November 1, 2017 — In honor of November’s Jesuit Vocations Month, we asked Jesuits — novices, scholastics, priests and brothers — across the U.S. and Canada to reflect on what they love about their Jesuit vocations. Jesuits.org will be sharing their videos and reflections all month long.
“We’re looking for guys who are creative and imaginative and aren’t afraid to follow their passions,” said Fr. Brian Christopher, SJ, who ministers in Belize, part of the Jesuits’ Central and Southern Province. “We’re looking for guys with big desires. … We’re always encouraged to jump into situations where maybe we’re not trained, or maybe we don’t know the answers, but to be creative and work with other people in terms of how to craft our ministry or how to respond to particular situations.”
Fr. Brian Christopher, SJ, with his mother on the day he professed first vows in the Society of Jesus in 1999.
Juan Ruiz, SJ, a teacher at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston, said he valued how much more he could do for God as a Jesuit. “It has given me the freedom to live out what I believe to be God’s will for my life,” Ruiz said. “It has given me the tools and the support to let go of, softly and slowly, the many attachments I developed over a lifetime that I continue to develop and continue to let go. God promises in the Gospels through Christ that if we give of ourselves and empty ourselves, we will receive a hundredfold in return.”
Juan Ruiz, SJ, teaches at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston.
Father Sam Wilson, SJ, who also serves in Belize, explains this freedom through an example of his ministry. “I love being a priest and a Jesuit because we often go to places where other people may not want to go, at least for the long term. For example, here we have 34 villages that we serve,” he said. “They’re spread out — you might go for one hour between one village and another, say Mass for maybe 50 people. It can be difficult to do that sometimes, but you get there and the devotion of the people, the love of God you can find in these isolated places, makes me glad that I’m a Jesuit and glad that I’m a priest and can serve Jesus in my vocation.”
Above, Fr. Sam Wilson, SJ, plays the blues guitar.
Many, like Jason Downer, SJ, a Jesuit studying at Boston College, talked about God. “I love getting to know God in a deeper way. Here at the Faber Jesuit Community at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, I get to do that five times a week, in classes and in my community.”
Jason Downer, SJ, is currently a student at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.
Fr. Leo O’Donovan, SJ, director of mission for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, found that what pulled him toward the Society was one of the most famous concepts in Ignatian spirituality. “Little by little I began to realize that seeking God in all things, the famous Jesuit expression, was really what I wanted out of my life,” he said.
Fr. Leo O’Donovan, SJ, director of mission for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA and former president of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. (1989 – 2001).
Jesuits also treasured their vocations as a way of helping others deepen their faith, bear life’s burdens and celebrate joy.
“I love those opportunities to listen to people, try to help heal those hurts if I’m able to, and really try to reconnect them with the church and reconnect them with Christ and Christ’s love,” said Br. Patrick Douglas, SJ, a vocation director serving at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. “I don’t stop being a brother wherever I’m at. I travel a lot for vocation work and I will often have these conversations in rest stops or airports or even the weight room.”
Others appreciated the great diversity of personalities and interests among other Jesuits in the Society and the many paths their vocations could take them.
Nearly every Jesuit we talked to mentioned community as something they love about their vocation.
“Being a Jesuit brother and being a member of this community has meant that there have been other people to take care of the things I’m not so good at — whether it’s the practical aspects of paying the bills or simply having a community of people to be there, to watch out for me when I need more than just myself,” said Br. Guy Conolsmagno, SJ, director of the Vatican Observatory.
Br. Guy Conolsmagno, SJ, director of the Vatican Observatory.
Fr. James Martin, SJ, editor-at-large of America Magazine, agreed. “I have known some of my Jesuit brothers, meaning my Jesuit friends, for 30 years. We vacation together, we talk on the phone together, we go out to dinner together, we go to movies together, we have fun together, we argue together sometimes and I love them like brothers. And so I have thousands and thousands of brothers and some really close ones. They’re just like family.”
Stay tuned as we update social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) with more throughout Jesuit Vocations month.
Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.jesuitvocations.org for more information.
The Ignatian Spirituality Program of Denver offers Ignatian group retreats, individual spiritual direction, the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life, and trains spiritual directors and guides of the Spiritual Exercises.