During his ten years as a Jesuit, Matthew Stewart, SJ, has learned a lot, in the classroom and out, but perhaps his greatest learning is a growing understanding of God’s faithfulness. Stewart’s experiences and his ever-deepening relationship with God assure him he can respond to God’s call with complete peace of mind.
“As a Jesuit, your future is often in the hands of others,” he said. “It can be hard, but the pieces do fall into place. And like most Jesuits, I want to go where there’s a need.”
So far for Stewart, he’s been needed in the classroom. Since entering the Jesuits in 2009, he has completed master’s degrees in philosophy and music (choral conducting). He’s also taught and served in campus ministry at Regis University in Denver. He’s recently been assigned as the formation coordinator for the province’s Alum Service Corps.
Now in theology studies at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, he looks forward to being ordained a priest next June. Recently, he’s been getting hands-on pastoral experience. He recently directed his first retreat, at White House Retreat in St. Louis. And he’s directing a man – a husband and father – in the Spiritual Exercises in Everyday Life.
“It’s been awesome to see how he’s growing, where God is active in his life as a devoted lay person,” he said. “It’s rewarding to spend time with someone whose faith life is indispensable to him in the midst of his busy life and work.”
Stewart clearly enjoys the way spiritual accompaniment allows him to connect with people, just as his music ministry does.
“The arts are about learning how to engage with beauty, spirituality and God in a way that brings people together, instead of emphasizing differences,” he said. “Who doesn’t love beauty? Not many people who do music aren’t spiritual. It’s hard to master music without a connection to something bigger.”
He conducts a choir at Boston College made up of students from the School of Theology and Ministry, all of whom, while Catholic, have different approaches to their faith. “But they all enjoy making beautiful music together and leading our school in worship,” he says.
This St. Louisan attended both St. Louis University High School and Saint Louis University. After graduating from SLU, he served for a year in the Alum Service Corps (ASC), teaching at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City. “I loved it,” he said.
After ASC, he landed a job at his old high school. “(Former SLUH principal) Mary Schenkenberg took a chance on me,” he said. “There is no way I’d be a Jesuit today if she hadn’t hired me.” He went on to work at SLUH for six years, teaching theology and directing the campus ministry office.
“I was planning liturgies, directing retreats, and it finally occurred to me: it seems like this could be a vocation,” he said. He began exploring that vocation in 2007 by attending a retreat in St. Louis. He entered the Jesuits in 2009.
“My decision kind of surprised some of the people in my life,” he said. “I think they thought the moment had passed. I was 29, and I loved teaching. But the invitation wasn’t going away. I had to try it out. My life is so full now, fulfilled and enriched by my vocation. I am so grateful to God for this call.”