Archive for January, 2013

Deaf Jesuit Priest Hears a Special Call

Jesuit Father Joseph BruceJesuit Father Joseph Bruce is one of the few priests in the world who has been deaf since childhood and the first deaf Jesuit priest. This hasn’t stopped him from ministering to both the hearing and the deaf. Fr. Bruce reads lips, knows many variations of sign language and speaks clearly — despite never having heard a spoken word in his whole life.

Currently Fr. Bruce ministers to a predominately deaf congregation in Landover, Md. He is one of eight deaf priests in the United States today, and when he was ordained to the priesthood in 1981, there was only one other deaf priest in the country.

Fr. Bruce said he first thought of becoming a priest while attending the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., when Jesuit Father Joseph LaBran suggested he become a Jesuit priest. “I responded by saying that the church did not allow deaf men to be ordained priests,” Fr. Bruce recalls. “Then Fr. LaBran said, ‘God is full of surprises. He can change things whenever he wants to.’ After that I began to think about it.”

Fr. Bruce says the greatest challenge in serving people is being able to lip-read. “Every person moves his or her lips differently when they speak,” he says. “Lipreading is very tiring. Lipreading every day is like running the Boston Marathon every day!”

He also recalls challenges as an undergrad. He wanted to be a Spanish major, but the modern language department wouldn’t allow it because he couldn’t “hear Spanish.” So Fr. Bruce asked if he could major in English, and he was given permission. “I remember keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that no one realized that I can’t hear English either!”

He also prevailed, after setbacks, to become a priest. Fr. Bruce applied to the diocese and the Franciscans, but both told him no. The Dominicans didn’t reply. Finally, the Society of Jesus said yes.

Today Fr. Bruce does pastoral ministry for the deaf community in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Marlana Portolano attends St. Francis of Assisi, the predominantly deaf parish where Fr. Bruce ministers and where her daughter attends catechism classes in sign language.

Portolano writes in America magazine, “In order to embrace the Catholic faith, my daughter needed to receive direct communication in a language she could see and understand. In signing the Mass, Father Joe, as he is known, opened my daughter’s eyes to essential practices of Catholicism. Every week Father Joe is able to hold the rapt attention of the entire congregation, even when he does not speak at all.”

To read more about Fr. Bruce, visit America magazine, The B.C. Catholic and the Rhode Island Catholic.

Jesuit Strives to Care for Souls in the Digital Age

Jesuit Sam SawyerA year ago, The Jesuit Post, a website for the Facebook generation “about Jesus, politics, and pop culture; the Catholic Church, sports, and Socrates,” launched. Jesuit Sam Sawyer, one of the four Jesuit scholastics who started the site, says during their years of formation the four have repeatedly asked one another: “How does the Church address itself to a contemporary culture that is no longer in contact with the institutional forms we’ve grown up with?”

For the past year, The Jesuit Post, which is independent of the Society of Jesus, has made a case for God in a secular age, with blog posts, essays, a Twitter feed and articles with headlines like “Contemplation After Gaga” and “Crowdsourcing the Saints.” Sawyer, who is in theology studies at Boston College, is a contributor and assistant editor and says he and his fellow Jesuits are seeking out young adults who are “hard to reach through traditional modes” such as parishes and diocesan newspapers.

Sawyer found his own spiritual path to the Jesuits when he attended a lecture at Boston College during his freshman year where Jesuit theologian Father Howard Gray spoke about how the early Jesuits “bonded around a shared desire to care for souls,” Sawyer recalls.

“That’s the name for what I wanted to do — help souls,” Sawyer remembers thinking. “I spent the next six months trying to pretend nothing happened.”

After graduating in 2000, he taught for a year as a volunteer at a Jesuit middle school in Baltimore and then worked for three years as a software engineer on satellite communications and missile-defense radar projects in Boston. But along the way, Sawyer stopped “trying to pretend” and embraced his Jesuit vocation, joining the Society in 2004.

From 2009 to 2011, Sawyer taught philosophy courses at Loyola University Maryland, and it was a defining part of his Jesuit formation. Teaching “at the heart of the curriculum,” Sawyer says, a professor can help students connect the classics to their lives and puzzle out their place in the universe.

