Archive for the ‘Pastoral Ministry’ Category

Inspired by Pope Francis, Jesuits Washed Feet of Young Inmates in Los Angeles on Holy Thursday

Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy

Yesterday, Jesuits washed the feet of young inmates at a juvenile detention facility in Los Angeles, as Pope Francis did for young Italian prisoners rather than for clerics as is the custom on Holy Thursday.

The decision to hold Holy Thursday services with young prisoners exemplified the particular Jesuit calling for “faith that does justice,” Jesuit Father Michael Kennedy told The Los Angeles Times. Fr. Kennedy ministers to inmates and their families for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles through the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative.

The Times reported that “the Jesuits in black shirts and clerical collars knelt before the youths in standard-issue gray sweats as they poured cool water over their feet and dried them, drawing both smiles and solemn looks.”

The young people also read letters to the pope, asking for healing and blessings. The inmates’ letters were then sent to Rome, where Vatican spokesman Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi said in an email that Pope Francis would “surely read them with profound gratitude and he will pray for all the young people that are in the Juvenile Hall, and all that are in prisons.”

According to Fr. Kennedy, the pope’s visit to the Casal del Marmo juvenile jail for his first papal Holy Thursday service electrified social justice advocates across the globe.

“He’s going to places nobody wants to go to be with people who are forgotten,” Fr. Kennedy said of the pope. “It’s really shifting the paradigm of who we need to embrace and who is important in God’s eyes.”

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times website.

Overcoming Spiritual Darkness Theme of Second Lenten Podcast

Jesuit Father Steve SanfordThe Jesuits of the New England and New York Provinces are offering a weekly Lenten podcast series, and in the second episode, Jesuit Father Steve Sanford talks about experiencing and overcoming darkness in one’s life through God.

“Sometimes in our life, God uses the experience of darkness to speak to us,” Fr. Sanford says.

Fr. Sanford shares a time of darkness from his own life, when he was assigned to go to Jamaica in 1988 for two years. “I was getting more and more anxious as the time drew close,” he recalls. “I was having trouble sleeping. I kept thinking, ‘I’m going to a country where I know nobody.’”

Fr. Sanford says talking to his friends and spiritual director didn’t help, but about two weeks before he was scheduled to leave, he was praying and asked God to help him.

“I heard a voice say to me: ‘Steve, don’t worry, no matter where you go, I will send you people to love.’”

Fr. Sanford says after he heard that in prayer, he relaxed and his fears about serving in Jamaica vanished.

“In that deep darkness of my life, that time of anxieties and fears, God spoke to me,” he says. “It’s a promise he made in 1988 and he keeps making each day.”

As he goes through this Lenten season, Fr. Sanford says he reminds himself that God is always going to send him people to love.

Listen to Fr. Sanford’s podcast at the New England Province website.

Prayer Life Out of Shape? Jesuit Offers Personal Spiritual Training

Jesuit Father Randy RocheThe New Year often brings about resolutions to exercise more, but one Jesuit is now offering personal spiritual training for those who want to “work out” a different part of their lives.

Jesuit Father Randy Roche is the director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.  Recently, Fr. Roche came up with the idea of adapting the personal training approach used for physical training to spirituality and added personal spiritual training to the center’s offerings.

“One day I thought, ‘What if we could be personal trainers for people looking for help with a particular problem or who want to learn how to bring more reflection into their lives?’” Fr. Roche said. “We could offer a less formal version of the Spiritual Exercises for people who know they have a hunger and are looking for someone to guide them.”

The exercises, which include meditating and contemplating, are “spirituality for busy people.” The personal training sessions are designed to meet immediate individual needs and take only the time necessary to help accomplish a goal.

Fr. Roche said most of the participants at the center are LMU faculty and staff members with questions about how to reflect and get in touch with feelings as they relate to making choices. Others need help with striking a balance between thinking and feeling. Once the goal is accomplished, things don’t stop there. Participants can return for maintenance sessions or an occasional spiritual tune-up.

Currently Fr. Roche shares training duties at the center with Jesuit Bishop Gordon Bennett and Anne Hennessy, CSJ. “My dream has always been that there will eventually be some faculty and staff who will do some of the training,” said Fr. Roche.

Fr. Roche has also started a blog for the center. “It lets people comment and add their own take on Ignatian spirituality and it’s open to anyone. We also are on Facebook and I’m writing a weekly spirituality essay for our website,” Fr. Roche said.

For more on Fr. Roche and the Center for Ignatian Spirituality at LMU, read the full story at AJCU Connections.


Jesuit Helps Guide Catholics Returning to the Confessional

Jesuit Father Jake EmpereurIf you can’t remember what comes after “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” but want to return to confession, don’t worry says Jesuit Father Jake Empereur.

