Archive for August, 2011

Jesuit Shares Tale of Survival as WWII POW

Jesuit Father John Ruane

Jesuit priests and seminarians, above, in a photo taken at Loyola College in Los Angeles after they were freed by American soldiers in 1945. Jesuit Father John Ruane is in the top row, second from right.

Jesuit Father John Ruane, 91, who was interned in the Los Banos civilian internment camp on the island of Luzon in the Philippines during World War II, said of his survival, “God was protecting us.”

Fr. Ruane said that going to the missions appealed to him, and he was sent to the Philippines to study philosophy at Ateneo de Manila in July 1941. By 1942, all the priests and seminarians were placed under house arrest by the Japanese military, and in 1945, the Jesuits were moved to the Los Banos camp. They could take few belongings, and the 80 Jesuits were assigned to live in huts with 16 internees in each.

Given rice mixed with a little meat and water twice a day, Ruane said, “We were weak.” He said that they didn’t move around too much to preserve their strength and people would blackout often.

The priests would take turns saying Mass with the wine they had smuggled into the camp, and some of the Jesuits professors who would lecture the internees.

Ruane said they never gave up on the Americans and knew they were close since their airplane engines were stronger than the Japanese.

Ruane and the other internees were rescued by the U.S. troops, and he returned to the United States to be ordained; earned a doctorate in philosophy at Louvain, Belgium; and then returned to Cebu in the Philippines to teach Jesuit seminarians until 1969.

Read more about Ruane at and NJN.

Jesuit Regents Find Inspiration in Students

Jesuit Dennis Baker

Jesuit Dennis Baker at Xavier High School in New York City.

Regency is a time in Jesuit formation that occurs after First Studies and just prior to the formal study of theology, affording each Jesuit an opportunity to work in an apostolic area.

Jesuit Dennis Baker, of the New York Province, teaches at Xavier High School in New York City for his regency and said that Xavier High “is, quite literally, changing my life.”

“The students provide a context for me to work out what my own particular vocation means for me and to the world,” said Baker. “They constantly teach me about what it means to be a Jesuit and, in ways they cannot fathom, they instruct me on what kind of priest they want to see me become one day.”

Baker taught at a Jesuit high school before he entered the Society, but doing this work as a Jesuit scholastic is something completely different. “For reasons that often make me shake my head in utter disbelief, this work — and doing it in this particular way as a Jesuit — suits me better than I ever could have imagined.”

Jesuit Ben Brenkert, also of the New York Province, is spending his regency as a teacher, guidance counselor and social worker at St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City.

For Brenkert, the magis takes on a new meaning in regency to include the search for the quality, excellence and mastery of a craft and the freer and more personal service of others.

“To be a successful regent,” he said, “I believe that my love for my students must pour forth, flowing from my prayer and from my participation in the sacraments.”

Read more about Jesuits’ regency experiences in Jesuits magazine.

Jesuit Prison Chaplain Sees Jesus in Inmates

Jesuit Father George Williams

Lt. Sam Robinson/San Quentin State Prison

Jesuit Father George Williams recently became the new Catholic chaplain of San Quentin State Prison in California and said of his new job, “God jumps out at you when you least expect it.”

Fr. Williams, who served 15 years in prison ministries in Massachusetts before being appointed to his “dream job” at California’s oldest penitentiary, sees Christ in the Hell’s Angel shouting a greeting, “Hey, from one angel to another, how’s it going?”

He sees Christ in the lifers who are studying theology and said the inmates sometimes stump him with their insightful questions and surprise him with their knowledge of church teaching.

The facility houses nearly 6,000 prisoners, and about a quarter of them are Catholic.

Williams is in charge of a full sacramental calendar: baptisms at Easter; confirmations; confessions, which are significant for their healing and forgiving; the Eucharist; and anointing of the sick.

Although taken aback by San Quentin’s harsh conditions — he wears a bulletproof vest to work — he was pleasantly surprised by the plethora of programs, beautiful Catholic chapel and hordes of volunteers who bring “a humanness here I didn’t expect.”

“You see the Gospel in a totally different light in prison,” Williams said. “The early Christians were no strangers to prison and execution, including Jesus.”

As a Jesuit priest, his mission is to go where the need is greatest, Williams said.

“Nowhere is there a greater need than in the prison system that holds more than 2 million mostly poor and often disenfranchised people,” he said. “I feel a call to respond to that need.”

Read more about Williams at Catholic San Francisco.

U.S. Jesuits in Madrid Discuss the Arrival of Pope Benedict XVI

From the World Youth Day 2011 festivities in Madrid, Spain,  Jesuit Fathers Chris Collins, Aaron Pidel and Brian Dunkle, all Jesuits with the Society of Jesus in the United States, discuss how this event is a symbol of hope and renewal for the Church.

Fr. Collins speaks about the universality of the Church and the joy of the young people as they celebrate this event united in their faith. “As for every World Youth Day, it is always a sign of renewal and hope for the entire church, the global church. That is the most striking thing about any of these these World Youth Days is the universality of the church,” he says.

Fr. Pidel talks about the Pope’s intentions for World Youth Day and how bringing young people together in this way shows the vitality of their shared faith. Pidel says, “By bringing so many young people for whom the faith is still so vital and still so much the center of their life, [Pope Benedict XVI ] has shown that the faith is still an option, that the faith itself is a treasure that continues to be hopeful, vital and ever new.”

And finally, Fr. Dunkle remarks on the way young people are drawn to the Pope and the Pope’s ability to reach and gather such a vibrant audience.

You can watch all three Jesuits discuss World Youth Day and its importance in the video below. For more on Magis & World Youth Day 2011, visit our website:

Jesuit Discusses God’s Job on The Colbert Report

Jesuit Father Jim Martin on The Colbert ReportJesuit Father Jim Martin, “chaplain” to the late night Colbert Report, recently stopped by the satirical show to answer some questions from political humorist and host Stephen Colbert about God’s job and job performance.

When asked what God’s job is, Fr. Martin said it is “sustaining the universe.” Colbert then asked if we can judge him. “No,” Martin said.

“I think we can try to understand the universe and God’s ways, but ultimately it is mysterious … things like famines, floods, natural disasters, these things have confounded theologians and saints for years,” Martin continued.

Martin said the question of why God allows these things to happen is really something we probably won’t be able to answer until the end of our lives when we meet God.

The comedian also asked Martin why God’s approval ratings are so low right now.

Martin said, “I think that frequently when people are thinking about God’s ‘performance rating’ or what they think about God, they are thinking of how things are in their lives. If you are a Christian … you look at Jesus and things didn’t always work out for him either.”

But Martin points out, “God would never destroy a relationship that he had created. So the relationship God has with you is something that’s going to endure forever.”