Posts Tagged ‘Jesuit Formation’
Jesuit Daniel Gustafson is a second-year novice who just finished his long experiment — a key part of the Jesuit novitiate, as it enables the novice to work in a Jesuit ministry and “test out” his vocation. For his experiment, Gustafson taught religion and worked in the Mission and Ministry Office at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, but he found that was just his official job description.
In addition to those duties, Gustafson was made assistant tennis coach, and he also helped by chaperoning mixers, leading the weekly Examen over the intercom and helping to plan, lead and direct retreats and service events. Once, he even found himself cutting tiles to be installed in a house that Prep students helped to build over spring break.
Another part of his unofficial duties were the many conversations he had with students throughout the day, at a retreat or during a tennis match or service trip. As Gustafson came to know the students better, he had two realizations.
The first was that “each and every student was looking for essentially one thing and one thing only — acceptance. A place and person or group with whom they could be themselves, relax, take a deep breath in the midst of a typically busy high school day, and know that they are cared for,” he wrote.
The second realization he had about these talks was that as the students became more comfortable around him, every now and then the seriousness of the conversation would deepen, from discussing a student’s fears about moving away to college to a struggle with believing in God to a difficult situation in the student’s family life.
“In seeking acceptance and an opportunity to share something challenging in their lives, these students helped me to recognize that this is a universal human characteristic,” Gustafson wrote. “These are the same thirsts that I feel and that all of us feel. And it is exactly where God wants to meet us: listening to us, helping to carry our burdens, loving us at each and every turn.”
Through these students, Gustafson found that “God showed me that being a companion of Jesus will also bring me to what may be a run-of-the-mill conversation or may lead to listening to someone vulnerably share an issue that has been plaguing him or her for years.”
Read more of Gustafson’s reflections on his long experiment at www.jesuitvocation.org.
For the past two years, Jesuit John Peck has taught philosophy at Loyola University Maryland. Teaching there has been part of his formation as a Jesuit—it’s a stage called regency, in which most Jesuits work full-time for two or three years at a Jesuit ministry. Reflecting on this period, Peck says that he can summarize in a word what he’s gained: confidence.
“I now have greater confidence in the authenticity of my friendship with Jesus Christ. … Regency challenges a Jesuit in formation to assume added responsibility for his spiritual life. … With a full schedule of teaching, preparation, writing and other activities, I’ve had to work hard to stay nourished on a steady diet of the Word of God.”
With excellent mentoring from his colleagues, Peck says he’s also grown in the confidence that he can accomplish the work the Society of Jesus entrusts to him. “With each semester I’ve grown as a teacher. I’ve become more adept at designing courses and classes,” he writes. “My judgments about what students need and can receive have become sharper.”
As he completes regency, Peck says he’s also more confident that he can thrive in Jesuit community life. While his background differs from many of the Jesuits he lives with, he writes, “Representing myself truthfully and speaking up, I’ve learned that others find my experiences and points of view interesting. I’ve also found that men with whom I differ are often full of goodness and apostolic fervor. I’m confident that God will continue to give me joy with my Jesuit brothers.”
Living and working at Loyola have been “an experience of God’s providential care” for Peck. “[God] has enkindled my desire for him in prayer and nurtured me through the friendship of mentors and fellow Jesuits. I’m eager for the future and confident he will continue to provide.”
Read Peck’s full reflection in the Spring/Summer 2013 issue of JESUITS magazine.
Ten Jesuit tertians from around the world are starting the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius today in Portland, Ore. This four-week retreat is an important component of tertianship, a part of the Jesuit formation process.
Tertianship is usually made ten to fifteen years after the novitiate and at the end of a Jesuit’s professional training. St. Ignatius called it a “school of the heart” because it’s a time when the tertian deepens his own commitment to the Society of Jesus.
“The retreat of the Spiritual Exercises is perhaps the key moment of tertianship. After years of living his life as a Jesuit, the tertian once again engages in this month-long program of intense prayer and reflection and brings his lived experience as a Jesuit before our loving God,” explains Jesuit Father Dave Godleski, the delegate for formation and Jesuit life at the Jesuit Conference. The Jesuit Conference represents the nine U.S. provinces of the Society of Jesus, promoting common goals and overseeing international projects.
