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Superior General Arturo Sosa

Jesuit Superior General Arturo Sosa established the Ignatian Year as a special time to commemorate the conversion of St. Ignatius Loyola and all the graces that have flowed from that event. The “year” began on May 20, 2021, the 500th anniversary of Ignatius’ wounding at Pamplona. It will end on July 31, 2022, the Feast of St. Ignatius.

“It is good to remind ourselves that the wound Ignatius suffered in Pamplona was not so much a happy ending, but rather a happy beginning,” Fr. General Sosa said. “Conversion consists sometimes of great moments of change, but it is also a never ending process. We need to put Christ in the center every time, again and again.”

Around the world and across the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province, people have put Christ in the center in imaginative and expansive ways. Schools and parishes hosted special events, the province’s Office of Ignatian Spirituality hosted retreats and classes, and Fr. Provincial Thomas P. Greene made a pilgrimage across the province. In some cities in the province, people representing various Jesuit apostolates collaborated on events, bringing together the Ignatian Family in myriad beautiful ways, from an art exhibit in New Orleans to a day of service in St. Louis.

As the Ignatian Year comes to an end, we asked people from around the USA Central and Southern Province to share the graces that came from this time of focusing on conversion and putting Christ in the center. Their reflections follow.

Dallas

Most of the graces I received during this Ignatian Year came from my journey through the Spiritual Exercises. Ignatian Spirituality introduced me long ago to the importance of the development of a reciprocal and loving relationship with God. It was not until I engaged in the Exercises this year, however, that I understood what such a relationship with God entails. I learned that such a relationship invited me to do a few important things:

To show up: A loving and reciprocal relationship with God means that I have to show up for God as much as God shows up for me. The Exercises gave me the opportunity to witness firsthand how God shows up for me and produced in me a desire to show up in return.

To show up as myself: The Exercises taught me that God wants a relationship with ME. That required me to first understand who I am as a loved human being created by God for some definite purpose. Then, I needed to show up authentically and trust that God wants nothing more than to meet me as I am.

To show up as myself and trust that God will do the same: One of the unique graces I received from the Exercises was the ability to better understand that when I commit to the relationship, God commits right back. I saw firsthand God’s willingness to be in relationship with me but also learned that the relationship is nothing without reciprocity. I must trust in the boundless graces God is ready and willing to offer me when I’m ready and willing to accept them. One of the Apostolic Preferences of the Society of Jesus is “Showing the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises.” I can affirm that the Spiritual Exercises offered me a profound understanding of who God is and what God wants from me. They are truly a gift!

– Gretchen Crowder, Dallas Jesuit College Prep

Denver

As the westernmost outpost of the province, the apostolic works in Denver were especially excited to come together to celebrate the Ignatian Year. A planning group from Regis Jesuit High School and Arrupe Jesuit High School began meeting early in 2021 to figure out how to spend time together as an Ignatian Family. The metro area celebrated two citywide events, a liturgy at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in August and another, celebrated by Fr. Provincial Thomas Greene, at Regis University in November.

The Jesuits of Denver welcome Fr. Provincial Thomas Greene for an Ignatian Year Mass at Regis University.
The Jesuits of Denver welcome Fr. Provincial Thomas
Greene for an Ignatian Year Mass at Regis University.

The various works in the city also hosted their own events, including a special day of reflection for the Arrupe Jesuit staff, a talk on “Ignatian Imagination as a Tool for Racial Justice” at Regis University, and a talk by writer and podcaster Gloria Purvis at Regis Jesuit entitled “Exploring the Implications of Human Dignity.”

The Ignatian Year has allowed the people at various works in Denver to realize that we are connected by our spirituality and shared mission. One colleague commented at the Mass with our provincial that it was impressive to see how many people throughout the city care so deeply for the mission of the Society and the continued joy found in the Ignatian charism. We often get caught up in the individual work that we do. Coming together, praying together and sharing a meal together are strong reminders that we are not alone in the good work that we do.

– Fr. Marcus Fryer, SJ, who served as the Denver-area coordinator for the Ignatian Year

Grand Coteau, La.

At some point during this Ignatian Year, I began praying the Suscipe to begin my prayer time each morning. I believe that I have been graced this year by a little more letting go – letting go of not only material things, but more importantly, letting go of personal characteristics that I thought of as “just who I am.”

I believe that I am more able to look at all as a gift, even those personal traits that I felt attached to and could not let go of: judgment, being right. I
realize that even those that may be considered negative can be turned into positives to help build the Kingdom. As Thomas Merton wrote, “learn to live as a unified human person.”

