realized that the model of priesthood that called me was in the Society of Jesus. The spirituality of the Society, “to find God in all things,” unifies the different dimensions of the priesthood, in a service to God’s people. Over the years, serving the people – and being aware that everyone belongs to God’s people – has been my meeting place with God, in a soils lab or in a classroom in the Dominican Republic, in agricultural development in Chad or celebrating the sacraments everywhere.



Fr. Stephen T. Yavorsky SJ - 50 Years a Jesuit

By third grade, I had already thought of being a priest. My father's oldest brother was a priest, and military chaplains regularly visited my father since he was the captain of the base in Brunswick, Maine. I felt their goodness and the esteem in which they were held. I did not feel like I could compete with my father as a military person, so I found myself thinking of priesthood. However, the vocation director of the first religious order I considered told me he did not believe I had a vocation. For several years after that, I felt lost. Then my high school chemistry teacher, a sister of Loretto, asked me if I had heard of the Jesuits. I had not, but when she described their learning and their track record of saints, I decided to be a Jesuit before ever having met one.

 

Fr. John H. Edwards SJ - 60 Years a Jesuit

The day before the Christmas holidays began in December 1940, a Sister of Divine Providence commanded us to rid our desks of trash. She was our senior home room teacher at St. Joseph Central Catholic High School in Dallas. My classmate Kenneth tossed a small magazine into the trash. I was curious, so I reached in and retrieved "Jesuits in the Southland." I read it during the holidays. I had been thinking about a vocation to be a priest, and I decided I wanted to learn more about the Jesuits.

 

Fr. John L. Vessels SJ - 70 Years a Jesuit

My Jesuit vocation came from reading Fr. Dan Lord's Queen's Work pamphlets 72 years ago while I was a boarder at the Marist Brothers' high school in Laredo, Texas. One of my older brothers was a Marist brother teaching there, and, till then, as far as I can remember I'd always planned on being one myself.

Well, Dan Lord's pamphlets got me thinking about the Jesuits, so I wrote him a letter, which he forwarded from St. Louis to the Jesuit provincial office in New Orleans. By then, I was in college in Kerrville, Texas, and the provincial office invited me to visit and be interviewed at Grand Coteau–that was my first personal contact with the Jesuits. Even though I was used to south Texas brush country, where everything either sticks, stings or bites, I fell in love with Grand Coteau and suffered no particular aversion to the Jesuits.

 World War II was winding down in the spring of 1944. Although I was expecting to enter the army when I reached 18, the June invasion at Normandy and the rapid race across Europe made it easy for me to decide to be a 4D draft dodger and enter the novitiate that summer. However, I was so miserably homesick the first couple of months that I packed my bag, went to the novice master's office to get money for a bus ticket to go home. He was cutting his fingernails with a razor blade when I knocked on his door and went in, and, without looking up, asked what I wanted. I told him I wanted to go home.

Again without looking up, he asked why.

I answered, "I can't imagine God wanting anyone to be as miserable as I am!"

Still without looking up, he said, "When did God ever promise you happiness?"

I went back to my cell, unpacked my bag, and I've been happy ever since! 

 Mine has been an extremely rich life as a Jesuit and a priest. I've never had doubts about either vocation. Ten years in high school work, 15 in parish work, 15 with the Apostleship of Prayer, 13 in retreat work, and now five with the poor in Juarez, Mexico. I always wanted to go down the ladder and get to the bottom of the barrel, and I thank God sincerely for giving me this ministry in my final priestly years. 


Fr. Lawrence W. Moore SJ - 50 Years a Jesuit

I remember the day that I decided to become a Jesuit: Christmas Day, 1963. As a member of the Sodality, I had helped to serve the noon meal to the residents of the Little Sisters of the Poor home. As I look back over the past 50 years, I can say that my best days were when I was serving my sisters and brothers. The inverse is also true–my worst days were when I was not serving them. My service has been as a professor of law at Loyola University New Orleans. I have taught over 5000 lawyers. For the past 15 years I also have been an associate dean. I have been privileged to assist students in their times of need and confusion.

 

Br. Gebhard R. Fröhlich SJ - 50 Years a Jesuit

In 1949 I emigrated from Germany to the United States, eventually moving to Miami, Fla., where I worked in the specialty lighting and fountain design business. A chance encounter with a very charismatic Jesuit priest, Bob Erpenbeck, led to greater faith and a desire for religious life. I applied to be a Jesuit brother in the New Orleans Province and entered the novitiate in September 1964.

