August 3. 2022 – On Saturday, August 13, three Jesuits of the USA Central and Southern Province – Jason Britsch, Beau Guedry and Fr. Max Landman – will pronounce perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Grand Coteau, La. The profession of first vows follows two years of novitiate training, including academic study, ministerial experience and opportunities in Jesuit works throughout the United States and the Caribbean that seek to test their vocations.
Meet the three men who will pronounce first vows on August 13:
Jason Britsch, SJ, 28, is a graduate of Jesuit High School in New Orleans. During his first year of novitiate, he served in Brownsville, Texas, with the Project Dignity Legal Team, at San Pedro Catholic Church and in Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. He also worked at De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis. As a second-year novice, he served at Journey to New Life in Kansas City, Mo., and St. John’s College and Belize Hospice & Palliative Care Foundation in Belize City, Belize.
Jason shared the following reflection on one highlight of his novitiate experience:
During my second year as a novice, I was missioned for long experiment to Belize. My mission was to serve with Belize Hospice & Palliative Care Foundation, St. John’s College and a nationwide youth ministry. I offered physical and spiritual support to the sick and dying, gave lectures to students on topics ranging from discernment to sexuality, and helped coordinate retreats across the country.
Through these three ministries, I was granted the privilege to walk closely with Belizeans of vastly different ethnic, economic and geographic backgrounds. However, everywhere I traveled during those months I encountered the same Church, with the same Christ present in the same sacrament. I look back on my time in Belize as a time in which my love for the universal Church, in all its mysterious beauty and humanity, deepened.
My ministry in hospice care stands out as the ministry in which I most conspicuously encountered Christ. Every person the doctor and I served was dying; I was invited not to help cure them, but simply to walk with them as they approached the end of their lives. Most of the patients we cared for were also deeply impoverished, and the brutality of poverty combined with terminal illness often tempted me to despair. During every visit, though, when my own faith wavered, the faith of our patients shone through: Although they were the ones enduring sickness and poverty, they joyfully embraced their suffering and clung tightly to Christ.
One patient in particular, Wallace, left a deep impression on me. I visited Wallace regularly throughout the entire experiment, and we became close friends as a result. Wallace no longer had the use of his legs due to his illness; our time together consisted solely of conversation in the room he was confined to. Through those conversations, I discovered his incredible life story, his favorite books, his talents, his regrets and his abiding faith. We began to pray together, and he even allowed me to bring Communion to him regularly. He was not simply an ailing man from a different country, nor was he a nameless, faceless member of the “global poor”; He was a human person made in the image of God, with his own joys and trials and desires. In his suffering I recognized Christ Himself, who bore His own cross and suffered for all of us.
Wallace, just like Christ, and just like all of our hospice patients, accepted his cross and chose to hold on to faith, hope and love. In that time the Lord invited me to wait at the foot of the cross, with God and with every patient I met, not to “fix” anything, but to trust that on the cross, God is accomplishing something far greater and more beautiful than I can understand.
I still think often of Wallace and all the people I walked with during that time. Their witness gives me the strength to carry my own cross each day. I owe them a profound debt.
Jason completed his undergraduate education at the University of Dallas, earning degrees in history and politics. After graduation, Jason returned to Jesuit High New Orleans to teach English and assist in campus ministry as a member of the Alum Service Corps. He continued to work at Jesuit High, coordinating capital campaigns until his entrance to the Society of Jesus in August 2020.
Jason’s next assignment will be to study at Saint Louis University.
Beau Guedry, SJ, 28, graduated from Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School before pursuing a degree in biology at Saint Louis University. After college, he was a member of the Alum Service Corps at De Smet Jesuit in St. Louis before being hired at Strake Jesuit High School, where he worked as a science teacher and liturgy coordinator. His experience on immersion trips working with people with disabilities and the imprisoned helped him decide to commit to a life of serving others as a Jesuit.
During his novitiate, Beau served at Good Shepherd School in New Orleans, Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver, Guadalupe Middle School in Brownsville, Texas, while also assisting at the Reynosa Migrant Camp in Reynosa, Mexico. In his second year of the novitiate, he taught at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, S.D.
Beau chose to write about his experience at the Indian Reservation.
