Province: USA Midwest
Birthday: September 29, 1978
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Education: Bachelor’s degree, American studies, University of Dayton; Master’s degree, social philosophy, Loyola University Chicago; Master’s degree, theology, Xavier University of Louisiana; Master of Divinity, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
1. Worked on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations in South Dakota.
2. Taught at Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School in Chicago and sang in the gospel choir at St. Benedict the African Catholic Church.
3. Studied theology in the Spring 2019 semester at Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya.
Post-ordination: Will serve as an associate pastor at Christ the King Parish/Trinity Vicariate in Detroit, Michigan.
Father Joshua M. Peters, S.J., was born in Detroit, Michigan, to his parents, Michael and Helen, both career-long Catholic school teachers. He and his brothers Drew and Seth were raised in the small town of Auburn Hills and represent the eighth generation of Peters from Detroit soil. The Brothers Peters all attended University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy. They received a valuable education from the Jesuits who chose to stay in the city of Detroit when all other Catholic high schools closed or moved to the suburbs. Joshua was then formed by the community-oriented Marianists at the University of Dayton in Ohio, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in American studies with minors in English and human rights. Post-college, after serving the country for two years through the AmeriCorps Program, Joshua worked as a carpenter, laborer and associate retreat director before being asked to serve as the campus minister of his alma mater, U of D Jesuit. After re-encountering the missionary spirit of the first companions of the Society of Jesus, he knew God was calling him to enter the novitiate at Loyola House in Berkley, Michigan, in 2009. He worked in Manderson, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation as a novice and took vows in 2011. Joshua received a master’s degree in social philosophy at Loyola University Chicago before being missioned to teach at Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory School on Chicago’s West Side. Singing in the choir and worshipping at St. Benedict the African Catholic Church in Englewood was remarkably formational during his six years in Chicago. Joshua completed a Master of Divinity degree from the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, and is working on a master’s degree in theology from Xavier University of Louisiana’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies. After ordination, he will serve as an associate pastor at Christ the King Parish/Trinity Vicariate in Detroit.
Joshua with members of the Jesuits’ Christ the King Catholic Parish Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM) in the Kangemi neighborhood in Nairobi on Good Friday. These EYM youth were acting in the Way of the Cross.
What is your favorite book, movie, music, or TV show you’ve encountered since entering the Society and why do you love it?
Cyprian Davis O.S.B.’s “The History of Black Catholics in the United States” is one of my favorite books. Davis is an excellent storyteller who conveys American history in a way that illuminates the many people who have shaped this country and the Catholic Church despite being largely ignored because they are black. Before the United States ever existed, there were black Catholics here. I love that.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
One of my favorite saints is Saint Oscar Romero, whose feast day is on March 24. In 2005, on the 25th anniversary of his death, my family journeyed to San Salvador, El Salvador, as pilgrims to pray and reflect on his extraordinary life. Romero’s example gives me the courage to live my priestly vocation with boldness and humility.
What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you?
In the spring semester of 2019, I was given an opportunity to study theology at Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya. It was the fulfillment of a dream and my first visit to the continent of Africa, let alone Eastern Africa. Even though professors have been regularly exchanging between the universities, I am grateful to the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California, and to Hekima University College for helping me become the first exchange student in more than five years. Since the bright future of the Jesuits and the Catholic Church is largely African and Indian, I benefited from the richness of the international Society of Jesus, especially in the African context.
Through their gracious hospitality, the Jesuits at Hekima helped me instantly feel at home. I was deeply consoled to live in Nairobi for almost six months in such an apostolically vibrant environment. The Jesuit scholastics took me around to their works doing Bible study, youth ministry, caring for young ones in orphanages, accompanying vulnerable teens in group homes and introduced me to the Missionaries of Charity. I ended up working with the Missionaries of Charity Brothers in the Kibera slum twice a week for my entire time in Nairobi. The Brothers run a loving care facility called the New Life Home for men who are physically, mentally and developmentally disadvantaged. Working alongside the Brothers and their colleagues and getting to know the residents offered me a new life of prayer and purpose.
