Posts Tagged ‘New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus’
“Go forth and set the world on fire.”
Spoken centuries ago by St. Ignatius Loyola to his brother Jesuits, these words – part mission statement, part marching orders – are deeply emblematic of the Society of Jesus and never more so than during the sacrament of Ordination.
On June 9, 2012, four men from the New Orleans Province – James Hooks, S.J., Bao Nguyen, S.J., Brian Reedy, S.J. and Daniel Tesvich, S.J. — will be ordained at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala.
A diverse group, the Ordinandi hail from New Orleans, Florida, Texas and Vietnam. Before entering the Society of Jesus, they worked in academics and accounting and earned a number of advanced degrees.
Their call to priestly ministry is as varied as their hometowns and former occupations, but they have one thing in common: a desire to dedicate themselves to the Jesuit mission of serving the Roman Catholic Church wherever the need may be greatest.
Following are reflections written by each of the four New Orleans Province Jesuits awaiting Ordination. For nearly a dozen years, these men have been preparing for this moment, and their thoughts about the journey and the challenges and blessings ahead make for a thought-provoking read.
|James Hooks, SJ As the date of my ordination grows closer, more and more people say something like, “The day is finally here!” It is true that priestly formation in the Jesuits does not happen overnight. Still, I do not see my ordination as a goal as much as a turn in the road, a turn that brings me closer to Jesus and a new way of serving the Church and the world. I am immensely grateful to God and to my fellow travelers on this road who, in ways large and small, have brought me to this point in my journey. I also look forward to seeing where this road leads us.
|Bao Nguyen, SJ Today, we experience brokenness, sinfulness, and chaos in society. Many people feel lonely, desperate, and alien within themselves and the Church. As a priest, I have a desire to console people who have struggled to find God in their lives. I wish that I could be an instrument to assist people to feel relief and to restore their good human nature as children of God. The image of a bridge to connect over gaps among rich, poor, ideologies, faith, religions, cultures, nationalities and many more has inspired and motivated me continually to work for the universal Church as a vineyard of God.
|Brian Reedy, SJ This past Easter I was very blessed to be able to sing the Easter Exsultet Proclamation at the vigil Mass during which my parents received their first Holy Communion. One of the lines of the Proclamation says, “dazzling is this night for me, and full of gladness.” As I looked out at my parent’s faces, lit only by candlelight, it was truly a dazzling night full of deep gladness. I realized that this is a constitutive dynamic of my priesthood.
|Daniel Tesvich, SJ As I have grown during my priestly formation, especially during the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, I have experienced the great truth that the main issue is not the virtue and wisdom of the minister. Instead the issue is being called to share Christ’s love for humanity with others. Of all the many joys in my life so far, the best joy has been precisely that: sharing with others the healing love that Christ has given to me.
Jesuit Father Harold Rahm learned long ago the value of staying close to the people.
In El Paso, his first assignment in his native Texas, Fr. Rahm celebrated Mass in people’s backyards. He prayed the rosary on street corners and ministered to those on bread lines. He got his foot in the door of residents’ homes by asking to use the phone. And, he rode a bicycle to talk and play with street kids in his battle to eliminate youth gangs.
During his 14 years in El Paso, Fr. Rahm was fondly known as the “Bicycle Padre,” and says he learned to work with the people and the laity. South El Paso was ruled by gangs in those days, so he and his team worked with schools, founded clubs, and built a youth center. They engaged adolescents in sports, music, bands and theater, offering free lunches and daily ice cream. As the teens grew up, he said, they did not join the gangs.
Over the last nearly 50 years, Father Rahm used similar techniques to reach out to the abandoned, the poor, the addicted and the desperate of Brazil, where he lives and works today.
Fr. Rahm, now 93, spends his days directing “Christian Yoga” retreats aimed at helping people use their senses and meditation to form a union with God.
“I endeavor to do my little part to serve the poor and those especially in need, both financially and spiritually,” he said.
When Fr. Rahm arrived in Brazil, he set out to find priests and scholastics to staff the Centro Kennedy mission in São Paulo, which worked to improve lives through education and human development. He and his team worked with alcoholics and drug addicts and founded Amor-Exigente or Tough Love, which now has 10,000 volunteers serving 200,000 people each month throughout Latin America.
Today, a center in his name in Campinas, Brazil, Instituçào Padre Haroldo, offers several programs for the therapeutic treatment of alcoholics and drug addicts. He said the treatment involves learning new values, behaviors, skills, habits and responsibilities in order to integrate back into society.
He also started the Pastoral Sobriety, the search for sobriety as a way of life, and has ministered to prostitutes and street children.
“I would like to stress that I only founded these movements,” Fr. Rahm said. “It is evident that the wonderful Brazilian people and leaders direct and work in them. I personally should not receive the credit. “
Fr. Rahm has written books on spirituality, addiction and his experience with gangs. For more information on the Instituçào Padre Haroldo, visit www.padreharoldo.org.br.
Jesuit Father Joseph Tetlow is the director of Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas, Texas where he gives retreats, workshops and writes. Before his came to Montserrat, Fr. Tetlow spent several years in Rome as head of the Jesuit General’s Secretariat for Ignatian Spirituality, guiding the efforts of 250 Jesuit retreat houses.
Widely considered one of the Jesuits’ leading authorities on spiritual direction, Tetlow recently wrote this piece for the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus’ magazine Southern Jesuit. You can read more article about the work of the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province by visiting Southern Jesuit‘s online magazine.
I really began listening to what people need when I was ordained in 1960. I was sent to the Cenacle Retreat House in New Orleans to give a weekend retreat. When I got there, Sr. Margaret Byrne, R.C., asked me what I wanted to do. Actually, she knew what needed to be done a lot better than I did, and she patiently helped me learn.