Whether it’s been a few years — or even decades — parishes and dioceses are inviting inactive Catholics to return to church at Lent, with the sacrament of reconciliation as an incentive. Fr. Empereur, a priest since 1965 and a parochial vicar at St. Matthew Parish in San Antonio, said the motivations for wanting to go back to confession can be many.

“It could be because of health issues. It could be because their conscience moves them to finally be able to participate in the church and the liturgy and Communion,” said Fr. Empereur. “People get married. Sometimes it’s someone’s first Communion, sometimes it’s a wedding. It’s all sorts of different reasons.”

And what they have on their mind — and want to get off their chest — can vary as well, Fr. Empereur told Catholic News Service.

“Each case is really, truly different,” Fr. Empereur said, adding he tells penitents to focus on “what they came to say” because it “gives me further questioning on what I need to do [as a priest]: whether or not they’re married, personal relationships, issues in their life, whatever it might be.”

“They don’t talk about a lot of non-sins, small things and so forth,” Fr. Empereur continued. “They have a couple of major things: they got married outside the church, they had a bad experience with a priest, or so forth.”

Fr. Empereur said he asks penitents whether they pray. “Usually they’ll say something like their evening prayers before they go to bed, or they pray before meals. Usually they have not been going to Mass.

“Then you can talk about participation in the Eucharist. So you have to kind of instruct them, helping them along,” he explained. “Encourage them. ‘Are you going to be more involved in the church? Are you going to go to Mass? Are you going to go to confession once in a while?’”

Fr. Empereur said there’s usually something they have on their minds and that’s why they come back in the first place. “Usually I find my questions have to do with their relationships or their spiritual life. After all, that’s the purpose of all this. I can’t say I’ve had two identical confessions,” he said.

Read the full story at the U.S. Catholic website.

New Sacred Story Institute Brings the Examen to a Wide Audience

Jesuit Father Bill WatsonBuilding a better prayer life through research and data may sound like a strange concept, but that is exactly what Jesuit Father Bill Watson is doing through the Sacred Story Institute (SSI).

A national Ignatian apostolate founded a year ago, SSI is based in Seattle. The Institute’s focus is to bring St. Ignatius’s Examination of Conscience, known as the Examen, to modern audiences and help them use it in their prayer lives. The Institute also collects data from those using its prayer method to learn about their experiences for the purpose of shaping more intuitive and strategic spiritual formation resources.

Fr. Watson’s ultimate goal is to help people pray and connect personally to Christ, so as to know how best to serve the Kingdom — the goal of the Spiritual Exercises. “We tend to focus on our spiritual life when we’re in a spiritual context, like Mass on Sunday,” he says. “I’m focused on how can we take Ignatian spirituality and use it for evangelization to a much broader audience than just those who may come to a retreat center.”

Fr. Watson has been engaged in retreat work for three decades, including as Director of Retreat Programs at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and Vice President for Jesuit Identity & Mission at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.

Through his retreat work, Fr. Watson says, “I became keenly aware that you can give people the best retreat experience, but the big challenge is to keep people spiritually connected to God after the retreat when they go back to their busy lives.”

Since recommitting to the Examen while on sabbatical 20 years ago, Fr. Watson has focused much of his work on this five-step reflective prayer.

During the Sacred Story Institute’s first research project this past year, hundreds of people from six Seattle parishes took part in a 40-week Examen course based on a new method of the Examen that Fr. Watson developed in his recent book: “Sacred Story-An Ignatian Examen for the Third Millennium. They also did weekly surveys, providing the Institute’s research director, Mr. Joseph Youngblood, with data about their experiences.

“We’re research-focused,” says Fr. Watson, “but the purpose of the research is to build smarter spiritual resources that can help people grow.”
Sacred Story cover

In addition to developing and offering the Examen course and collecting data from those who participate, the Sacred Story Institute decided to do its own publishing. Fr. Watson said the Institute plans on doing quite a bit of publishing, and managing its own book portfolio gives it greater flexibility. In the spring, the Institute will publish its second book, “Forty Weeks—An Ignatian Path to Christ with Sacred Story Prayer,” a popular version of the short Sacred Story method in the book of the same name.

In its second year, Fr. Watson says the Institute is using the Sacred Story Examen method to construct K-8 Conscience Formation resources for K-8 students. As part of the project, the Institute, through the Archdiocese’s Offices of Adult Faith Formation and Catholic Schools, is offering its 40-week program to all K-8 teachers in the Seattle Archdiocese’s schools.

The Institute will also customize the prayer program for different audiences: pastoral ministers and teachers;  married and engaged couples; persons contemplating vocations; people with addictions; and other groups that approach the Institute for special research applications of the Sacred Story method.  A long-term goal is to have research offices in Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Learn more about the Sacred Story Institute at, where a web-based version of the 40-week Examen course is available for individual use.