Archive for the ‘Pastoral Ministry’ Category

Deaf Jesuit Priest Hears a Special Call

Jesuit Father Joseph BruceJesuit Father Joseph Bruce is one of the few priests in the world who has been deaf since childhood and the first deaf Jesuit priest. This hasn’t stopped him from ministering to both the hearing and the deaf. Fr. Bruce reads lips, knows many variations of sign language and speaks clearly — despite never having heard a spoken word in his whole life.

Currently Fr. Bruce ministers to a predominately deaf congregation in Landover, Md. He is one of eight deaf priests in the United States today, and when he was ordained to the priesthood in 1981, there was only one other deaf priest in the country.

Fr. Bruce said he first thought of becoming a priest while attending the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., when Jesuit Father Joseph LaBran suggested he become a Jesuit priest. “I responded by saying that the church did not allow deaf men to be ordained priests,” Fr. Bruce recalls. “Then Fr. LaBran said, ‘God is full of surprises. He can change things whenever he wants to.’ After that I began to think about it.”

Fr. Bruce says the greatest challenge in serving people is being able to lip-read. “Every person moves his or her lips differently when they speak,” he says. “Lipreading is very tiring. Lipreading every day is like running the Boston Marathon every day!”

He also recalls challenges as an undergrad. He wanted to be a Spanish major, but the modern language department wouldn’t allow it because he couldn’t “hear Spanish.” So Fr. Bruce asked if he could major in English, and he was given permission. “I remember keeping my fingers crossed, hoping that no one realized that I can’t hear English either!”

He also prevailed, after setbacks, to become a priest. Fr. Bruce applied to the diocese and the Franciscans, but both told him no. The Dominicans didn’t reply. Finally, the Society of Jesus said yes.

Today Fr. Bruce does pastoral ministry for the deaf community in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. Marlana Portolano attends St. Francis of Assisi, the predominantly deaf parish where Fr. Bruce ministers and where her daughter attends catechism classes in sign language.

Portolano writes in America magazine, “In order to embrace the Catholic faith, my daughter needed to receive direct communication in a language she could see and understand. In signing the Mass, Father Joe, as he is known, opened my daughter’s eyes to essential practices of Catholicism. Every week Father Joe is able to hold the rapt attention of the entire congregation, even when he does not speak at all.”

To read more about Fr. Bruce, visit America magazine, The B.C. Catholic and the Rhode Island Catholic.

Jesuit Shares Ministry and Vocation Stories on The Busted Halo Show

Jesuit Father Rocco Danzi,Jesuit Father Rocco Danzi, director of campus ministry at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, N.J., was a guest on The Busted Halo Show with Fr. Dave Dwyer last fall, where he discussed vocations, spirituality, pastoral ministry and what inspired him to join the Society of Jesus. “The movie that fired me up for the Jesuits was ‘The Mission,’ Fr. Danzi recalls. “I began to say to myself, what if I joined this group and found myself going over a waterfall? Well you have to watch what you ask for!”

Fr. Danzi first encountered real-life Jesuits when he attended Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. After college he was working as a teacher when he began to discern his vocation to the priesthood. Fr. Danzi says he felt a calling to the Society but was resistant because he was not sure he fit in. “I was selling myself short because the Jesuits I knew had doctorates and were professors at St. Joe’s,” he explains.

With encouragement he met with the Jesuits and entered the Society in 1989. “My own ministry as a Jesuit has been very pastoral. As a Jesuit you can do all sorts of things, with or without a doctorate,” says Fr. Danzi. “It’s not the degree, it’s the heart. It’s the call within the call and discerning what kind of ministry excites you the most.”

As a campus minister, Fr. Danzi has enjoyed going on service trips with the students and says that many young adults are not sure about the prayer portion of the trip before they go. Fr. Danzi says that often changes. “Service seems to trigger and bring forth a lot of personal and spiritual things that come to the surface,” he says.

Fr. Danzi has been inspired by his own service trips to Haiti while he was a Jesuit novice. “It’s a place where I really encountered God and found that strength to keep going on that journey toward Jesuit priesthood and Jesuit ministry,” says Fr. Danzi.

Listen to the entire interview with Fr. Danzi at the New York Province website.

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.

Jesuits Renew Presence in Miami with Renovated Gesu Church

Gesu Church in MiamiThe Jesuits’ Gesu Church in downtown Miami, the city’s oldest Catholic church, was recently renovated, and the pastor says the aesthetic improvement is only half the story. “We have always wanted to revive our presence in the heart of downtown because the area itself has been developed and the Catholic Church was not going to fall behind,” says Jesuit Father Eddy Alvarez, Gesu’s pastor.

The iconic downtown church dates to 1922, and in the last few months the building has gone through a transformation that’s included restoring the bell tower, painting the facade with new colors, revitalizing the interior and adding the emblem of the Society of Jesus. “We needed to modernize and attract new Catholics who have moved to the area,” says Fr. Alvarez.

Because the church is so close to the ocean, the salt residue and humidity had taken a toll on the building’s frame with cracks and other forms of dangerous deterioration, according to Jesuit Father Eduardo Barrios.

Today, there are three Jesuit priests working at the parish, which has seen growth and diversification of its parishioners, particularly following an influx of young professionals to the area.

“It now has a fresher look while maintaining its original beauty,” says parishioner Alberto Carrillo of the renovated church. “It’s very inviting if you are Catholic.”

To reaffirm the Gesu’s Jesuit identity, the IHS emblem — derived from the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus and featured in the Society’s crest — has been emphasized throughout the church. IHS is welded to the bars on doors and windows and is also painted on the panels containing the Creed along the Stations of the Cross.

Read the full article and see more images at the Miami Herald website.

Jesuit Father Bob Fabing: Spiritual Director, Family Counselor and Composer

Jesuit Father Bob Fabing

Jesuit Father Bob Fabing has been ministering to families for over 40 years. The multi-talented Fr. Fabing is also a composer of liturgical music, a poet, an author and the founder and director of the Jesuit Institute for Family Life International Network (, a worldwide organization of some 80 institutes providing marriage counseling and family therapy in the U.S., Central America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Fr. Fabing’s family counseling ministry began in 1961, a year after he joined the Society of Jesus. “Christ called me to stand with the afflicted suffering mothers, fathers and children in homes in need of peace,” Fr. Fabing says.

His call to be with suffering families was as strong and as unrelenting as his vocation to the Society of Jesus. “I joined the Society of Jesus as I couldn’t live with myself anymore resisting Christ,” he explains. “I finally said ‘yes’!”

In addition, Fr. Fabing is the founder of the 30-Day Retreat Program in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos, Calif., where he lives.

With Roses for All book cover

Fr. Fabing has published several books, including a new book of poetry, “With Roses for All.” He says, “Poetry is absorbing. Poetry is engaging. Poetry reaches into the ability of play. Poetry calls out to human freedom by speaking  to heart and mind together at the same moment unraveling human nature before one has the time to stop its invasion.

“What good could come from that?”Fr.  Fabing asks. “The gift of realizing that one is made for more than work. The gift of experiencing oneself as interacting with the world of beauty. The gift of being restored to the person you always knew you were.”

Fr. Fabing says working on these calls each day – marriage counseling, spiritual direction and music – keeps him balanced.

For more, find him on the web at, YouTube,  Facebook,, and