What I learned is this: my need of grace and yearning for God are gifts to be shared; they are not for me, alone. The prayers and desires given to me are not just for me. They are also for all to whom God sends me.
Realizing that gave me an insight into the Spiritual Exercises. They were created by St. Ignatius because he needed them. During his recovery from a battle wound, he began to experience “spirits” – joy when he thought about God, misery when he thought about being famous and powerful. How was he to understand these “spirits?” He needed order and method in his praying and desiring that would give him a sense of making progress. His needs, in God’s design, are also felt by all of Christ’s followers. We all feel, in a vague sort of way, the need for order and progress, and we are helped as Ignatius was by learning about discernment.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, he organized the prayers and desires into Spiritual Exercises, and as the Holy Spirit brought him clarity of mind and heart, the Spirit also opened his eyes to other people’s need for the same things. So Ignatius began sharing his spiritual experiences. At first, he went too far: the illiterate people of Manresa were not helped by tales of mystical experiences of the Trinity.
So Ignatius had to listen. And like him, I had to learn about others’ needs. Some need solid instruction. Some need a way to reform a life that has gone bad. Some need to hear what God wants with their whole lives. You find, when you listen to enough men and women today, that we all feel this same broad range of needs.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, always envisioned Jesuits and their partners as being “contemplatives in action.” He asked his first companions to reflect and pray in order to detect the presence of God in their lives. Then, through discerning Christ’s call, to carry out His mission through action.
Jesuit Father Jack Vessels has been called to the border of Texas and Mexico as the chaplain of the Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso. Before coming there, he was missioned to Brazil for over 20 years then headed to Rome to become the international leader of the Apostleship of Prayer, whose mission it is to encourage people to pray daily for the Church and for the pope’s intentions.
Today, Fr. Vessels says Mass daily at the parish, and many times at the parish’s food banks in Juarez, Mexico, the Our Lady’s Youth Center (OLYC) community, and at the Lord’s Ranch in New Mexico. He hears confessions for many hours each week and goes to the homes of the sick and elderly to give them the sacrament of the sick.
Vessels recently wrote this piece for the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus’ magazine Southern Jesuit on the work of the Our Lady’s Youth Center with the poor who live along the border of Texas and Mexico — both in El Paso and across the Rio Grande river in Juarez, Mexico. You can read more article about the work of the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province by visiting Southern Jesuit’s online magazine.
Two years ago, because of my fluency in Spanish and my experience in the formation of ecclesial communities in Brazil, I was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso to assist in the work of Our Lady’s Youth Center and at The Lord’s Ranch which is in Vado, New Mexico, just across the state line from El Paso. It serves as residence for several volunteers who have dedicated their lives to feeding and serving the poor on the border. It also serves as a guest house for volunteers who occasionally return to assist in the community’s ministries or to spend time in restful reflection.
Truly ecclesial and international, the Our Lady’s Youth Center (OLYC) community – now known as Las Alas or “The Wings” – is a community of contemplatives in action: by faith, united in prayer and action; no prayer without action, and no action without prayer! Through service to the poor, both volunteer residents and visitors contribute to the life of the universal Church in the three particular churches where it serves: El Paso, Texas; Juarez, Mexico; and Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“Go to the poor,” Christ told the OLYC community in its group discernment of scripture. It was across the Rio Grande in Juarez that the cry of the poor was most demanding, where well over a million people lived in poverty worse than any experienced in El Paso. Many of the members of the community were bilingual, with friends and relatives living in Juarez. They went “to see,” confident the Holy Spirit would enlighten their vision. Visiting the city’s municipal garbage dump, they found the poorest of the poor, feeding themselves and their children, sleeping in shelters made from trash, collecting whatever might be usable and sellable on the streets. Praying and discerning Christ’s words, “…when you have a banquet, invite the poor…,” (Luke 14:13) the community did just that at the dump on Christmas Day of 1972, often remembered as “the miracle of Juarez” because of the inexplicable multiplication of food that day, and they have been going back weekly ever since.
The New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus has compiled a resource packet in response to the growing environmental catastrophe in the Gulf Coast region from the BP oil spill. It can be found at www.norprov.org/news/oilspillresources.pdf.
The packet includes prayers, an oil spill policy brief and a study on the spill from the e-newsletter of the Jesuit Social Research Institute.
Also, the Jesuit school Loyola University New Orleans has created a website addressing the numerous efforts being made by its faculty and staff to respond to the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The site, Crude Awakening at http://www.loyno.edu/oilspill/, features a list of faculty experts who can speak authoritatively on oil spill topics; a blog compiling faculty and staff commentary regarding the spill; press releases and news about Loyola’s involvement; local and national news headlines; and ways to get involved.
In addition, Loyola’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has reached out to more than 1,000 affected small businesses in the area, offering them assistance in filing claims, counseling, and support since the spill began.
The SBDC’s director, Carmen Sunda, recently testified at a Senate hearing in Washington, D.C., on the oil spill’s impact on small businesses. In her written testimony, Sunda expressed the far-reaching devastation of the uncertainty of the spill and provided details about how the SBDC is helping affected businesses.
“The worst part is that it has no foreseeable ending. People can’t estimate the value of their long-term losses or the long-term impact, because they can’t define ‘long-term’–does it mean this season, a few years, a lifetime?” wrote Sunda.
Loyola’s SBDC has partnered with the Louisiana Small Business Administration (LSBA) to staff twelve Business Recovery Centers in seven parishes across coastal Louisiana. Each center is staffed with an LSBA and an SBDC consultant who help with the BP claims process and filling for loans.
“SBDC assists any business that feels that they have been impacted. Our consultants provide businesses with a free, independent, third party that they can speak with on a personal level,” said Sunda.