Archive for January, 2013

Jesuit Honored for Years of Work in Peace and Justice

Jesuit Father Benjamin UrmstonJesuit Father Benjamin Urmston, founder of Peace and Justice Programs and professor emeritus at Xavier University in Cincinnati, is being honored for his lifelong efforts on justice issues. He will receive the “Keeping the Dream Alive” award from the Church of the Resurrection in Cincinnati at the church’s annual celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on January 21.

Fr. Urmston, 87, is a veteran of World War II, and he participated in three major battles — the Rhine, the Ruhr and Bavaria — with General Patton’s Third Army in Europe. The horrors of his war experiences inspired him to make a difference in the world. He decided he could do that by entering the priesthood.

“I was not in the worst part of the war,” Fr. Urmston said, “but what I had was not a picnic. And I came out of that thinking, ‘There has to be a better way for us to solve disputes. There has to be a way to peace.’ I wanted a better world. I felt being a priest would be one way to pursue that — at least a good way for me. And that has proven to be true.”

When Fr. Urmston joined the Xavier faculty in 1971, he saw the need for student involvement in issues of peace and justice, so he founded the Peace and Justice Programs. “The notion of peace and justice is deeply engrained in Ignatian spirituality and applies to all people whether you like them or not,” Fr. Urmston said.

“I think it’s good to have ideas. I think it’s good to have ideals,” Fr. Urmston said. “I think it’s good to have a vision of the future. The purpose is never to judge individuals but to analyze structures. There are times when we need to change our structures, and that’s not easy. That’s part of the reason why there’s opposition: We don’t like to change basic things.

“I don’t have in mind heaven. But I have in mind the beginnings of a civilized earth.”

Read more about Fr. Urmston at the Xavier University website.

Jesuit Embraces His Vocation with a Listening Heart

Jesuit Father Charles FredericoThe U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has designated January 13 to 19 as National Vocations Awareness Week.  Started in 1976, this annual weeklong celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States is dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering a vocation.  In honor of Vocations Week, the USCCB  invited a series of guest bloggers to discuss their vocation story. Today, Jesuit Father Chuck Frederico, vocations director for the New York, Maryland and New England Provinces of the Society of Jesus, shares his.

On June 10, 2006, I was ordained a Jesuit priest, a fact that likely surprised the master chefs who helped train me for two years of intensive study at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. They predicted I would go on to great things – perhaps even own a restaurant in my home town of Philly – where my love of food first took hold. But, like any good vocation story, there’s a twist, and in my case, God had other plans.

After graduation from the CIA, I discovered that restaurant life was not what I had expected.  The hours were long, the work unrewarding. To hedge my bets against the failure of a long-held dream, I began to pursue a degree in food marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

This led to my first real introduction to the Society of Jesus. While I had attended a Catholic grammar school where the nuns insisted that we write AMDG, shorthand for the Latin Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (For the Greater Glory of God) and the Jesuit motto, on all our papers, I was not personally familiar with the Society. At St. Joseph’s, I met Jesuits in person for the first time. They intrigued me because, regardless of their expertise – math, science, theology, or English – they all expressed a profound love of God through their particular academic lenses. God spoke to my heart and showed me men He had chosen to do His work. The more I learned about them, the more I found myself inspired, free, motivated to prayer and anxious to know more. I entered the Society in 1995 and never looked back.

Since the novitiate, Jesus has gently guided and taught me to turn my heart toward him daily. The people who have entered my life in ministry have reminded me that God uses us as his instrument. Finding where God calls us and responding to our own personal vocation is the key to our happiness. In my work as a vocation director for the Society now, I see how often God speaks to our hearts.

The listening heart has sustained me.  As a priest, I minister to people in their happiest and saddest moments. I have learned the richness of investing my heart in God’s mission. My heart and mind recall the people who have helped bring me to this moment in my life. Family, friends, fellow Jesuits and the people with whom I have worked in the Society have played a special role, whether through prayers, conversations, laughter or actually shared work.

One final thought.  As I headed off to the Culinary Institute as a 17-year-old determined to be a chef, a diocesan priest suggested I note the letters ingrained in the marble at the school’s front door:  AMDG.  Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam – For the Greater Glory of God. Turns out that the culinary school on the banks of the Hudson was for many years a Jesuit novitiate. Was God calling me to a vocation as I was learning how to master the five mother sauces of French cuisine and butterfly a lamb chop?  My listening heart tells me that he was.


Jesuit Travels to Rome for Canonization of First Native American Saint

Jesuit Father Patrick TwohyOne of the highlights of 2012 for Jesuit Father Patrick Twohy was traveling to Rome in October to watch Pope Benedict XVI canonize seven saints. “This is so right, the Church honoring those who lived the beatitudes,” Fr. Twohy recalls thinking of the experience.

