Become a Jesuit
(2015) In Louie Hotop’s family, conversations about God and religion inevitably led to discussion about responsibility and care for others.
His family modeled the practice of service, hospitality and help to strangers, and it made an impression on Hotop, who joined the Jesuits in 2009 as a high school graduate.
“For my parents, there is no distinction between faith and service to others,” he said.
“My dad always stops to help someone broken down on the highway, or when he cooks, he almost always makes extra and sends it over to the neighbors. My mom, who has a great love for animals, instilled in us care for all creatures.” His grandmother regularly took in people who needed a place to stay.
Hotop, of suburban St. Louis, picked up the service bug at a young age, even organizing kids in his parish to help clean out hoarders’ homes through a county program. At St. Louis University High School, he joined mission trips to Reynosa, Mexico, and was introduced to a Catholic Worker house, where he worked during a SLUH month of service. He also connected with a Catholic sister who impressed him as a joyful religious servant.
“I get so much joy out of service, I knew that’s what I wanted,” he said. “I thought, ‘why not do it for the rest of my life?’”
The desire for service led Hotop to consider the priesthood, initially with the archdiocese. But competing desires to teach, help homeless people, and live and work internationally led him, at 2 o’clock one morning in his senior year, to email the Missouri Province vocation director that “I think I might have a vocation with the Jesuits.”
He expected to be turned away and told to reapply after a few years of college and maturation, as is usually the case. But the Missouri Jesuits accepted him into the first class to join with New Orleans in August 2009.
Now 22, Hotop survived novitiate, made first vows, and is in his second year of First Studies at Saint Louis University, studying philosophy, Russian and women’s studies. He writes poetry and takes private voice lessons.
Hotop also presides over a weekly, Internet call-in radio show, “Coffee Club,” broadcast live from the university, that features music (Marvin Gaye singing “Wie Schon Das Ist” or “How Sweet It Is” in German), a poets’ corner, guests such as his Russian professor to expound on the Eastern Bloc, and “News Stories You Probably Never Heard Of.” The show was the brainchild of Hotop and his friend and fellow Jesuit, Sean Powers, who completed First Studies at SLU in December and was assigned to a parish in Punta Gorda, Belize.
The quirky show comes naturally to a once “independent kid” who trimmed his sports schedule in fifth-grade to accommodate piano and other interests, including those that friends weren’t pursuing.
Hotop feels that his vocation is natural even though it runs counter to the culture. It’s difficult to see a brother Jesuit leave the order, he said, yet any turmoil it may stir up seems only to affirm his vocation. “That’s how I’ve come to see my vocation as organic,” he said. “It no longer feels like a choice but rather something that I’ve come to understand about myself.”
Asked where he sees himself years from now, he offers: “I don’t have any idea. It’s up to God.”
He says he’d be happy teaching high school, leading retreats, doing “so many things.” Yet, “there’s this desire to work in Russia,” which his Jesuit formation helped him discover, he said. “If I bring that to my prayer, maybe I’ll find some great adventure beyond the classroom.”
Whatever his path, Hotop doesn’t want academic pursuits to trump service to others. Living only in one’s head, rather than one’s heart, can obscure opportunities to be with the poor, he said.