My novice director, Fr. John Edwards, encouraged my desire an academic career in the arts, so I returned to Europe to study sculpture and art history in Vienna, I returned home to the province and began teaching studio art and art history at Loyola University New Orleans from 1972 until my retirement in 1994. My own art work during this time includes photography, icon painting, and several large panel paintings.

 

Fr. John H. Zupez SJ - 60 Years a Jesuit

When I entered the Jesuits, I thought I’d had enough of travel, but I was to experience open-hearted Jesuit hospitality in all nine U.S. provinces and in 16 foreign countries. I am grateful for the close, worldwide brotherhood in the Lord, which is the Society of Jesus.

My most valued experience was my studies in spirituality during tertianship in Northern India. My most fun time was playing father to over 50 toddlers at an AIDS orphanage in the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe. My most gratifying memory was when the rector of a new seminary in Nigeria said, that when he asked the seven seminarians, each of them named me as their role model. We have good genes in this “least Society of Jesus:” Pope Francis, Pedro Arrupe, Father Ignatius, all beckoning us to become ever closer companions of Jesus.

 

Fr. Lawrence W. Moore SJ - 50 Years a Jesuit

If you had asked me when I entered what my vision of being a Jesuit was, it would be as a priest-teacher. I have lived that dream. I have also had surprises. I have performed nearly 200 weddings, primarily of current and former law students. Most Sunday mornings find me celebrating Mass at a nursing home. Between preaching to busy law students and the elderly, I have become adept at the five-minute homily. I served on Loyola’s Board of Trustees for 25 years. Most surprisingly, I was asked to be the rector of the Jesuit community. When I was in tertianship, we talked about being superiors. I proclaimed that it would never happen to me because I was living in another province. Less than two years later, I was a rector.

Finally, I remember a throw-away line of my crusty Canon Law professor who surprised me by saying that he had met in his priesthood so many good and holy people. That too has been my experience. I feel privileged to have served people who are better and holier than I am.

 

Fr. Stephen T. Yavorsky SJ - 50 Years a Jesuit

Extremely shy and introverted when I entered, but realizing that the Society is contemplative in action, and not just contemplative, I gradually turned outward. Knowing that I could easily just live in my head, I asked to be placed in pastoral ministry, which was the right decision. I have worked in parishes, and served as associate vocation director and associate novice director. I worked in retreat houses and lived and worked for six years in Rwanda, Africa, following the genocide. I was called back from there to found a spirituality program in Denver, and help launch retreats for the homeless, and am now working in a spirituality program in Kansas City. In this program I provide spiritual direction, retreats, supervision, classes on discernment and on the spiritual exercises, talks in parishes, as just one person amid a large number of men and women who contribute to the program.
            I have come to realize I am not the best at anything I do, which has freed me to longer need to be so. I am called to be myself, but to be it with others and in Jesus. I receive much energy and joy from helping others become aware of how God is acting in their lives, how to interact with God, and how, finally, to give increasingly more of themselves to God whom they increasingly experience as giving entirely to them. I want God to be all in all.



Fr. Nicholas T. Schiro SJ - 70 Years a Jesuit

Reflecting on my 70 years as a Jesuit, I asked myself: where did it all begin? As a young boy of 16, why did I want to be a Jesuit? The answer I found was very clear. It is what every person wants in the depths of his/her heart. I wanted my life to be meaningful, to feel that I made a difference because I was here. I felt that following Christ and bringing others to Christ in the Society of Jesus was the best way for me to fulfill that desire. Now, looking back on my 70 years as a Jesuit, I know I made the right decision.

I have spent all but seven of those years in the classroom. In that time I have touched the lives of more than 6,500 young men, trying to bring them to know, love, and follow the Lord. Only God knows how well I succeeded. But I know my desire to serve Him through the ministry of teaching has been fulfilled. One of the great rewards of growing old as a priest and teacher is seeing many of the boys I taught many years ago grow into fine, loving Catholic husbands and fathers. I feel I have received my “hundredfold” in this life.

 

Fr. Thomas M. Rochford SJ - 50 Years a Jesuit

As we neared the end of the 30-day retreat in the novitiate almost 50 years ago, I was asked to design a thank you card for the novice master who was leading us through the retreat. I had no idea then that I would spend almost 30 years designing more cards, magazines, books and special projects and that most of my ministry as a Jesuit priest would find me sitting at a drafting table or computer screen helping to communicate the mission of the Society. My first desire was to make movies and a summer internship at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles seemed to point that way. Then a regency teaching in Belize opened me up to still photography and theater. Eventually I realized that I kept getting asked to create magazines and take photographs, so I set my sights on professional training in graphic design. And I have been busy ever since.