After being called 40 years ago to serve Native American people, Fr. Twohy was in Rome to celebrate the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint.

Fr. Twohy, who is director of the Rocky Mountain Mission for the Northwest Jesuits and chaplain to Native Americans of the Seattle Archdiocese, traveled to the Vatican with a group of about 40 Native people from several Northwest tribes.

“We were there with many tribes. They all claim her because the honor of one is the honor of all. That certainly was the case on that wonderful day,” Fr. Twohy said.

As a member of the Tekakwitha Conference — the only annual gathering of Catholic Native peoples in North America — Fr. Twohy had prayed with about 1,000 others for the canonization of Kateri each year since Pope John Paul II beatified her in 1980.

“To have her honored is to honor all Native peoples, the sanctity of their lives and the beauty of their culture. I was blessed to be standing in St. Peter’s piazza with all these grandmothers and great grandmothers whose guidance I so value,” said Fr. Twohy, one of 12 Jesuits who serve Native Americans throughout the Northwest.

The Jesuits have a 170-year history with Native Americans, according to Fr. Twohy, who moved to the Colville Reservation at Nespelem, Wash., in 1973.

“That was the beginning and it has gotten deeper and more profound with each year for me,” said Fr. Twohy. “Now I see the world with a double richness. I belong to the Catholic tradition and that worldview and to those people whose wisdom spans thousands and thousands of years. I want to journey forever with them into the next world.”

Fr. Twohy joined the Jesuits at 18. “Ever since I was young, I’ve always been drawn to the mystery, that which is hidden in all things,” he said. “When I met the Jesuits who taught me in high school, I was deeply impressed with the width of their learning, the width of their hearts and their engagement with the world.”

For more, read the article by Annie Beckmann on the Seattle University website.

‘God Didn’t Forget My Bucket List,’ Says Jesuit Chaplain of the House of Representatives

Jesuit Father Patrick ConroyThe 113th Congress recently convened and that means long, busy days ahead for Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy, who serves as the 60th Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The first Jesuit to serve as the chaplain to the House, Fr. Conroy says when he was young his plan was to be a U.S. senator. When Fr. Conroy’s provincial asked him to apply for the chaplain position, Fr. Conroy says, “God didn’t forget my bucket list.”

In this Ignatian News Network video, Fr. Conroy talks about his unique ministry.

Jesuit Ministers to City Coping with Record-Breaking Violence

Jesuit Father Jeff Putthoff

Jesuit Father Jeff Putthoff (right) with a cross planted for a Camden, N.J., homicide victim.

Jesuit Father Jeff Putthoff ministers in Camden, N.J., a city that experienced a record-breaking number of homicides in 2012. “I have learned that poverty is not pretty, nor is it romantic. The traumatic experiences of violence, abuse and endemic poverty deeply wound the people of Camden,” says Fr. Putthoff.

Fr. Putthoff founded and runs Hopeworks ‘N Camden, which trains youth in technology and helps them get back to school and away from the violence that plagues their hometown.

Among the 67 killed in Camden in 2012, 34 were younger than age 30; 11 were teenagers; one was 2 years old and another was 6 years old. Fr. Putthoff was one of the organizers of a new group, Stop the Trauma, Violence and Murder, which has a Facebook page documenting both the ongoing violence in the city and activities to bring attention to the problem, including painting and planting of crosses for victims.

“Camden is a place that is very bloody and disfigured, and it bothers us fundamentally to look at it because if we acknowledge it as disfigured, then we have to do something about it,” Fr. Putthoff told the National Catholic Reporter. “The alternative, what most do, is avert our gaze and find ways to justify it. We either make it invisible or we blame people for it.”

Fr. Putthoff and the staff of Hopeworks understand that changing lives go beyond teaching new skills. It also means they must help the youth to see possibilities that would have been previously unimaginable.

Fr. Putthoff  said that even many from the program who “succeeded,” by moving on to college or to good jobs, often sabotaged that success by acting out inappropriately under stressful circumstances.

Crosses for murder victims in Camden, NJ“What’s important is recognizing that even if we had no crosses, we’d still be saying, ‘Stop the trauma,’ because people are living an existence that is only about survival and not thriving,” Fr. Putthoff said. “They learn a whole set of behaviors to help them survive, but lamentably, those behaviors don’t help them thrive.”

The Hopeworks staff is currently undergoing a two-year training program to be certified in “trauma-informed delivery of services.”

“We believe that we’re operating more and more out of a model of trauma where our youth basically have a form of PTSD and their survival mechanism doesn’t allow them to actually move forward,” Fr. Putthoff said.

For more on Fr. Putthoff’s ministry in Camden, visit the National Catholic Reporter and the Jesuit Curia’s Social Justice blog.