This spring, I was missioned to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. There, I taught freshman algebra at the Jesuit high school and led liturgical music in a parish. The landscapes in that part of the country are surprisingly dry, with long distances separating every town and home. During my semester on the reservation, this distance and aridity was reflected in the struggles of the Oglala Lakota people, the primary Native American tribe there. The otherwise resilient and strong people have suffered much at the hands of others – struggles that have affected multiple generations.
This pain often manifested itself as distrust and was present in the hearts of some of my students when I arrived there. To wear clerical attire in an environment of much suspicion about the Church meant I, too, was subject to suspicion from the first day I walked in the classroom.
One day early in the semester, during an algebra lesson, a student (who frequently refused to do her homework) raised her hand and asked, “Do you hate me because I don’t believe in God?” Suffice it to say it was completely unprompted, and I felt totally unprepared. I decided then that I had to spend the semester ensuring she (and by extension, my other students) knew that neither God nor I hated her and were instead interested in caring for her well-being. By the end of the semester, she not only did her homework, but participated enthusiastically in class, laughed often, and made a point of asking if I would remember her. I replied again and again that I would. I knew so because I had prayed over and over again with her question. It had shocked me and bringing it to God in prayer had filled me with a surge of devotion: I felt Christ calling me to preach the Gospel, the good news that Christ has come to save us, and to do so with my very life and way of being.
That freshman girl needed to know God loved her – a fact that lies at the base of the Gospel – but needed first to be shown, rather than be told.
Supporting people like her, in whatever way or for whatever length of time I could, in their lifelong journey to God, was intimately tied up with my vocation. Working to do that in this student’s life brought into focus for me that I could follow Christ best in a life in the Society of Jesus; the Lord was calling me into the Society to preach, by my service, the Gospel message of God’s love for us. From that time, it has been with confidence that I move toward professing my first vows.
Beau will study at Fordham University.
Fr. Max Landman, 35, entered the Society of Jesus in 2020 already an ordained diocesan priest. As a priest of the Diocese of Victoria, Texas, he most recently served as parochial vicar of Our Lady of the Gulf Catholic Church in Port Lavaca, Texas. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Fr. Max attended Texas Christian University before entering Holy Trinity Seminary.
During his first year of novitiate, Fr. Max served at Good Shepherd School in New Orleans and De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis. He returned to New Orleans as a second-year novice to work at the Harry Thompson Center and also served at the Jesuits’ Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Mexico. He chose to write about this latter experience.
For my long experiment, I was sent to the Arizona-Sonora border, helping migrants at the Kino Border Initiative. Most of my work involved basic, direct interaction with the people, including helping serve food in the mornings and hand out clothing in the afternoons. I also had the chance to work with many high school and university immersion groups who came to see the border reality for themselves and assist in parishes on the Arizona side.
Kino recently acquired and renovated a building much larger than the tiny one they had been using across the street, where they somehow managed to feed and clothe hundreds every day, many of whom had suffered tremendously on their journey, and for whom a simple meal in the presence of others who treated them with dignity was a rare blessing. The new building has a huge central room that was envisioned for this purpose. However, during the pandemic, the meals have mostly been given on a to-go basis, so the room hasn’t quite been the comedor it was destined to be. Instead, what often filled that area with life were the joyful and sometimes raucous sounds of children playing. One of the greatest blessings of my time on the border was the chance to play with those children. The difficulty, of course, was that they had much more energy than I did. One day, four or five of them had worn me out, so I sat on a bench, telling them that I couldn’t move anymore, that I was a statue. Immediately they began to climb all over me, shouting, Estatua! Estatua! I was exhausted, but filled with joy and laughter.
Sometimes when my day was complete, I would walk home, crossing the border on foot to return to the Jesuit community in Arizona. On the walk, I would often pray for those children, and for many others who had been deprived of a more normal and peaceful life, a life that allowed them to go to school and experience the joys of playing with their peers. It would move me to tears sometimes, but what was completely clear to me was the importance of our presence with migrants who are searching for a better life, and my gratitude to God for calling me to be with people who are so close to our Lord.
Fr. Max will do his first studies at Loyola University Chicago.