Whatever largens your heart

Whatever largens your heart

When Claire Thomas first considered the Spiritual Exercises, she was working in a Jesuit 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 could I 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, growing up, you can do anything, you can weave your faith into your career, guided by 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 inviting 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 the unconditional love of God. Ignatius speaks to us today more than ever; I am noticing more than ever before; 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 purpose – that this time was not a full stop, it was a comma” she exclaimed.

“I had always been drawn to social justice and community, this sense of giving back what I have been given, all I can, when I can.” Claire remembers.

Claire chose to work in Mount Druitt “I sensed God’s desire and Spirit, especially in and through experiences of volunteering; the collective wisdom, the joy, the strengths and knowledge of local people – the whole beatitudes are felt and lived here. Amidst the myriad of daily struggles, the people continue to speak up and out for dignity, equity and community – this made sense for me and connected to my values.”

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, nourishment of spirit, social and ecological justice, I slowly came to realise that I have these gifts and strengths and I want to share these with the strengths of other people for the common good.”

Claire is continuing the legacy of Ignatian Spirituality.

With thanks to Claire Thomas for this contribution to the JISA Discernment Series. Claire is the Director Identity and Ethos, School and Community Engagement at Jesuit Social Services, based in Emerton, Sydney.

Photo: Jesuit Social Services