Sawyer is now setting his sights on a lifelong ministry in higher education. And he plans to continue asking the kinds of questions that engendered The Jesuit Post: “How do we evangelize our nominally Catholic undergrads? What should our outreach look like in the classroom?”

For more on Sawyer, read the full story at Boston College’s 2012 Annual Report: Becoming a Jesuit: Five Lives at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry.

Jesuit Shares Ministry and Vocation Stories on The Busted Halo Show

Jesuit Father Rocco Danzi,Jesuit Father Rocco Danzi, director of campus ministry at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J., was a guest on The Busted Halo Show with Fr. Dave Dwyer last fall, where he discussed vocations, spirituality, pastoral ministry and what inspired him to join the Society of Jesus. “The movie that fired me up for the Jesuits was ‘The Mission,’ Fr. Danzi recalls. “I began to say to myself, what if I joined this group and found myself going over a waterfall? Well you have to watch what you ask for!”

Fr. Danzi first encountered real-life Jesuits when he attended Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. After college he was working as a teacher when he began to discern his vocation to the priesthood. Fr. Danzi says he felt a calling to the Society but was resistant because he was not sure he fit in. “I was selling myself short because the Jesuits I knew had doctorates and were professors at St. Joe’s,” he explains.

With encouragement he met with the Jesuits and entered the Society in 1989. “My own ministry as a Jesuit has been very pastoral. As a Jesuit you can do all sorts of things, with or without a doctorate,” says Fr. Danzi. “It’s not the degree, it’s the heart. It’s the call within the call and discerning what kind of ministry excites you the most.”

As a campus minister, Fr. Danzi has enjoyed going on service trips with the students and says that many young adults are not sure about the prayer portion of the trip before they go. Fr. Danzi says that often changes. “Service seems to trigger and bring forth a lot of personal and spiritual things that come to the surface,” he says.

Fr. Danzi has been inspired by his own service trips to Haiti while he was a Jesuit novice. “It’s a place where I really encountered God and found that strength to keep going on that journey toward Jesuit priesthood and Jesuit ministry,” says Fr. Danzi.

Listen to the entire interview with Fr. Danzi at the New York Province website.

Jesuit Students to Attend Mass for Life, New Face of Pro-Life Movement

By Kaitlyn McCarthy Schnieders

Jesuit students at the 2012 Mass for LifeThe face of the pro-life movement is changing. Roe v. Wade was once the cause of those who remember when abortion was illegal. Now, 40 years after the landmark Supreme Court decision, the pro-life mantle has been taken up by those who’ve never known a world without abortion. One glance at the young people who attend the Jesuit Mass for Life in Washington, D.C., confirms that fact.

Every year to commemorate the Roe v. Wade decision, the Society of Jesus hosts a Mass and rally in the nation’s capital for students of Jesuit institutions. What began as a small gathering now attracts more than 700 attendees. Students from across the country, hailing from more than 30 Jesuit schools, pack St. Aloysius Church near Capitol Hill, often leaving just standing room.

This year, the Jesuit Mass for Life will be celebrated by Jesuit Father Gerry Stockhausen and feature Jesuit Father Phil Hurley as homilist. A number of Jesuits from around the country are also expected to concelebrate.

Steven Trottier, a graduate of De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis and a current student at Notre Dame, is a past attendee. Trottier says he learned about pro-life issues at De Smet, which prompted him to attend the Jesuit Mass and rally.

Mass for Life“I think student involvement brings youth, energy and excitement together, giving the pro-life movement a driving energy,” says Trottier. “Young people want their voices heard. The youth is the future of the pro-life movement and with all of our access to technology and media, we can stay informed of public policy concerning issues of abortion and life.”

For many students, attending the Mass and rally is often the culmination of a semester’s worth of work — saving money, attending meetings, hosting bake sales and sacrificing their time to fund the trip to Washington.

“This will be a significant experience of service of faith and promotion of justice for many students because the Masses, prayer services and holy hours that they participate in while in Washington are done alongside a series of talks about what it means to take one’s faith into the public square,” says Jesuit Ronald O’Dwyer, currently studying theology at Boston College and one of the event’s organizers. “Just being in Washington sparks these conversations.”