I could not have guessed back at the novitiate at Florissant just how much travel would play a role in my life. Whether working for the Missouri Province, the national U.S. Jesuit offices or the international headquarters in Rome, I have spent too many hours in an airplane, but I have been privileged to get to know Jesuits all over the world in a way that few others do. We always say that you join the international Society of Jesus and not just a province. During my first seven years in the Society, I hardly got out of St. Louis, but that certainly changed.

Mostly I feel privileged to have been able to work creatively on a great number of projects and to collaborate with so many people. I had a front row seat at the last general congregation in 2008 where I cared for the IT side of the meeting that elected Fr. Adolfo Nicolás superior general. I cherish my brother Jesuits with whom I have collaborated and am grateful to God for sending so many friends into my life.

 

Fr. A. Joseph Martin SJ - 60 Years a Jesuit

Over my 60 years in the Society, you could say I had one job, ministering to the Jesuit communities so that they could more easily minister to so many others. In fact, the day I took vows, I started as the house buyer and minister because I entered the Society with a business degree from Louisiana State University.

The greatest blessing during my Jesuit journey has been working with others that God has brought into my life. I have had a memorable 60 years; they have all been good to me. And I hope I did a fairly good job because I was missioned to continue this work, even when I may not have been the easiest to get along with at times. I do not regret any year, and I am so thankful for them all.

 

Fr. Thomas W. Hoffman SJ - 50 Years a Jesuit

The first Jesuits I met were teachers at Jesuit High School in Tampa. In junior and senior year, I began to struggle with the Lord's calling me to serve the Church with the Jesuits. After graduating in 1963, I worked for General Telephone for a year before I allowed the Lord to direct me to the novitiate in Grand Coteau. Johnny Edwards and Bobby Rimes were saints in guiding us through those years as the Church was growing and changing. ...

My priesthood took a dramatic positive turn as chaplain of Spring Hill College for six years, followed by 16 fun-filled years trying to teach theology to juniors and seniors at Jesuit High New Orleans, and then five challenging years as pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in New Orleans. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Fr. Wayne Herpin's asked me to help him in the diocese of Las Cruces, New Mexico where the priest shortage is one of the greatest in the U.S.

Throughout these many years as a priest the Lord has managed consistently to touch my heart as I served the wonderful people of God in various places. Thus far it has been a great ride since the Lord has tremendous guidance and love, not only for me, but especially for the Society of Jesus. And, of course, the Lord also has a great sense of humor.

 

Fr. Thomas J. Madden SJ - 70 Years a Jesuit

A fellow Jesuit recently asked me what ministry I liked the best of the many to which I have been assigned over the past 70 years. I hesitated at first to give him an answer. Which assignment was my favorite? The one which I hated to leave, the one in which I found the greatest personal satisfaction or the one in which I experienced the most personal growth?

I answered that my current ministry was the one I liked the best. On further reflection, however, I decided that the fit was best wherever I happened to find myself doing whatever was, in God’s providence, his will for me at that stage in my life. My favorite ministry was what I was assigned to be doing where I was at the time.

I cannot recall wishing at any time that I were doing something other than what I was doing at the time whether I was in Mobile or New Orleans, at a high school or a university, teaching Latin, Spanish or philosophy or doing pastoral ministry on campus or in an urban parish.

When I was reassigned from parochial to retreat ministry, the provincial told me that I had a “resonance” for the place to which he was sending me, the Spirituality Center. Maybe he knew me better than I know myself.

I have not written any books or otherwise merited to have my name memorialized on any other construct that will survive me, but I do hope that I have served others in ways that their lives are on-going hymns of praise to the Lord and models of inspiration for others. I well remember how we were exhorted from the very being of our formation that Jesuits must be ready to “go wherever there is hope for God’s greater glory and the good of souls.” That is our criterion for job satisfaction. I hope that has been what prompted me wherever I have gone doing whatever ministry I have been assigned these 70 glorious years.


Fr. John W. Padberg SJ - 70 Years a Jesuit

What a time and what a blessing to be these last 70 years a member of the Church, a Jesuit and a historian. A historian recounts and attempts to explain the past, but one of those blessings of being a historian is also to understand the present in the light of that past. As for the future, sometimes people expect historians to play the role of prophet, predicting a future. But who in 1944, when I became a Jesuit, could have predicted the next 70 years in the Church and the Society of Jesus as they have turned out? Not I!

As a Jesuit, I have been blessed with the grace of the renewal of our spiritual heritage, of our community lives and of our apostolic commitments in those 70 years. I think how much closer we are to the foundational insights of the Society, how better we, specifically as Jesuits, are to know and love and follow Jesus than when I entered the Society in 1944. Much of that has come about through our general congregations. And behind all that has been the historical recover and deepened understanding and practice of the Spiritual Exercises.

