Archive for April, 2013

Jesuit Finds God Through Study of the Stars

Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, an astronomer at the Vatican Observatory, is used to questions about his job, such as “Why does the Vatican have an observatory?” and “Aren’t there more important things to do than look at the stars?” In fact, he used to ask himself the same type of questions.

Br. Consolmagno recalls being a postdoctoral fellow at MIT and lying in bed at night wondering, “Why am I wasting my time worrying about the moons of Jupiter when there are people starving in the world?”

He had no answer, and he eventually quit his job and science and joined the Peace Corps.

“I told the Peace Corps people, ‘I’ll go anywhere you ask me to go, I’ll do anything you ask me to do; I just want to help people,’” he says. “They sent me to Africa, to Kenya, where I ended up teaching astronomy to graduate students at the University of Nairobi!”

Now as an astronomer at the Vatican, Br. Consolmagno explains that he encounters God in his scientific studies.

“Astronomy is how we experience the universe as creatures who are interested in more than just, ‘what’s for lunch?’” says Br. Consolmagno. “But what I have also come to see is that belief plays a fundamental role in being able to do that astronomy.”

According to Br. Consolmagno, there are three religious beliefs you have to accept on faith before you can be a scientist: that this universe actually exists; that the universe operates by regular laws; and that the universe is good.

“Science is where I get to spend time with the Creator,” says Br. Consolmagno. “When God invites me to encounter him in the things that have been made, as St. Paul puts it in his letter to the Romans, God is setting up a game we get to play together. It is a game that, on top of everything else, tells me he loves me. And for that, I am grateful to be an astronomer.”

To read more about Br. Consolmagno’s thoughts on God and astronomy, visit Thinking Faith, the online journal of the British Jesuits.

Canisius High School Appoints Jesuit Father Joseph Costantino as President

Fr. Joseph Costantino Canisius HighJesuit Father Joseph Costantino has been appointed as the new president of Canisius High School, in Buffalo, N.Y., beginning July 1. Fr. Costantino is returning to the site of his first assignment as a Jesuit novice in 1978.

His appointment also marks a return to a Jesuit president for the 143-year-old school. He succeeds  John Knight, the first lay president in the school’s history. Knight left Canisius in 2012 to lead St. Ignatius Preparatory School in San Francisco. In the interim, P. Joseph Koessler served as president while the Canisius High board searched for a permanent replacement.

“We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to have a Jesuit back at the helm of Canisius. That was one of our key objectives we were seeking to fulfill,” said the chair of the school’s board of trustees David Kersten.

Fr. Costantino has been the pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in New York City since September 2006.. A Brooklyn native, Fr. Costantino entered the Society of Jesus in 1977 and was ordained in 1987. Fr. Costantino is also a member of the board of trustees at Canisius College, where he spent three years teaching philosophy. He holds a bachelor’s degree from New York University, a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University and both a Master of Divinity and Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. (now the Boston College School of Theology).

He was executive director of St. Ignatius Retreat House in Manhasset, N.Y., for seven years, and is a former board member of the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, which provides service opportunities for retirees with the poor. Fr. Costantino also served as director of vocations for the New York and Maryland Province Jesuits.

“Living in community with the Jesuits who served at the high school and working alongside a group of seasoned Canisius lay faculty members in the Higher Achievement Program, I experienced the joys of teaching and learned about the magnificent work of this special Jesuit apostolate in Buffalo,” said Fr. Costantino, recalling his time at Canisius High as a Jesuit novice. [Buffalo News, Business First]

Jesuits-in-Residence Tradition Highlighted in Ignatian News Network Video

Jesuits-in-Residence videoJesuits living among students in college residence halls as “Jesuits-in-Residence” is a tradition the Society of Jesus has embraced across the United States since its earliest schools were founded. Today the tradition continues at many Jesuit colleges and universities, including Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Seattle University and Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia.

In a new video, the Ignatian News Network visited students and Jesuits-in-Residence living in community at Georgetown University. Jesuit Father Matthew Carnes explained his role as a Jesuit-in-Residence:

“It’s [about] being mentors, friends and colleagues [with students]. Being gentle correctors at times, but also being those people that can inspire and draw people into living as their better selves.”

According to Jesuit Father Christopher Steck, Jesuits-in-Residence serve their campus community in a unique way. “We’re there both as a witness to the academic enterprise, and we’re also there to say we care about your lives as social people, your lives as people trying to make hard decisions.”

Jesuit Honored for His Work Creating Affordable Housing in Boston Area

Jesuit Father Fred EnmanJesuit Father Fred Enman became a Jesuit because of a calling within his calling. When he realized during college that he wanted to be a priest and practice poverty law, he says, “It became clear to me that the obvious thing to do was to join the Society of Jesus.”

On April 21, Fr. Enman was honored for his work with the poor when he received the Madonna Della Strada Award from the Ignatian Volunteer Corps (IVC) New England. As executive director and founder of Matthew 25, Fr. Enman and his volunteers rehabilitate abandoned houses in the Boston area to create affordable rental housing for low-income people. In addition, Fr. Enman serves as assistant dean and chaplain of Boston College Law School.

The idea for Matthew 25, which has rehabbed 11 houses since 1994, came to Fr. Enman while he was reading “The True Church and the Poor,” in which Jesuit Father Jon Sobrino wrote that Christians must make Gospel values real in the lives of the poor. The theologian singled out Matthew 25, which proclaims that people shall be judged on whether they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, cared for the sick, visited the imprisoned and welcomed the stranger in their midst.

“I was in my room and I was so moved by what I was reading that I put the book down and prayed about it,” recalled Fr. Enman. “Jesuits are encouraged from time to time to make a resolution at the end of a prayer, so what I resolved was that if I had a chance someday to make Matthew 25 concrete, I would do so.”

Matthew 25 houseIn 1988, Fr. Enman had that chance when he created a pastoral project for a class and proposed Matthew 25, with a mission to provide food and housing relief. Through yard sales, Fr. Enman raised money that went to food relief efforts here and abroad — and a small amount was set aside to start up Matthew 25. He continued to raise money while teaching at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and by 1994, Matthew 25 was able to buy and rehabilitate its first abandoned home in Worcester.

Since then, Matthew 25 has restored nine more houses in Worcester and one in Boston, renting them to the poor at affordable prices. Fr. Enman said that most of the work has been done by volunteers, including students from Holy Cross and Boston College, parish and youth groups from local churches and the IVC.

Fr. Enman said his work with Matthew 25 has enabled him to see a “great connection between a Jesuit vocation and the ethical values that are developed in Scripture.” He added, “It’s very practical what we are called to in taking care of the basic needs of human beings in terms of food, shelter and clothing. Everyone in the community has a responsibility.”

For more on Matthew 25, visit its website; for more on Fr. Enman’s award, visit the IVC website. [Excerpted from a story by Catherine Walsh that will appear in the upcoming issue of JESUITS magazine]

On Pilgrimage, Jesuit Novice Learns to Place Trust in God

According to the Jesuit Constitutions, all Jesuit novices are required to complete a month-long pilgrimage “without money… begging from door to door … to grow accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging,” a lesson in complete trust in God. Jesuit Julio Minsal-Ruiz’s pilgrimage began when he and two other novices were dropped off in the town of Dajabon on the Haitian border and told to find their own way to Río Limpio in the Dominican Republic.

With no money or cell phones, only a few items of clothing, a water bottle, a prayer book and a letter of introduction from the novitiate, they were directed to put everything they had in the hands of God and surrender themselves to the experience. “That’s what pilgrimage is,” Ruiz said. “An experience of bare, almost nakedness of humanity without technology or big-city commercialism.”

The novices moved from village to village, relying on the kindness of strangers. “Many times the poorest people in the poorest towns were often the people who were the most generous,” Ruiz said. “They would move mountains to make things appear, like putting food on the table.”

In exchange, Ruiz approached each community with an offer to work. “Our experience was to work alongside them and experience the work of the rural farmer,” he said. “It was very humbling.”

On the last leg of the journey to Río Limpio, Ruiz and his fellow Jesuits were following a path through a forest in western Dominican Republic. When the path ended abruptly at the top of a mountain, the novices found themselves in the forest during a thunderstorm, at a loss for what to do.

Ruiz’s mind whirled with thoughts of hopelessness, even death, and the very real possibility that they would never be found. “When the path ended, we really kind of lost everything. We had no hope of anyone finding us. It was a very critical life-or-death situation.”

They decided to follow the river and eventually found a farmer who pointed out the way to their destination. The novices arrived three hours later, greeted with warm food, dry beds and the company of their Jesuit colleagues.

Ruiz realized that even though he had despaired, he’d been determined to complete the pilgrimage and had found hope in the process. “Even the path we first thought we had was taken from us. The clothes were lost, the food was gone, but somehow God was there leading us. All these things we thought were ours, but actually they’re things He has given to us. Everything we have is a gift, and that’s the main objective.”

Read the full story of Ruiz’s pilgrimage experience at Xavier Magazine.