– Easton Hebert, Retreat/Spiritual Director, Jesuit Spirituality Center

Kansas City, Mo.

In-person campus ministry programming returned to Rockhurst University during the Ignatian Year as we recovered from our own cannonball: the pandemic. The Holy Spirit did not disappoint, as graces, viewed through the lens of the Universal Apostolic Preferences, showered upon and through our students.

Showing the Way to God

Each year, students in our Kateri (intentional living) Community are invited to make the Spiritual Exercises through Kansas City’s Ignatian Spirituality Center. One student shared this about her experience:

“… I think before the Exercises, my faith was motivated and experienced largely by fear, but the Holy Spirit has graciously showed me my faith through a lens of love. This has made all the difference in every aspect of my faith!”

In addition, the campus ministry department hosted Bloom, a body-image retreat for women that leverages Ignatian Spirituality to encourage retreatants to view themselves as God’s beloved. Participants appreciated the way the retreat opened discussion about vulnerability and affirmation and boosted confidence.

Walking with the Excluded

Racial reconciliation might rightfully be triaged to the top of our nation’s long list of urgent needs. This year, aided by the support of a Social Grant from the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province, Rockhurst students journeyed to Alabama for our inaugural Civil Rights Solidarity Immersion Trip. Post-trip student evaluations revealed the following graces:

“As an agnostic person, I think there was a great balance of faith/prayer and reflection … our reflection leaders were amazing, and they created a safe, welcoming and inspiring place for conversations.”

“It was difficult for me to grapple with what my white ancestors did …”

100% of students reported that the trip pulled them out of their comfort zone.

Rockhurst University students visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., as part of a Civil Rights Immersion Trip.
Rockhurst University students visit the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., as part of a Civil Rights Immersion Trip.

Rockhurst’s bi-annual Lumberjack Service Retreat invites students into relationship with senior citizens whose geographically isolated living situations reflect the way in which our society pushes them to the margins. In a world in which robots are now being introduced to “care” for nursing home residents, our students instead bestowed tangible graces as they spent a day with our new friend, Randy Eilola. In addition to joining him for lunch and listening to his many stories, the students planted trees and cut, split, delivered and stacked a winter’s worth of firewood.

Caring for our Common Home

Planting trees can be an important aspect of caring for God’s creation, especially with respect to global climate change. Our students do that annually through student organizations and campus events. However, we likely can’t plant our way out of the looming crisis: each person in the U.S. would need to plant between 725 and 1,000 trees to offset their CO2 emissions (source: 8billiontrees.com). Realizing this, Rockhurst students voted to tax themselves each semester with a Sustainability Fee to fund environmental initiatives on campus. This sacrificial foresight enabled Rockhurst to replace gas-powered vehicles with electric equivalents. This swap will improve air quality in both the local community (reduction in smog) and global community (reduced carbon emissions).

– Bill Kriege, director of campus ministry at Rockhurst University

New Orleans

The most beautiful and rewarding grace I experienced during this Ignatian Year was connecting with so many other followers of St. Ignatius of Loyola, what Fr. General Arturo Sosa refers to as “companions in mission.”

In New Orleans, we have several official apostolates of the province, as well as ministries like the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, that share history and values with the Jesuits. Once we recognized and acknowledged the frequent overlapping of our respective communities, it was only fitting that we work together to foster individual spiritual development as well as a greater awareness of and appreciation for those who suffer from poverty, discrimination and other injustices. Working together on Ignatian Year activities deepened relationships and opened conversations among people serving in a variety of ministries about collaborating for the Greater Glory of God.

Dr. Shannen Dee Williams (center), associate professor of history, University of Dayton, spoke on “America’s Real Sister Act: Why the Stories of U.S. Black Catholic Sisters Matter ” in the Ignatius Chapel at Loyola University New Orleans. She greets a group of Sisters of the Holy Family, a religious congregation of primarily African-African women, founded in 1842 in New Orleans by Venerable Henriette DeLille, a free woman of color.
Dr. Shannen Dee Williams (center), associate professor of history, University of Dayton, spoke on “America’s Real Sister Act: Why the Stories of U.S. Black Catholic Sisters Matter ” in the Ignatius Chapel at Loyola University New Orleans. She greets a group of Sisters of the Holy Family, a religious congregation of primarily African-African women, founded in 1842 in New Orleans by Venerable Henriette DeLille, a free woman of color.

