Archive for the ‘Vocations’ Category

Society of Jesus in the United States Ordains Sixteen New Priests

Three months after the historic election of the first Jesuit pope, the Society of Jesus, the largest order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church, is ordaining 16 new Jesuit priests this month in the United States.

Ordination ceremonies are being held at Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y.; Holy Name of Jesus Church in New Orleans; Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Los Angeles; and Madonna della Strada Chapel at Loyola University Chicago.

Before entering the Society of Jesus, the ordinands worked in nonprofit community service, higher education, state government, documentary film production, biomedical research and as teachers in high schools and colleges.  They highlight the diversity of the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1540 “to serve the Lord alone and the Church, His spouse, under the Roman pontiff.”

The ordinands hail from every part of the country, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.  As undergraduate students, several attended Jesuit colleges or universities, where they first came to know the Society of Jesus. As Jesuits in formation, the men have traveled the world, serving and studying in Mexico, El Salvador, Italy, Colombia and Bolivia.

Jesuit Father Thomas H. Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference, said, “This is a joyful time for both the Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church as we welcome 16 new brothers being ordained this month. Their call to priestly ministry is as varied as their hometowns and former occupations, but they have one thing in common:  a desire to dedicate themselves to the Jesuit mission of serving the Church where the need is greatest.”
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Jesuit Scholastic Drawn to Society of Jesus’ Diversity of Ministries

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.

Social Justice Drew Jesuit Scholastic to the Society of Jesus

Photo via Seattle University

Serving in the Peace Corps led Jesuit Jason Welle to the certainty that he was being called to the priesthood. What he wasn’t so sure of was what sort of priest he wanted to be.

To begin his vocational discernment process, Welle took to the Internet. The more research he did online, the clearer it became that he belonged with the Jesuits.

“I knew the Jesuits by reputation only, mainly for their commitment to social justice,” says Welle, who currently serves as program coordinator for Seattle University’s Education Abroad Office. “And I knew I wanted to do something that combined my interest in international development with a deep spirituality and service as a priest. I could see myself fulfilling both of those desires as a Jesuit.”

Entering the priesthood was not a foreign concept for Welle. He attended a high school seminary, but left to enroll at the University of California, Santa Cruz. After earning a degree in community studies, Welle worked as a travel agent and as a flight attendant. He loved traveling for work, but it soon became mundane. He decided to engage the world in a deeper way by joining the Peace Corps, where he was placed in Malawi.

“The Peace Corps is really where I discovered my vocation to enter the Society,” says Welle, who joined the Jesuits in 2006. “Getting out of the U.S. fish bowl gave me a new perspective on the world and America’s place in it.”

Welle was in Malawi for 9/11, an experience that he says completely reshaped his view of the world. “I was living in a country where 3,000 people died every week from HIV and AIDS — that’s about what the death toll was in the towers. People there were living at a level of poverty that we just don’t know in the same way here in the U.S. They had hardly even seen a two- or three-story building, much less a 150-story tower. It was just beyond their worldview. 9/11 just sort of awakened me out of a slumber or a complacency about America’s role and my own place in the world.”

The Peace Corps was transformative for Welle in other important ways. “There’s a lot of downtime, especially in Malawi, where there’s 12 hours of night, without a television and not much radio. I became very introspective. I think, without realizing it, I was praying, really yearning to understand who I was.”

Read more about Welle at the Seattle University website.

America’s Editor Jesuit Father Matt Malone Profiled in The New York Times

Jesuit Father Matt MaloneJesuit Father Matt Malone, the youngest-ever editor-in-chief at America magazine, was recently profiled in The New York Times. Fr. Malone sat down with columnist Clyde Haberman to discuss the 104-year-old Jesuit magazine, the first Jesuit pontiff and his Jesuit vocation.

When asked if the new pope is good for the Jesuits, Fr. Malone said “It’s uncharted territory. It’s hard to know how it affects us other than to say we’re very proud.”

What’s indisputable is that Pope Francis’ election has been good for America magazine. “We had a huge number of hits on the Web site [during the papal conclave]. In fact, it crashed after he was announced, because of the demand,” said Fr. Malone, who reported from Rome during the conclave.

