When Claire Thomas first considered the Spiritual Exercises, she was working in a large school in Sydney and kept hearing an invitation to be part of the continuing legacy of Ignatian Spiritualty. “I was curious. I was inspired and humbled and wondered how am I going to best respond?” remarks Claire.
Claire was also facing a decision “I needed to discern my place. I had miscarried and knew grief and loss. I was sitting in that space of career or family – I could feel another child around the corner, yet I felt another call… could I have a third child and continue my work?”
“My mum went to a Loreto school in Mauritius and she would often say to me you can do anything, you can weave your faith into your career, it depends on the wise choices you make.”
Claire made a choice to embark on the full Spiritual Exercises. “I loved entering into the scriptures, visualising those conversations really helped me heal and see life and faith in a bigger frame.” said Claire “While I journaled, I noticed the Spirit calling me into the magis, to be more than I could be.”
“Whatever largens your heart to make free life-giving choices, that’s where I’ll walk and go.”
After the birth of her third child, it was with this freedom that Claire accepted a leadership role in another school “I absolutely loved it. The spirit of reciprocity was there, and I was a mum too! My husband’s family were there by my side nurturing my children; this was such a gift.”
“Ignatius had an insatiable energy to share his experiences of God, and he speaks to us today more than ever; there is a desire for groundedness and clarity. Now they call it listening to our inner knowing and wisdom or emotional intelligence.”
Later, with the death of her mum, sister and aunt in a short period of time, Claire entered into more discernment during an experience of the First Spiritual Exercises. “I felt this sense of restoration of spirit and renewal of mission – that this time was not a full stop, it was a comma” she exclaimed.
“I had always been drawn to justice and community, this sense of giving back, all I can, when I can.” Claire remembers.
Claire began working in Mount Druitt “I sensed God’s desire and Spirit, especially in and through experiences of volunteering, the generosity of spirit and heart and community – the whole beatitudes are here, this made sense for me.”
Claire experienced a profound feeling of not being alone; working alongside people, receiving and giving accompaniment “often when I speak to a lot of women, they validate this way of being, a collegial way – across schools, parishes and social ministries, I couldn’t think of anything more satisfying, enriching.”
“There are so many challenges to managing and balancing work, family, community and nourishment of spirit, I slowly came to realise that I have these gifts and strengths and I want to share these with the strengths of other women and men for the common good.”
Claire is continuing the legacy of Ignatian Spirituality.
Claire Thomas is the Manager for School and Community Engagement at Jesuit Social Services in Emerton Sydney.
If you are yearning for restoration or facing a decision, we invite you to explore Ignatian Spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises at Jesuit and Ignatian Spirituality Australia www.jisa.org.au, 1300 EXAMEN (1300-392-636), or firstname.lastname@example.org.