Sixteen U.S. Jesuits were ordained to the priesthood this June, and since then, these men have been busy celebrating Masses and starting their first assignments as priests. Their hometowns, proud to be a part of their lives, were eager to acknowledge the priests’ roots and highlight their individual stories.
The Hawaii Catholic Herald reported that it was a “joyful ‘local style’ homecoming” for newly ordained Jesuit Father Phillip Ganir who returned to the Hawaiian Islands for a visit in June to celebrate a special thanksgiving Mass for his family, friends and fellow religious. Fr. Ganir left Hawaii in 1999 to join the Society and has since been traveling abroad for ministry and studies.
“The consolation overflows,” Fr. Ganir told the Hawaii Catholic Herald at the June 23 Mass, which 500 people attended. “Gratitude only deepens. The shape of gratitude really takes on the faces of the people in the parish.”
After his visit, Fr. Ganir headed to California to serve as associate pastor of St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Sacramento.
Jesuit Father Peter Folan spoke with his hometown newspaper in Massapequa Park, N.Y., about his new life as a Jesuit priest: “My job is to live a life about the Gospel. Preaching the Gospel, but only using words when necessary. I’m not going around knocking on doors selling Bibles. It’s about knowing the poor, the marginalized, the voiceless, and acting on behalf of people who can’t act for themselves.”
Of his vocation Fr. Folan explained, “The longer I stayed there and the more I invested myself in the Jesuits, the more I knew I wanted this life.
“If there is no real sacrifice, then there is no real love,” Fr. Folan said. “Not being married is a sort of sacrifice, but it makes sense to me. It is one that I find bears great fruit.”
Fr. Folan’s first priestly assignment is serving as an associate pastor at Holy Trinity Church in Washington, D.C.
Jesuit Father Michael Rogers told the Westerly Sun in Rhode Island on the eve of his ordination that the Jesuits “are at home wherever we are sent — ultimately, our home is where Christ is.”
Fr. Rogers considers one of his many homes to be Westerly, where he spent summers growing up. He returned there to celebrate his first Mass as an ordained priest in June at St. Pius X.
Fr. Rogers said his family’s summer parish played a role in his decision to become a Jesuit priest. He recalled the weekend during his sophomore year of high school when his mother said the family was going to pay a quick visit to their summer house — and dropped him off at St. Pius instead.
“We pulled into the lot, where there was this coach bus waiting,” he said. His mother had signed him up for a youth trip to Steubenville, Ohio, which turned out to be life-changing.
“I think that at some point in everybody’s faith life, there’s a moment where God becomes real,” Fr. Rogers said. “All of a sudden, you find yourself talking to God, and you find yourself listening to what God has to say.”
After his ordination, Fr. Rogers traveled to Brazil, where he served as the national coordinator for MAGIS, the Jesuit-sponsored program cultivating Ignatian spirituality for young adults that preceded World Youth Day in July.
Fifteen years ago, Jesuit Father Bill Creed cofounded the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP) in Chicago to offer retreats to an often-overlooked group: the homeless. Fr. Creed and Ed Shurna, director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, have been helping homeless people build community, find hope and transform their lives through ISP ever since.
“Many outreach programs for the homeless try to address basic attributes such as food, clothing, shelter and employment,” said Fr. Creed. “However, when addiction is in play – and it often is for the homeless – there can be no real transition from poverty until the individual person has the inner resources to make different choices … Ignatian Spirituality believes that facing our brokenness begins with facing our truth and encountering the unconditional love of our God who actively labors with us and desires for us ever greater freedom.”
Fr. Creed recently shared about his own spiritual journey while conducting the retreats. Fr. Creed recalled that a man from Canada once showed up two days early at a workshop for which he had not registered, demanding free housing, a free workshop and a special diet. Fr. Creed became very angry with the man in front of the staff.
In response to Fr. Creed’s reaction, one of his colleagues commented on his lack of hospitality for a man who was “poor not only materially but psychologically and socially” and suggested Fr. Creed was “not only angry but also fearful” and out of touch with his own internal poverty.
Looking back, Fr. Creed said, “It was that event which began to lead me to listen inwardly, to my own brokenness, my vulnerability, to what was below my anger and fear. I am poor and that is a gift … We are invited to follow Christ’s poor, either in spiritual poverty or actual poverty.”
Since it began in 1998, ISP has grown into a national network of more than 400 lay volunteers who help homeless men and women through retreats and spiritual companionship, and a new survey shows that the project is helping. The ISP Outcomes Survey, a two-year study conducted in collaboration with a number of organizations and professionals, has confirmed that people who participate in ISP programs experience long-term internal and external change. According to the results, participants experienced a statistically significant decrease in loneliness and improvement in housing and employment six months after a retreat.
Fr. Creed said that feeling as though one is listened to, believed in, respected and trusted can be transformative in a homeless person’s life, and ISP can provide such listening presences. “We are all called to do this wherever we are,” he said.
Lizbeth Mateo, who is registered to attend Santa Clara Law School in California this fall, took part in a risky border protest on July 22 with other activists who had all been brought illegally to the U.S. as children. The protest started when Mateo and two others flew into Mexico and then tried to reenter the United States by crossing the border. Other immigrants and a large group of supporters, including Jesuit Father Sean Carroll, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative (KBI), which works on migration issues on the U.S.-Mexico border, joined them.
