Archive for the ‘Vocations’ Category
During his Jesuit formation, scholastic Jeremy Zipple has been making documentaries. Sometimes his films are about spiritual subjects, such as St. Xavier, and sometimes not, as with his documentary, “Rat Attack,” about a plague of rats that overrun the forests of India every 48 years. No matter the subject, Zipple has used his camera to seek to find God in all things.
Making films was his first passion. Zipple, a Mississippi native, has been shooting documentaries since high school. He ended up meeting the Jesuits by chance during a college tour in Boston when his father suggested visiting Boston College, which wasn’t on his list.
Zipple applied and was accepted and during a dinner at Boston College for prospective Presidential Scholars, he found himself at a table with Jesuit Father William Neenan, vice president and special assistant to the president.
“He sealed the deal. I had no category for a person like this — a priest, an economist, witty, with a wide breadth of knowledge and a taste for literature,” says Zipple. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow! Who are these Jesuits?’ I felt like I could learn a lot from these guys.”
After graduation, Zipple taught at a Catholic grade school in New Jersey, served as codirector of a contemporary liturgical choir and studied philosophy at Fordham University. In 2002, he entered the Society of Jesus.
Zipple describes his regency, a period of three years Jesuits normally spend in ministry before theology studies, as “untraditional.” He spent that time as a writer, producer and director for National Geographic Television in Washington, D.C., where he coproduced not only “Rat Attack” but “Quest for Solomon’s Mines,” about treasure seekers who, inspired by the Bible’s account of King Solomon’s riches, search for evidence of temples and palaces yet to be found.
Now back at Boston College for divinity studies, Zipple will be ordained to the priesthood this May. He also continues to make documentaries. He directed, wrote and produced his latest film, “Quest for the Lost Maya,” based on new archaeological findings about a forgotten Mayan society in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It aired on public television nationwide last March.
After ordination, Zipple plans to stay at Boston College and study for his licentiate in sacred theology. He says he may focus on the history of American Catholicism and “and hopefully get a film out of that, too.” For more on Zipple, read Boston College’s Becoming a Jesuit: Five Lives at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry.
Eric Ramirez, a Jesuit scholastic, says he discovered his vocation while in college and was further inspired by the World Youth Day celebrations in Denver and Toronto, where he decided he would become a priest.
His family was supportive when Ramirez told them he was joining the Society of Jesus, although his mother wanted to make sure it was for the right reasons.
“My mother was really clear. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t doing it for her, and that was never a problem, I was doing it for me,” Ramirez says.
Ramirez is now studying theology in Rome, giving him the opportunity to pray in the same room where St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society, worked for many years. Ramirez says he has learned the importance of the Spiritual Exercises as a way to develop a personal relationship with God.
“There’s a hunger among every human being in that search for God. And I think the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius really become a pathway to get to that hunger, to recognize that hunger for what it is, and then to be able to recognize that God responds to our hunger,” he says.
For more on Ramirez, watch the video from Rome Reports below.
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.
Jesuit 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.”
A year ago, The Jesuit Post, a website for the Facebook generation “about Jesus, politics, and pop culture; the Catholic Church, sports, and Socrates,” launched. Jesuit Sam Sawyer, one of the four Jesuit scholastics who started the site, says during their years of formation the four have repeatedly asked one another: “How does the Church address itself to a contemporary culture that is no longer in contact with the institutional forms we’ve grown up with?”
For the past year, The Jesuit Post, which is independent of the Society of Jesus, has made a case for God in a secular age, with blog posts, essays, a Twitter feed and articles with headlines like “Contemplation After Gaga” and “Crowdsourcing the Saints.” Sawyer, who is in theology studies at Boston College, is a contributor and assistant editor and says he and his fellow Jesuits are seeking out young adults who are “hard to reach through traditional modes” such as parishes and diocesan newspapers.
Sawyer found his own spiritual path to the Jesuits when he attended a lecture at Boston College during his freshman year where Jesuit theologian Father Howard Gray spoke about how the early Jesuits “bonded around a shared desire to care for souls,” Sawyer recalls.
“That’s the name for what I wanted to do — help souls,” Sawyer remembers thinking. “I spent the next six months trying to pretend nothing happened.”
After graduating in 2000, he taught for a year as a volunteer at a Jesuit middle school in Baltimore and then worked for three years as a software engineer on satellite communications and missile-defense radar projects in Boston. But along the way, Sawyer stopped “trying to pretend” and embraced his Jesuit vocation, joining the Society in 2004.
From 2009 to 2011, Sawyer taught philosophy courses at Loyola University Maryland, and it was a defining part of his Jesuit formation. Teaching “at the heart of the curriculum,” Sawyer says, a professor can help students connect the classics to their lives and puzzle out their place in the universe.
Sawyer is now setting his sights on a lifelong ministry in higher education. And he plans to continue asking the kinds of questions that engendered The Jesuit Post: “How do we evangelize our nominally Catholic undergrads? What should our outreach look like in the classroom?”
For more on Sawyer, read the full story at Boston College’s 2012 Annual Report: Becoming a Jesuit: Five Lives at Boston College’s School of Theology and Ministry.