Recently I caught up with a colleague who like me had moved from a Jesuit education ministry to another sponsored by the Society of Jesus in Australia. Whilst my provincial had asked me to take a position in giving retreats, my friend John had made a deliberate, discerned choice to ease back on his long association with school leadership to become a provincial assistant in Jesuit Social Ministries. As a layman his own long career had allowed him first hand acquaintance with different religious schools and their particular ‘charisms’.
For John there were a number of factors about the Ignatian spirituality which eventually made for a seamless transfer of ministries. He spoke of the accessibility of the Ignatian tradition. He had found that this had been very attractive to parents and staff, often prompting a desire to know, and experience, more. He knew Ignatian history and had experienced how resource-full the Jesuit works were, but it was much more than that. He noted that people were attracted, drawn to, the deeper story of St Ignatius. The Spiritual Exercises describe that ‘love ought to show itself in deeds over and above words and that love consists in a mutual sharing of goods’ – the essential of the Ignatian charism and a spiritual maxim that generates momentum for living in this day and age.
John was particularly drawn to the experiences of the early Jesuits and their work with the marginalised, the unloved. Theory and practice working seamlessly where 500 years of history inform a lived reality for today. In turn he’s observed that his colleagues in ministry have relished the opportunities given to understand that deeper story of Ignatius.
He commented on initiatives like the Jesuit Province’s Ignis orientation programs being so helpful to people of diverse backgrounds. Whether such programs were an introduction to the practice of the Examen or something as simple as what might be the difference between ‘Jesuit’ and ‘Ignatian’, or even Jesuit and Catholic, this was all part of a personal uncovering aspects of a God-given calling. Each of us in the wide Ignatian family has his/her own story, and it was a privilege to hear how John’s had unfolded over the years of his dedicated ministry.
Thank you to Michael Ryan SJ for this contribution to the JISA Discernment Series. Michael is an Ignatian Spiritual Director, giver of the Spiritual Exercises, and Supervisor and retreat giver. He works with Jesuit and Ignatian Spirituality Australia at JISA Campion and offers hospitality for those who attend the many retreats at Kew in Melbourne.