Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Father Ken Johnson’

A Jesuit Doctor’s Journey in Africa

Jesuit Father Ken Johnson

Jesuit Father Ken Johnson at the door of one of the hospitals he serves.

Jesuit Father Ken Johnson shares his experiences as a priest and doctor in Zambia and Malawi:

As a young man I had met several priests (Jesuit and non-Jesuit) who inspired me with their lives of generous service, putting their considerable talents wholly at the service of others. But it was a few Jesuits who helped me pray through the Spiritual Exercises that crystallized my desire to enter the Society – largely to grow in the prayerful search for God’s will and to grow in understanding of how I could more fully and more generously cooperate with it. This desire was there for a long time, but it slowly developed as I matured through studies in adolescence and as a young man.

I completed medical studies before I was able to enter the Society and for some time thought I might leave that work behind as a new life developed within the Society. During the years of formation in the Society, my superiors helped me to search for new ways of putting to good use the experiences I had already had – and I became associated briefly with several medical schools for brief periods, moving to different places and meeting different persons as is the custom of a Jesuit scholastic. After ordination I had expected to return to a medical school, but I was given the mandate to go to Zambia. That was in February 1993.

My first assignment in Zambia was at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka – a placement that was very providential since I had the opportunity to meet many fine young doctors with whom I remain friends today and to get acquainted with the expected standards of care in a recognizable but somewhat different environment. For several years afterwards I went to explore work in a Catholic mission hospital so as to understand the distinctive service Catholic hospitals provide. Then I returned to the University Hospital and subsequently to a district general hospital contributing to the teaching of medical students, registrars (residents in training) and clinical officers (physician assistants). In these different settings I was able to help many sick patients. I was also very fortunate to network with sisters, brothers and priests and found that I could assist them and their families. Although I do not celebrate the sacraments in the hospital, I have found many opportunities for ministry in parishes and in retreat work. I have found that I have quite enough leisure to be of help in spiritual direction over these many years.

During the last 10 years of work in a district general hospital, I was able to source some funds to effect major improvements of the equipment of the hospital for the surgical theatre, for the ablution blocks and for the laundry. By some unexpected providential meetings, I began hosting a series of international students who came to get a month’s sense of medical work in an African setting.

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