By Ignatius Plato
God occasionally calls us to serve others in new and potentially challenging ways. We may be asked to leave our comfort zone to respond to that call. For Jim Broderick-King, a new way to serve came in the form of the Ignatian Spirituality Project.
Broderick-King has been an important part of the Regis Jesuit High School community for 27 years. Beginning as a Latin teacher, Broderick-King went on to teach Greek, English and theology, all while helping with community service programs and planning and leading retreats. His dedication to Regis Jesuit education and spiritual formation would culminate in a 15-year tenure as director of the school’s Ignatian Spirituality and Formation Program.
Broderick-King could have continued in this important role, impacting young lives, for the rest of his career. But his experience with the Jesuits sparked a desire to do even more.
“There was this ‘egging on’ I kept feeling,” Broderick-King said. “After my years of work with the Jesuits, I felt compelled to continue with Ignatian Spirituality in some way. Jesuits, friends, mentors – they all offered their suggestions. Everything from going back to school for another degree to participating in spirituality programs.”
After some time discerning a new calling, one of Broderick-King’s Jesuit friends suggested he consider a position as a regional director of the Ignatian Spirituality Project (ISP).
ISP is an organization that “invites people recovering from homelessness and addiction to encounter God’s love, hope and healing through spiritual companionship that transforms lives” (from the ISP website). It was this mission that inspired Broderick-King to do more with his expertise, helping a new group of people in a big way.
“That’s what motivated my change to ISP after all those years at Regis Jesuit – it was the right time, the right circumstances,” he says. “To draw on the Spiritual Exercises, we really need to look deep and ask ourselves, ‘What more can I do?’ For me, the answer was working for ISP.”
As of now, Broderick-King is four months into his new position as the regional director for the south, helping with spiritual guidance and programs for ISP in Denver, New Orleans, Oklahoma City and Houston.
This shift in responsibilities has been exciting, yet daunting, Broderick-King reports. This new mission God has called him to is significantly different from his past work. It is one thing to teach teenagers; it is another to support the spirituality of adults on the margins.
“I’m still new in this position,” he says. “I didn’t have vast academic or skill experience with the homeless, especially in the area of addiction recovery.”
This is not to suggest Broderick-King began his new ministry underprepared. His experience as a spiritual program designer and retreat leader at Regis Jesuit has provided him the ability to talk to people about God and Ignatian Spirituality. The mission of ISP quickly became clear to him when he stepped into ISP’s Ambassadors of Hope, a two-year program in which retreat alumni enter more deeply in their recovery and develop as leaders through Ignatian Spirituality.
“While I’m definitely not teaching adolescents anymore, the skills of spirituality and prayer in general have been very useful in my first months,” he said.
Broderick-King is surprised by the lack of awareness about the organization throughout the country. “After 24 years in existence, a lot of people don’t know about ISP, even people who are Jesuits! So, the bulk of my work has been making sure people get to know who we are and what we do.”
At the same time, he manages volunteer teams, finding people whose skill sets can foster the values of Ignatian Spirituality. “Ignatian spirituality, social justice, addiction recovery – we make sure that our volunteers can handle all that, and then prepare them for their work.”
Raising awareness and finding the right people also speak to another of ISP’s goals: sustainability. “I look forward to trying to expand some of our projects and work with different agencies,” he said. “Through collaboration, we can reach more people who need our help, who need the help of God and the spirit of Ignatius in their lives.”
This mindset is at the forefront of Broderick-King’s new efforts; the spiritual experiences ISP offers to retreatants are always the crux of his ministry.
“God has spoken to me a lot in these months,” he says. “I felt unworthy at first to go on ISP retreats, like I was trying to relate to people who have had it way tougher than I have, and I kept telling myself, ‘I’ve never been an addict’ or ‘I’ve never been homeless. How am I supposed to help these people if I don’t understand their situation?’”
After interacting with those in recovery, Broderick-King noticed that God was using his concerns to teach him an important lesson.
“The one thing you really embrace quickly through this work,” he says, “is that all of us are in recovery. We all have our challenges, our attachments, our struggles. We talk a lot about mutuality here; ISP believes in a ministry of equals, not just charity. When I approached it from that angle, I began to realize – I’m being transformed just as much as the people I’m connecting with.”
Withholding social judgments about the homeless and those struggling with addiction, Broderick-King asserts, is truly key to understanding each other as human beings:
“I’ve seen how this effort transforms lives in the short time working for ISP,” he said. “What I hope to give the world through my work is this: that people would know, very deeply, the common experience that we all have. If we can find the empathy to understand people in the most challenging situations – if we can look past a person’s addictions, crimes, relationships – that’s when we will understand each other’s desires and know how to help each other as children of God.”
Broderick-King is always quick to express his gratitude to and for the Society of Jesus: “I have been so graced with education and guidance from the Jesuits, including partnerships and friendships. I am very grateful to them, especially in the UCS Province, for walking with me through most of my life and experiences, including this one.”
For Jim Broderick-King, the belief that we can all relate to each other’s experiences as children of God has prepared him for a new future with the Ignatian Spirituality Project.