By Jerry Duggan
Growing up, Brent Gordon was fascinated by religion – in a purely academic sense. Only after he did some soul searching did he realize his own beliefs and feel the call to a religious vocation. Several twists and turns later, he finds himself several years into the formation process as a Jesuit brother.
Brother Gordon was raised in a family that was half Southern Baptist and half non-religious. He recalls being intrigued by the Bible from a young age, but never pondered what its contents might mean to him personally.
It was while majoring in classics and religion at Florida State University that Br. Gordon, who describes himself at the start of college as an agnostic, began to evaluate his own spirituality. In time, Br. Gordon came to believe the teachings of the Catholic Church and was baptized at the age of 22.
His long-standing plan had been to go to graduate school, but as the first year of his master’s program progressed, Br. Gordon felt something pulling at him inside – a nudge to consider his vocation.
“Being a newly initiated Catholic, I realized I had not spent any time to reflect on what my vocation might be, or invited God into that process,” he said. “It became clear that it was time for me to take a break from my studies and figure out what God might be calling me to do with my life.”
Brother Gordon concluded that a vocation as a diocesan priest might be right for him, and he applied to the seminary in the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Fla. Because he was still new to the faith, he was advised to take a year to consider whether he was ready to make such a commitment.
In the meantime, he found work at a local parish as a secretary and got to know the ins and outs of the daily life of the Church.
“At the time, I had no reservations about being a diocesan priest,” he said. “I was all in on following what I believed to be God’s true calling for me.”
Brother Gordon remained in seminary for three years and was content. Then he was sent to Creighton University to complete a program in Ignatian Spirituality. Something inside of him changed.
“I wasn’t sure what I felt just yet, but whatever it was, it was serious enough that I felt it best to withdraw from the seminary,” he said.
Soon, he began to feel called to a different religious vocation – with the Society of Jesus – but at that point in the calendar, it was too late to apply for the upcoming year. Instead, Br. Gordon got a job at a local Catholic school.
The following year, Br. Gordon entered the novitiate, and his confidence in his vocation has only grown. He is currently studying history at Saint Louis University.
“I have much respect for the work diocesan priests do, and cherished my time in the seminary, but the community aspect of Jesuit life is something that I felt could not be replicated anywhere else,” he said.
Brother Gordon admits that he has changed vocational paths several times, so that may make some skeptical that a Jesuit vocation is right for him. Still, he knows how he feels inside.
“When I was in the seminary, I was sure that I wanted to be a diocesan priest, and then things changed,” he acknowledged. “But now, I feel different. I no longer question ‘Can I really be a Jesuit for the rest of my life?’ Instead, I only ask myself how I can be a good Jesuit.”
He urges anyone wrestling with their vocation to be patient and listen to God’s voice.
“God will always have an answer, but it may take a while for him to reveal that to you,” he said.
As an example, Br. Gordon cites that he had always felt a strong desire for community life but assumed that was simply something God was asking him to sacrifice as a diocesan priest.
“When I really listened to what God wanted for me and quit making assumptions, it became clear that God never asked me to give up a sense of community in my vocation,” he said.
Upon entering the novitiate, Br. Gordon once again listened to God’s call, and ultimately decided he was called to be a Jesuit brother, rather than a Jesuit priest – although Br. Gordon says it is the other way around.
“I did not choose to be a Jesuit brother – God chose that for me,” he said. “The question of whether to be a brother or priest stayed with me for a while. After much prayer, God gave me an answer.”
Brother Gordon’s takeaway from a lengthy discernment process is that God is someone to talk to and listen to, and someone who wants what is best for His people.
“Through my prayer and discernment, I’ve come to understand that God is ever present and has a path for each of His people,” he said. “For me, that path is that of a Jesuit brother.”