The young people, who call communities across the United States their home, presented themselves to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the at the Morley Gate in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Fr. Carroll, along with three other staff members of KBI and other religious leaders, gathered near the border with the nine immigrants.
“I and other religious leaders accompanied them and went through the gate with them as part of the action. At the same time, there were people gathered on the U.S. side of the border in support of the DREAMers and calling for an end to the deportations,” Fr. Carroll said.
The young men and women walked to the official pedestrian crossing point and requested humanitarian parole to rejoin their family members and communities within the United States.
Their request for humanitarian parole was denied, and Mateo and the other immigrants are now being held in Eloy, Ariz., while their case is considered. According to Fr. Carroll, it’s not clear how long they will be there, and he said they are planning to apply for asylum.
Mateo and other protesters say that those already expelled from the country have been lost in the current immigration debate. Deportations have increased from just under 300,000 in 2007 to nearly 400,000 in 2011, according to federal statistics.
“We should not forget the people who have been deported,” Mateo said.
Fr. Carroll said, “The protest has drawn attention to the effect of deportations on families and on young people. It causes separation of family members and it draws attention to the urgency to passing immigration reform that unites families and gives young immigrants the opportunity to realize their dreams. We’re asking that they be released to their families in the U.S.”
The three immigrants have put themselves at risk by returning to Mexico voluntarily, reports The Los Angeles Times. Under an immigration package backed by the Obama administration, young immigrants deported could apply to return to the U.S. Those who leave voluntarily would not have that option, immigration experts say.
According to the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, which organized the protest, some of the protesters, including Mateo, are now on a hunger strike until they are released.
Jesuit Father Michael Engh, president of Santa Clara University where Mateo plans to start law school in the fall, released a statement of support for the protesters, calling Mateo “one of our courageous incoming law students” and saying he had “contacted our local representatives requesting their assistance with this matter on behalf of our student.”
Earlier this month, 20 presidents of U.S. Jesuit colleges and universities signed a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging for comprehensive immigration reform as the country’s immigration system continues to separate families and “trap aspiring Americans in the shadows.” [The Los Angeles Times, Kino Border Initiative]
Photos by Father Roy Sebastian, S.J., Jesuit Curia
Pope Francis celebrated the feast of St. Ignatius on July 31 with more than 200 of his fellow Jesuits at Mass in Rome’s Church of the Gesù, where St. Ignatius is buried. The pope prayed that he and his fellow Jesuits would receive “the grace of shame” for their failures and the humility to recognize that whatever good they accomplish is really done by the Lord.
During his homily, Pope Francis said that Jesus told his disciples never to be ashamed of following him, but Jesuits are taught to look upon the crucifix and “feel that very human and very noble sentiment which is shame for not measuring up.”
Jesuit Father James E. Grummer, assistant for the USA Assistancy and General Counselor at the Jesuit Curia in Rome, was one of the U.S. Jesuits in attendance and said one of the most moving parts of the Mass was during the homily when Pope Francis mentioned two images about the end of life that “sum up our vocation for him: Francis Xavier and Pedro Arrupe. Francis was within reach of his dream but unable to reach it; Pedro was slowly stripped of everything the world holds important as he found himself entirely in the hands of God.”
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the Mass was “very beautiful and very familial.”
In his spirituality and spiritual tradition, Fr. Lombardi said the pope sees himself as a “son of St. Ignatius” and feels “very close to the Society of Jesus.”
The pope’s homily was filled with references to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, meditations and instructions for a 30-day retreat that form the basis of Ignatian spirituality.
The exercises, Pope Francis said, are designed to remind Jesuits that Christ and the church must be at the center of all they do; that they must allow themselves to be conquered by Christ in order to serve; and that they must feel shame in order to be humble before God and other people.
Father General Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, prayed for “Francis our brother, the bishop of Rome” during the Eucharistic Prayer.
“The phrase articulated the way the liturgy felt,” said Fr. Grummer. “Francis may be Supreme Pontiff, but he thinks of himself as our brother and wants us to think of him that way too.”
At the end of the Mass, the pope prayed at the tomb of St. Ignatius, before a relic of St. Francis Xavier and at the tomb of Jesuit Father Pedro Arrupe, superior of the Society from 1965 to 1983.
“The pope placed a bouquet of flowers in front of the memorial plaque [where Arrupe is buried], prayed there and reverently touched the plaque before making the sign of the cross,” said Fr. Grummer.
Other U.S. Jesuits in attendance included Fathers Anthony Sholander, vice rector, minister and treasurer of Collegio Internazionale del Gesù in Rome, and Kenneth Gavin, assistant international director of Jesuit Refugee Service in Rome — who both helped distribute communion — and scholastic Eric Ramirez, who served as an acolyte. [Catholic News Service]
Today is St. Ignatius Day, the feast day of the founder of the Jesuits, who died on this day in 1556. To commemorate the occasion, Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope, will say Mass today at the Church of the Gesù in Rome, where St. Ignatius is interred.
Jesuits across the globe will also mark the feast day by celebrating Mass and gathering together in community as they have since the Society of Jesus was founded in 1540.
National Jesuit News recently caught up with several U.S. Jesuits as they gathered in Denver for a four-week Novice History Colloquium. Watch the following video to see why St. Ignatius is still such an influential and inspiring figure to Jesuits, more than four centuries after his death.