The theme “to see all things new in Christ” and the invitation to a continual conversion gave us an opportunity to step away from the historical norm of working within our organizational boundaries and encouraged us to reimagine the possibilities of how we might individually and collectively go about our work and ministries. It was an opportunity to embrace the Magis available when uniting so many like-minded and like-hearted people.

I am excited to see how our connected communities continue to interact with and support one another even after the Ignatian Year concludes.

– Lisa LaFleur Schillace, New Orleans director, Ignatian Volunteer Corps

San Juan, Puerto Rico

When the Ignatian Year began in May 2021, I was just completing my first year as a regent teaching at Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was not only my first time teaching high school students, but it was also a time when I was challenged to teach teenagers in a virtual setting. To complicate matters, my dad passed away during that time. It was not until my annual retreat that summer that I realized how fitting the theme for this Ignatian Year was — to see all things new in Christ. It was an invitation to allow the Lord to work on my conversion.

Orlando Portalatin, SJ, (center, in glasses) joins other Colegio San Ignacio faculty in celebrating a successful Kairos retreat during the pandemic.
Orlando Portalatin, SJ, (center, in glasses) joins other Colegio San Ignacio faculty in celebrating a successful Kairos retreat during the pandemic.

The virtual teaching world and the limitations imposed by the pandemic opened new ways of accompanying young students and those dealing with the pain of loss. I had to humble myself and adapt to a way of teaching I was not used to.

With Dad’s passing, God invited me to a growing vulnerability and solidarity with those who grieve and suffer. At first, I felt emotionally exhausted. As time passed, however, it became evident I was not in control, but God was.

As I surrendered these uncertainties in prayer, a breath of fresh air began to invigorate my mind and spirit. It was Christ himself uncovering my eyes to see all things new, reminding me that “for God all things are possible.”

– Orlando Portalatin, SJ, Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola

St. Louis

St. Francis Xavier College Church
St. Francis Xavier College Church

In February of this year, parishioners at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis, in collaboration with the province’s Office of Ignatian Spirituality, offered a pause along the Ignatian Year pilgrimage path.

With the hope that the virtual environment could, during the age of COVID, become a place of spiritual encounter, two groups within the parish organized a three-part series entitled Ignatian Spirituality and Antiracism: A Call to Conversion.

Graces flowed immediately, as leaders and members of Jesuit works across the province and beyond gathered to explore ways Ignatian Spirituality compels us to pursue justice and offers guidance and nourishment for the journey.

The speakers – Fr. Tom Clark, SJ, Danielle Harrison and Dr. Mary Wardell-Ghirarduzzi – lifted the hearts and minds of participants as they shared the ways in which Ignatian Spirituality ignites the work of antiracism.

Father Hung Pham, SJ, who thoughtfully moderated the series, ensured that – despite its significant informational exchange – the program retained its spiritual focus.

“The celebration of the Ignatian Year, and this experience in particular, provided opportunities to live more deeply our Ignatian values,” said Lisa Burks, who served on the planning committee and co-chairs the parish’s Antiracism Team. “I was grateful for this opportunity to share ideas on faith and justice. It has helped me to grow.”

Another of the parish planners, Christine Dragonette, director of social ministry at College Church, said, “One of the biggest graces for me has been the unexpected
collaboration and relationship-building the planning process brought, especially with (Fr.) Hung (Pham) and the Office of Ignatian Spirituality. It illustrated for me the vast network of relationships in the Jesuit and Catholic world. It was amazing to me that our events reached people across the globe and confirmed that there is a huge thirst for connection and formation in the realm of Ignatian Spirituality and antiracism.”

Ms. Dragonette continued, “The events also lent the opportunity to reflect on what antiracism conversion means at the individual, communal and institutional levels. While it may not always be a ‘cannonball moment,’ I felt an immense sense of gratitude to be reminded of the huge community of people of faith on this journey of conversion.”

“There were so many ideas offered in each of those presentations that I continue to ponder them months after the event,” said Winnie Sullivan, a parishioner who helped to plan the program and co-chairs the Antiracism Team with Ms. Burks. “A question that remains with me – like a little scallop shell memento – is one that Dr. Wardell-Ghirarduzzi, who spoke about systemic racism, posed: ‘How do we institutionalize love?’”

Finally, the spontaneous reflection at the close of each presentation reminded us that the Holy Spirit was at work and that the door to transformation was open.

–  St. Francis Xavier College Church Antiracism Team

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