Because of the long retreat’s importance in the tertianship program, the Jesuit Conference is asking for prayers for the tertians and their directors:
- Jesuit Father Mark Bandsuch (Chicago-Detroit Province)
- Jesuit Father James Conway (British Province)
- Jesuit Father Emerito Salustiano de la Rama (Philippines Province)
- Jesuit Father Jean-Alfred Dorvil (French Canada Province)
- Jesuit Father Wieslaw Faron (South Poland Province)
- Jesuit Father Ian Gibbons (Missouri Province)
- Jesuit Father Edwin T. Gnanaprakasam (Madurai)
- Jesuit Father Michael Harter (Missouri Province) – assistant tertian director
- Jesuit Father Raymund Benedict Hizon (Philippines Province)
- Jesuit Father Charlie Moutenot (New York Province) – tertian director
- Jesuit Father Godwin Mulenga (Zambia-Milawi Province)
- Jesuit Father John Murphy (California Province) – retreat director
- Jesuit Father Ignatius Hadimulia Sasmita (Maryland Province)
After completing the Spiritual Exercises, the tertians will study Society documents, including the Jesuit Constitutions and decrees from recent General Congregations. After studies, they will do apostolic experiments, which often involve pastoral work with the poor. Once the tertianship period is completed, the Jesuit is called to pronounce his final vows in the Society.
Jesuit Father Ron Gonzales share his thoughts on Final Vows:
Taking final vows in the Society of Jesus reminded me of something Yogi Berra of the New York Yankees once said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Well in some ways it was just that but a lot more, much more. Even though we Jesuits take first vows after two years in the novitiate, we still remain officially in formation up until the time we are invited to take final vows (sometime after ordination and tertianship). Although the process of formation can seem long and cumbersome to some observers, without a doubt each and every phase contributes to the overall spiritual formation of the Jesuit. Of course with a longer formation period also come the opportunities for self-awareness and hopefully experience and wisdom.
I explained final vows to my parishioners, some of whom thought I was being ordained as a priest! Think of it as the Society of Jesus saying to itself, “You know we’ve had this fellow, Ron Gonzales, with us for about 18 years. Why not keep him?” When I took my first vows back in 1994, my intention and hope was to continue in the formation process until such time when the Society would say, “We, too, fully accept you.” Being fully accepted as a Jesuit is truly a great feeling of belonging and completion, in spite of my human weakness.
There is also a keen sense of humility knowing that our superiors and our Jesuit companions are quite aware of both our strengths and weaknesses. I liken it to a marriage covenant between spouses in which each one feels a peace and acceptance knowing that there is a commitment as well as an acceptance of one another, no matter what happens. Perhaps some in academia would appreciate another analogy, namely that of tenure. We recognize the work and effort that precedes tenure, yet we know the hard work continues long after final vows and even after retirement age. It is not a time to “rest on our laurels” as there is much work to be done.
Jesuit Tim O’Brien, currently in his second year of First Studies at Loyola University Chicago, spent his summer as an editorial intern at America Magazine, the weekly Jesuit review of religion, politics and culture.
O’Brien writes that he spent many of his days reading news and current events, “lost in a forest of headlines about debt ceilings and protests in Syria.”
He writes that in the midst of all the bad news, “it is easy to overlook that we, as Christians and as Jesuits, are a people of Good News…I am not saying that we should ignore bad news or the challenges that we face in the church and in the Society of Jesus. To the contrary, in fact. If ‘finding God in all things’ is more than just rhetoric, and I think it is, then even bad news can be a site of encounter with the Lord. And we can only find God in all things because God wishes to be found in all things.”
One place that O’Brien says he found God this summer was in his Jesuit community, America House in Manhattan, which he called a “dynamic cross-section of life in the Society.”
“This experience of community was a helpful reminder for me that, as a Jesuit in formation, I stand on the shoulders of the men who have come before me,” he writes.
“I have been helped by my Jesuit brothers to see the hand of God in places I’d never even look to find it. It is, for me, a great grace of our community life. My brothers help me see, time and again, the Good News amid the bad,” he writes.
Read more of O’Brien’s reflections on Jesuit community at the Maryland, New England and New York Province vocation website.