The other thing I benefited from was being in a culture where “Black is Beautiful” is a way of life! Kenya and the Eastern African nations of Tanzania and Uganda are beautiful in every sense of the word. I was not aware of how much the United States is permeated by a culture of white superiority until I lived outside of it for almost half a year. Eastern Africa is not without its issues but no one there has to fight for their right to say that they are black and proud like I have observed here in the U.S. This translates into a culture where blackness is celebrated and reveled in by just waking up, greeting the day and praising God with one’s life. I felt deeply privileged to watch this glory unfold on a daily basis while in Eastern Africa.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
Jesus called me. I answered, "Yes."
Joshua at the 2019 graduation for Christ the King Jesuit College Prep (CTK) in Chicago, where he taught as a Jesuit in formation. In this "Peters Fam" selfie, from left: Joshua with Ms. Martinka Peters and her daughters, Jenelle Peters (CTK '19) and Mya Peters (CTK '14).
Who is one important mentor who has accompanied you on your journey? What made them a good mentor?
The most important mentor I have had during my 11-year journey with the Society of Jesus is the indomitable Rev. Dr. Joseph A. Brown, S.J. He has offered me a balanced amount of support, prayer, and loving challenge since I was a novice in 2009.
His support has taken on many facets over the years. When I was a novice, he encouraged me to deepen my engagement in ministry to the incarcerated by giving me a signed copy of Michelle Alexander’s, The New Jim Crow. At another point he gifted me with Kendrick Lamar’s album DAMN. and J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only so that I could get a flavor of what modern-day Spirituals sounded like. After I found out that I would be missioned to regency at Christ the King in Chicago, he made a point to find me at our Province gathering to say: “The Black Catholic community is supporting you!” His sincerity and confidence in my abilities helped me courageously step into my first apostolic mission. While at CTK, Joseph made a point of not letting me feel like I was doing cross-cultural ministry alone. He was instrumental in helping the Jesuit Anti-Racism Sodality (JARS) grow into the robust organization that it is today. Joseph’s support has buoyed my spirits when very few have understood what I was experiencing.
Fr. Joseph’s support has also helped me to be a prayerful Jesuit. When I shared some poems that I had written during prayer periods through the years, he gave me some pointers and encouraged me to keep writing. I often write new poems on retreat or when the spirit moves me to put pen to paper. When he bequeathed a volume of his collected poems called, "The Sun Whispers, Wait," his inscription read, “Joshua, you have more songs than we know – and words for the telling. Join the Chorus – We need you – Joseph.” His book, "To Stand on the Rock," became a staple in my library because of his treatment of what it means to be “authentically Black and truly Catholic.” I think his most influential prayer suggestion to me has been to attend the annual Archbishop Lyke Conference which celebrates Black Catholic liturgy and musical tradition. The first Lyke Conference I attended gave me such a sense of joy and exhilaration that I lived out of it for almost an entire year.
Fr. Brown has also challenged me to expand my mind and heart. He pushed me to pursue the master’s degree in theology at the Institute for Black Catholic Studies (IBCS) at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA). He said that it is important to have proper credentials if I hope to work in the Black community in the future. XULA is the only Catholic Historically Black College and University in the country. Joseph has also challenged me to expand my heart. In November 2017, he and Tim Kesicki, S.J., invited me to Baltimore with several other non-Black Jesuits to attend a meeting of Black Jesuits from the United States, Jamaica, and Haiti. The Black Jesuit group calls us non-Black Jesuits the “extended family.” I am so grateful to call Joseph a Companion of Jesus and I consider him family, which is why I have asked him to be my vesting priest at my priestly ordination.
Joshua was Ordained June 20, 2020 at Saints Peter Peter and Paul Jesuit Church, Detroit, Michigan.