But the greatest grace of all for these past 70 years has been my Jesuit brethren. They are not all candidates--not yet, anyway--for canonization. However, day by day, they have for the past 70 years taught me how to be a member of the Society of Jesus. What a time to be a Jesuit!

 

Fr. Michael D. French SJ - 50 Years a Jesuit

As I approach this wonderful celebration of my (first!) 50 years in the Jesuit order, I find this question challenging: “What moment, or moments, can you point to as the beginning of your realization of having a Jesuit vocation?”

The question is difficult for me in one way because I admit to a poor memory in general -- I must not have been paying attention when that gene was being passed along to me -- but, more important, the question seems “upside down.” To paraphrase a saying I once read: “There are grounds for dissolution in any commitment more than a few days old. What matters is that you find, and keep finding, grounds for renewal.”

My point is that I continue to find graces and gifts given to me that evidence the compassionate hand of a Loving Father patiently leading and inviting me to join His Son in service in the Society of Jesus.

 

Fr. Gregory S. Waldrop SJ - 25 Years a Jesuit

Not that I’d want to deny anyone a party, but a few years back when the New Orleans Province began to fête as jubilarians those with a “mere” 25 years in the Society of Jesus, I remember thinking, “But most Jesuits have hardly done anything after just 25 years--some of us are barely done with formation!” If I consider my own long road to ordination and then to a doctorate—and especially if I contemplate the apostolic contributions of fellow jubilarians like Fr. Tom Madden (70 years in the Society!) or Fr. John Edwards (60 years a priest!), my skepticism would seem confirmed.

That is, it would until I start reflecting and recall the familiar feeling of great and humbling privilege when a total stranger confides to me his or her most intimate and painful secrets in the belief that God’s merciful Spirit is present — and working through me! — in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Or it comes back to me in the squeeze of a hand at the church door after Mass, moist eyes, an expression of gratitude: “Father, you have no idea how much I needed to hear that homily.” Or I remember a phone call and a summons to the hospital to comfort friends at a moment of agonizing loss. Or I think of what happens now on a regular basis: interacting with students and staff who smile and chat easily, who confide in me without a second thought, who assume I’m a better person than I know myself to be, but who, in their attitudes of trust and acceptance, incarnate for me the loving invitation of God to keep trying.

No, I guess I don’t think I’ve done very much after just 25 years, especially compared to some others, but then jubilees aren’t about comparisons (and I didn’t need 25 years to learn that making them is usually a serious spiritual misstep!). Jubilees are about joy, memory, people, and, above all, thanksgiving. This year I neither showcase accomplishments nor lament their lack. Rather, together with all my brother jubilarians, of whatever age or generation, I celebrate, give thanks for, and simply marvel at all the good things God has done for us, in us, and—much more mysteriously—through us during our years in the Society.

 

Fr. Louis J. Oldani SJ - 50 Years a Priest

A key emphasis of Jesuit spirituality is finding God in each and every person one encounters. I have tried to practice that, not least when that enlightenment is most difficult to come by.

In my accounts of conscience to successive fathers provincial, I have addressed an insight I learned from a Jesuit friend, Fr. Martin J. Bredeck: the practice of Jesuit spirituality and the ministry of education are parallel and interactive enterprises. Each requires development; each entails faith in results that lie in a future one does not see. ... It is a goal always incomplete in accomplishment, one prompting continuing hunger for further learning, for fuller enlightenment. It is ministry sufficiently demanding and fulfilling to enliven this Jesuit for 50 years.

 

Fr. Robert F. O’Toole SJ - 60 Years a Jesuit

I know that I have been in the Society of Jesus for quite a while. It does not feel like 60 years, but in actuality it is. I am grateful to God, family and friends; without them, I am sure that I would be less of a Jesuit and less of a man. For some years now my dominant spiritual feeling has been gratitude to God for everyone and everything. Good health and a reasonable amount of energy are also much appreciated.

 

Fr. Robert L. Sullivan SJ - 60 Years a Jesuit

Spiritual writers often mention that the Lord’s ways of proceeding are often mysterious. Certainly, my call to the Society of Jesus and the fact that I am now celebrating 60 years with the “friends in the Lord” is for me a mystery. All I can say is: “Thank you, Lord.”


Jesuit Spirituality Center
Situated on 900 acres of farmland, the Jesuit Spirituality Center at Grand Coteau provides a quiet environment for those seeking God through the Spiritual Exercises.