Posts Tagged ‘Long Experiment’

Jesuit Novice as Chaperone, Coach and Confidant

Jesuit Daniel Gustafson 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

Jesuit Novice Serves D.C.’s Poor during Long Experiment

Jesuit Vincent Marchionni

Jesuit Vincent Marchionni assists a client at the McKenna Center in Washington, D.C.

Jesuit Vincent Marchionni spent five months working at the Father McKenna Center in Washington, D.C., for his Long Experiment, during which a Jesuit novice engages in full-time apostolic work while living in a Jesuit community.

The center, named after Jesuit Father Horace McKenna, serves the poor, providing meals for homeless men, groceries for local residents and assistance for those facing eviction and utility cutoff.

Marchionni said that the Long Experiment taught him that simple acts of compassion and generosity profoundly and positively affect people’s lives, making God’s presence real and tangible.

“The men show tremendous gratitude for their meals, and it is God’s way of showing me that such grunt work truly does manifest His presence to those in dire circumstances,” he said.

Marchionni also led 12-Step meetings that focused on drugs and alcohol. The group used the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola to supplement 12-Step spirituality.

Marchionni said that through his experience of serving D.C.’s poorest he realized, “Jesus Christ is always laboring, always desiring to bring his brothers and sisters closer to him. He does hear the cry of the poor, and he answers them with gifts of hope and gratitude.”

Read more about Marchionni’s long experiment in Jesuits magazine.

Testing and Experimenting: Life in the Jesuit Novitiate

Jesuit novice Penn Dawson

Second-year Jesuit novice Penn Dawson in the remote village of Karasabai in Guyana.

A scientist who has an idea that he wants to test runs to his laboratory. There he applies various tests to see whether his initial idea was a sound one. Some people use the laboratory analogy to try to explain the novitiate experience, and in many ways a “lab” is an accurate analogy for this first stage in Jesuit formation.

When a man enters the novitiate, he has a good idea that God is calling him to become a Jesuit – he has discerned and spent many hours in the application process being interviewed by Jesuits, doctors and even a psychologist – but he has never lived as a Jesuit; he has not yet tested his vocation. Likewise, the Society of Jesus has a good idea that the man they have admitted is a good fit, but it needs some real life experiences with this man to know for sure. The novitiate is this time of testing and discernment.

One of the reasons a laboratory is a good analogy for the novitiate is because St. Ignatius designed the novitiate to have specific tests which are called “experiments.” No, novices are not asked to deliver electric shocks to one another, nor does the novice master ring a bell before meals and measure salivation. Instead, the various experiments, many conceived by Ignatius himself, test whether a novice can do what Jesuits do and live as Jesuits live.

The first experiment is arguably the most important – the undertaking of the full 30 day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In this powerful and moving experience, a novice moves through the retreat, seeking to know and follow Christ more closely and to more clearly hear His voice in his life. He will draw on this experiment for the rest of his Jesuit life.

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Spiritual Exercises Change Jesuit Novice’s Approach to Ministry

Jesuit Keith Maczkiewicz

Jesuit Keith Maczkiewicz (back row, second from right) with Georgetown students on retreat.

Jesuit Keith Maczkiewicz had hoped to do something he had never done before during his Long Experiment, a time when each Jesuit novice does five months of full-time apostolic work while living in a Jesuit community. He had worked in high school campus ministry, but when he was missioned to Georgetown University to assist in campus ministry there, his novice director said, “You may have done this job before, but you never did it as a Jesuit.”

Maczkiewicz, who was involved in Sunday liturgies, Catholic chaplaincy programs and retreats and ministry as a chaplain-in-residence in a dorm at Georgetown, soon realized that his novice director was right.

Maczkiewicz said he was very conscious that the 30-day experience of the Spiritual Exercises was affecting all of his life and ministry. “I realized that the Exercises had become not only important to me, but had become my heritage, in a way, had become an inherent part of my life.”

Working with the Exercises as an instrument of prayer, and helping to lead others in prayer and discernment, helped him to solidify his own relationship with God. “The Long Experiment has helped me to fall in love with Christ all over again in the midst of my ministry, in the context of my Jesuit community, and with the lenses of poverty, chastity and obedience focusing, broadening and enriching my life,” Maczkiewicz said.

Today, Maczkiewicz is a scholastic in First Studies at Loyola University Chicago. He professed his vows to the Society of Jesus last year. You can read more about Jesuit novices’ long experiments in Jesuits magazine.