For two days following the province’s recent ordinations, more than 40 U.S. Central and Southern Province Jesuits involved with high school ministry gathered for a convocation on the campus of Loyola University in New Orleans.
We prayed together, laughed together, told some “war” stories, and, most importantly, talked with one another about life and ministry as Jesuits who work in the high school apostolate.
Four speakers helped focus our conversations in small groups and large groups and Bill Muller, SJ, the executive director of the Jesuit Schools Network and Ron Mercier, SJ, provincial of the Central and Southern Province, listened to our discussions. At the end of the convocation both Fr. Muller and Fr. Mercier gave the group feedback. The convocation was marked by a profound zeal for this mission that many of us greatly love.
Father Tim McMahon, SJ, the first speaker to address the convocation, helped us think about ourselves as belonging to a team of Jesuits who work together in our shared mission. He challenged us to wonder what teamwork might look like and how we can deepen our sense of being an apostolic team of Jesuits.
Father Walter Sidney, SJ, took up the topic of community life and noted that there are many different models of community. Some communities include Jesuits working in several different apostolates while some Jesuits who work in the same school might not live in the same community. These different ways of living in community present different opportunities.
Mr. Mark McNeil, Assistant Principal for Formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory, spoke about his experience as a lay faculty member working alongside Jesuits. For the past 18 years, Mark has worked closely with Jesuits in the theology department and in his role as Assistant Principal for Formation in which he forms faculty and staff in our Jesuit mission. Mark spoke most movingly about his love for Jesuits and the impact we have had in his professional and spiritual life.
Fr. Richard Hermes, S.J. spoke about his hopes for the future and what sort of apostolic fruit we might hope to see from our schools and what our future might look like. He encouraged the group to grow more closely to and become stronger in the animating spirit of the schools.
We finished the two day convocation by identifying some ways in which we might be even stronger in our mission to animate and inspire our schools and our partners in this vitally important mission—the progress of the young souls given to our care.
Father Jeff Johnson, SJ, of the U.S. Central and Southern Province serves as the president of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School in Houston.