Patrick Grillot, president of Students for Life at Saint Louis University, says the March for Life creates an opportunity to promote the importance of valuing human dignity with fellow students before, after and during their trip.

“At SLU, we are especially committed to supporting pregnant and parenting students and have raised about $100,000 for our endowment. I believe this holistic, consistent life ethic approach is gaining steam across the country. One of the major critiques of the pro-life cause has been that its supporters do not value life after a child’s birth; we cannot allow this belief to exist in perception or reality.”

That consistent ethic of life is exactly what the Society of Jesus has been advocating for, working to restore a respect for all human life. In their statement on the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Jesuits vigorously affirmed their opposition to abortion and their support for the unborn:

“As all human life is sacred and should be protected by law, the Society of Jesus believes in a consistent ethic of life from conception to natural death, an ethic which includes our opposition to the death penalty and assisted suicide and our support for improved palliative care. All human life deserves dignity and respect, and all of God’s children, particularly the most vulnerable, must be protected and supported by the laws and policies of our nation.”

Students at the March for LifeMatt Cuff, policy associate for the Jesuit Conference, which is organizing the event, says, “Our students know that coming to the Mass and rally isn’t enough, nor is opposition to abortion enough.  We need to be advocates for programs that improve the lives of mothers, especially in low-income neighborhoods.  In today’s political environment that means opposing cuts to government programs that serve low-income mothers as vigorously as we oppose abortion.”

Mass Information:

January 25, 2013
Mass starts at 9:30 am
St. Aloysius Church
19 I St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20001

The Jesuit March for Life Rally begins immediately following Mass.

The rally features student speakers from both Jesuit high schools and universities. There will also be reflections from Jesuit Father Stephen Spahn, director of Ignatian Programs at Georgetown University, and Mary Peterson, founder and executive director of Maggie’s Place, a community that provides housing for expectant women who are alone or on the streets.

Jesuit Installed as President of the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association

Jesuit Lorenzo HermanJesuit Lorenzo Herman’s life is anything but predictable. Prior to joining the Society of Jesus in 2007, Herman – known for his nerves of steel – worked an in-flight refueling specialist aboard a KC135 Stratotanker, a flying gas station.  After leaving the Air Force, Herman turned his attention to nonprofit work, spending the better part of a decade helping African-American and Latino HIV and AIDS patients navigate the healthcare system. This week, the Cleveland native takes the reins of the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association.  Not bad for a kid raised a Baptist.

So how did Herman, now studying transformational leadership at Seattle University, end up joining the Society of Jesus? You can thank St. Ignatius for that.  Herman’s parents decided that St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, known for its strong academics, would be the perfect place for their son.  Here, Herman encountered the Jesuits for the first time.

“When I was a senior, the Jesuits invited me over to their home for dinner to discuss Jesuit vocations,” he recalls. But, Herman says, he didn’t yet understand what a vocation meant. The next year he headed off to Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., and became a Catholic.

Jesuit Lorenzo HermanAfter a year at Spring Hill, Herman joined the Air Force and was assigned to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash. From 1994 to 2000, he worked as an in-flight refueling specialist, traveling all over the world with his flight crew to refuel aircraft in midair. While at Fairchild, Herman became involved with AIDS advocacy, volunteering as a case worker. He also reconnected with the Jesuits. While acting in community theater, he was part of several productions directed by Jesuit Father Jack Bentz, currently the director of vocations for the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus.

Herman moved to San Diego in 2001 to assist family, and he continued his work with HIV/AIDS patients. He also worked with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to pass HIV/AIDS legislation through the California State Legislature.

Jesuit Lorenzo HermanIn 2007 he answered the call the Jesuits had asked him to consider back in high school. When he applied to the Society of Jesus, Herman said, “I didn’t feel like I was giving up on something that I was so attached to. I knew at that moment that I would not look back on the decision and say I made a mistake.”

Since joining the Society, Herman completed his bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and African-American studies at Saint Louis University, where he was introduced to the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association. Founded in 1968, the association currently has 60 members, and Herman will serve as its president for the next year.

“As a Jesuit, I’ve been able to revisit all the things that I’ve done. I continue to do the HIV/AIDS work; I continue to do theater. The thing that makes it different for me is now God is working through me in all these things,” says Herman.