Archive for the ‘Vocations’ Category

Jesuit Strives to Care for Souls in the Digital Age

Jesuit Sam SawyerA 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.

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 Installed as President of the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association

Jesuit Lorenzo HermanJesuit Lorenzo Herman’s life is anything but predictable. Prior to joining the Society of Jesus in 2007, Herman – known for his nerves of steel – worked an in-flight refueling specialist aboard a KC135 Stratotanker, a flying gas station.  After leaving the Air Force, Herman turned his attention to nonprofit work, spending the better part of a decade helping African-American and Latino HIV and AIDS patients navigate the healthcare system. This week, the Cleveland native takes the reins of the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association.  Not bad for a kid raised a Baptist.

So how did Herman, now studying transformational leadership at Seattle University, end up joining the Society of Jesus? You can thank St. Ignatius for that.  Herman’s parents decided that St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland, known for its strong academics, would be the perfect place for their son.  Here, Herman encountered the Jesuits for the first time.

“When I was a senior, the Jesuits invited me over to their home for dinner to discuss Jesuit vocations,” he recalls. But, Herman says, he didn’t yet understand what a vocation meant. The next year he headed off to Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., and became a Catholic.

Jesuit Lorenzo HermanAfter a year at Spring Hill, Herman joined the Air Force and was assigned to Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, Wash. From 1994 to 2000, he worked as an in-flight refueling specialist, traveling all over the world with his flight crew to refuel aircraft in midair. While at Fairchild, Herman became involved with AIDS advocacy, volunteering as a case worker. He also reconnected with the Jesuits. While acting in community theater, he was part of several productions directed by Jesuit Father Jack Bentz, currently the director of vocations for the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus.

Herman moved to San Diego in 2001 to assist family, and he continued his work with HIV/AIDS patients. He also worked with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to pass HIV/AIDS legislation through the California State Legislature.

Jesuit Lorenzo HermanIn 2007 he answered the call the Jesuits had asked him to consider back in high school. When he applied to the Society of Jesus, Herman said, “I didn’t feel like I was giving up on something that I was so attached to. I knew at that moment that I would not look back on the decision and say I made a mistake.”

Since joining the Society, Herman completed his bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and African-American studies at Saint Louis University, where he was introduced to the National Black Catholic Seminarians Association. Founded in 1968, the association currently has 60 members, and Herman will serve as its president for the next year.

“As a Jesuit, I’ve been able to revisit all the things that I’ve done. I continue to do the HIV/AIDS work; I continue to do theater. The thing that makes it different for me is now God is working through me in all these things,” says Herman.


Jesuit Embraces His Vocation with a Listening Heart

Jesuit Father Charles FredericoThe U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has designated January 13 to 19 as National Vocations Awareness Week.  Started in 1976, this annual weeklong celebration of the Catholic Church in the United States is dedicated to promoting vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and consecrated life through prayer and education, and to renew our prayers and support for those who are considering a vocation.  In honor of Vocations Week, the USCCB  invited a series of guest bloggers to discuss their vocation story. Today, Jesuit Father Chuck Frederico, vocations director for the New York, Maryland and New England Provinces of the Society of Jesus, shares his.

On June 10, 2006, I was ordained a Jesuit priest, a fact that likely surprised the master chefs who helped train me for two years of intensive study at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. They predicted I would go on to great things – perhaps even own a restaurant in my home town of Philly – where my love of food first took hold. But, like any good vocation story, there’s a twist, and in my case, God had other plans.

After graduation from the CIA, I discovered that restaurant life was not what I had expected.  The hours were long, the work unrewarding. To hedge my bets against the failure of a long-held dream, I began to pursue a degree in food marketing at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

This led to my first real introduction to the Society of Jesus. While I had attended a Catholic grammar school where the nuns insisted that we write AMDG, shorthand for the Latin Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (For the Greater Glory of God) and the Jesuit motto, on all our papers, I was not personally familiar with the Society. At St. Joseph’s, I met Jesuits in person for the first time. They intrigued me because, regardless of their expertise – math, science, theology, or English – they all expressed a profound love of God through their particular academic lenses. God spoke to my heart and showed me men He had chosen to do His work. The more I learned about them, the more I found myself inspired, free, motivated to prayer and anxious to know more. I entered the Society in 1995 and never looked back.

Since the novitiate, Jesus has gently guided and taught me to turn my heart toward him daily. The people who have entered my life in ministry have reminded me that God uses us as his instrument. Finding where God calls us and responding to our own personal vocation is the key to our happiness. In my work as a vocation director for the Society now, I see how often God speaks to our hearts.

The listening heart has sustained me.  As a priest, I minister to people in their happiest and saddest moments. I have learned the richness of investing my heart in God’s mission. My heart and mind recall the people who have helped bring me to this moment in my life. Family, friends, fellow Jesuits and the people with whom I have worked in the Society have played a special role, whether through prayers, conversations, laughter or actually shared work.

One final thought.  As I headed off to the Culinary Institute as a 17-year-old determined to be a chef, a diocesan priest suggested I note the letters ingrained in the marble at the school’s front door:  AMDG.  Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam – For the Greater Glory of God. Turns out that the culinary school on the banks of the Hudson was for many years a Jesuit novitiate. Was God calling me to a vocation as I was learning how to master the five mother sauces of French cuisine and butterfly a lamb chop?  My listening heart tells me that he was.


‘God Didn’t Forget My Bucket List,’ Says Jesuit Chaplain of the House of Representatives

Jesuit Father Patrick ConroyThe 113th Congress recently convened and that means long, busy days ahead for Jesuit Father Patrick Conroy, who serves as the 60th Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The first Jesuit to serve as the chaplain to the House, Fr. Conroy says when he was young his plan was to be a U.S. senator. When Fr. Conroy’s provincial asked him to apply for the chaplain position, Fr. Conroy says, “God didn’t forget my bucket list.”

In this Ignatian News Network video, Fr. Conroy talks about his unique ministry.