The Society of Jesus’ diversity of ministries and commitment to the poor and marginalized drew Vincent Giacabazi to the Jesuits. Giacabazi, a Jesuit scholastic, says that Pope Francis’ election has helped the Jesuits become well-known for more than just their universities in the U.S.
“Jesuits are also involved in ministry to and accompaniment of refugees and migrants and in other works in the social apostolate, inter-religious dialogue, parish ministry, secondary and primary education, especially among the poor, the offering of the Spiritual Exercises (of St. Ignatius) in various settings and so on,” said Giacabazi.
He entered the Society in August 2005 and is pursuing theology studies at the School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College. Born in Peoria, Ill., Giacabazi attended a Catholic parish and said, “I had certainly thought about (the priesthood), but I wasn’t ready to enter a seminary of any kind.”
Giacabazi first encountered the Jesuits at Saint Louis University. A class on the Gospel of Mark and Catholic social teaching had an active component that had him working at a shelter for women in crisis. Additionally, Giacabazi and his father developed a tradition of going to the preached retreats at White House Retreat, a Jesuit retreat center in St. Louis that focuses on the Spiritual Exercises.
“Out of that experience I learned how to be more attentive to my prayer and how to be attentive to discern the will of God in my life,” Giacabazi explained. “The combination of the professors who inspired me academically, broadened my horizons on how to think, how to write and how to engage the world, as well as the campus ministers dealing with the heart, and mixing those two together with the retreat, I started to think, ‘Maybe I could be one of those guys.’”
During the Jesuit formation process, there are opportunities not just to study poverty and what it means to be rejected, lonely and lowly, but to live it. At the novitiate in St. Paul, Minn., Giacabazi was given a one-way bus ticket to El Paso, Texas, and $30 and told to return in 30 days, relying on the kindness of others along the way.
“It was awesome,” Giacabazi said of his pilgrimage. “Unless a Christian has a direct experience of helplessness and utter poverty — spiritual or actual — it’s hard to relate on an intimate level with people who live that day in and day out. Jorge Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) would have had a similar experience.”
Read more about Giacabazi’s experience as a Jesuit in The Catholic Post, the newspaper of the Diocese of Peoria, Ill.