According to Fr. Malone, Pope Francis has most likely seen America magazine. “It’s sent to every Jesuit community in the world,” he pointed out.

He also discussed his Jesuit vocation. When Fr. Malone was in his late 20s working in Boston, he moved next door to a Jesuit parish. He became captivated by the Jesuits’ “spirituality and way of praying.”

Fr. Malone, whose early passion was politics, said, “I came to feel that change, real change, only happens through the action of grace, a radical movement of the heart.

“It wasn’t so much that I thought, ‘I’m disillusioned — I’ll go off and be a priest.’ It was very much thinking that I was moving closer to the source of real change.”

Read the whole profile on Fr. Malone at The New York Times’ website.

Jesuit Comedian Fuses Faith with Humor

By Becky Sindelar
Jesuit Jake MartinHave you heard the one about the atheist comedian turned Jesuit? Meet Jake Martin, a Jesuit scholastic in theology studies at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, Calif., who spent several years as an improv comedian before joining the Society of Jesus. Now just a few years away from being ordained to the priesthood, his previous calling was to star on “Saturday Night Live.”

Born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, Martin studied theater in college, and after graduation he performed with improv and theater troupes in the city. He focused on being a successful comedian — with “SNL” as the ultimate goal — and religion was far from his mind.

But Martin says that when his beloved grandmother passed away in 2001, his priorities shifted. “I realized that when I got to “SNL” that wouldn’t be the end; there was always going to be something else I would want. It wasn’t going to fulfill me in the way that I thought it would,” he says of his comedy career.

As a younger boy, his grandmother had suggested the priesthood for Martin, and after her death, he started to consider it again. He went back to church but was still resistant to the idea of being a priest because he was a comedian. Martin says, “I thought, ‘I can’t do that, I’m not holy enough. I’m not what a priest is supposed to be.’ ”

When Martin went to a dinner for men interested in the seminary, he remembers being impressed with the seminarians. “The guys seemed really happy and at peace in a way that I wasn’t,” he says.

Martin wasn’t educated by the Jesuits, but he was familiar with them — from watching “The Exorcist,” he says, laughing. He met with several orders, but Martin says it was the Jesuits that felt right. “I felt very much at home when I met with them,” he says.

A Break from the (Comedy) Routine

He entered the novitiate in 2004 and says at that point, the Jesuits were more excited about him being a performer and comedian then he was. Burned out on comedy and busy with the novitiate, Martin took a break from writing and performing.

When he went to Fordham University in New York as a part of his Jesuit formation, he got involved with an improve troupe in the city.  Then while teaching at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., he took a trip with students to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, the world’s largest performing  arts festival. After experiencing it firsthand, Martin said he knew he wanted to be a part of it.

Practicing His Craft as a Jesuit

What’s So Funny About Faith coverLast August, Martin returned to the Edinburgh Festival, this time as a performer. His show ran for eight nights and was a take on American Idol — at the end audiences voted on whether he should become a priest or not. “The verdicts were all positive; eight shows and eight votes of yes that I should become a priest. That was kind of a relief,” Martin says.

At its core, Martin’s comedy is much the same before and after he joined the Society. But he says it has changed in that it’s more intentional and thoughtful. Another change is that as a Jesuit, Martin’s been more focused on writing rather than performing. He’s had opportunities to write for publications including America magazine, Busted Halo and the Huffington Post. And he counts America editor Jesuit Father Jim Martin — no relation — as a great mentor.

Martin also recently published his first book, “What’s So Funny About Faith?”, a memoir combined with critiques of contemporary films and TV shows.

Martin found that writing the book and working on his show at the Fringe Festival helped to fuse his comedic and Jesuit identities. “It required me to grow because I realized I had a view of piety that was ‘be good’ in the sense of third grade catechism,” Martin says. “Working on these projects helped me realize that humor is a wonderful way to recognize and celebrate our humanity.”

In the video below, Jesuit Father James Martin interviews Jake Martin: