Long before Jesuit novice Andrew Hanson entered the Society of Jesus this past August, several people had mentioned the priesthood to him, but he always wrote the idea off. “I was determined to have a family and live a ‘normal’ life,” Hanson, 25, told the Catholic Messenger. But while serving in the Dominican Republic as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2009 to 2011, he began to rethink his future.
“I lived a simple lifestyle in a community, which meant that I had a lot of time to read, pray and just simply be, whether it was alone or with my community members,” Hanson says. “The more comfortable I got with living a simple life in a poor community, the more disenchanted I became with the plans and schemes I had envisioned, my future family and the way I viewed ‘success.’”
Hanson said that reading about St. Ignatius, Ignatian spirituality and other faith philosophies helped him start to recognize God’s presence in all that was going on around him. “It was clear that the movements of my heart were challenging me to explore the possibility that my deepest desire and truest fulfillment might be to serve God in the Society of Jesus,” he says.
After returning to his family in Iowa after the Peace Corps, Hanson applied and was accepted as a novice for the Wisconsin Province Jesuits.
Hanson had admired the Society since attending Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., where he majored in psychology and organizational communications. Though Hanson didn’t see himself becoming a Jesuit during his college days, he felt inspired to experience life on the margins, which led him to the Peace Corps.
While working as a youth development promoter in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, his religious vocation blossomed, Hanson says.
As a Jesuit novice, he spends much of his time in class, praying, tutoring immigrants pursuing U.S. citizenship and serving at a local Latino community resource center.
“It’s really easy to neglect time for silent contemplation due to our busy schedules, and I’m finding that I have to approach prayer like an exercise routine,” Hanson says. “By that I mean that if I don’t explicitly plan the hour into my day ahead of time, it’s tough to stay true to it. It has been simultaneously a challenge and a blessing.”
For more on Hanson’s journey to the Jesuit novitiate, visit the Catholic Messenger website.