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By Therese Fink Meyerhoff

Mr. Peter Bell, SJ

At 27, Peter Bell, SJ, is young to have nearly nine years of Jesuit life under his belt. His journey began in high school when he took seriously the three questions St. Ignatius asks in the Spiritual Exercises: What have I done for Christ? What am I doing for Christ? What ought I do for Christ?

Father Kevin Dyer, SJ, posed those questions at Bell’s sophomore retreat at Regis Jesuit High School in Denver.

“Answering the first two was pretty easy,” Bell says. But the third question stumped him, because he realized he was being called to change, but didn’t know how. During adoration, he prayed over how he could best serve God. “‘How am I going to serve you, Lord? What should I do? Give me the answer.’ I just kept pestering,” Bell recalls. “Then I felt the Spirit come over me, and this voice came in my head and said, ‘Be a priest.’ That was crazy.”

Bell now recognizes this call as a major grace. When it was repeated during his junior and senior retreats, Bell realized he had to explore it. He entered the Society of Jesus in August 2015, shortly after his 19th birthday. He recently completed his regency – three years of apostolic ministry – at Jesuit High School of Tampa, where he taught algebra, worked in campus ministry, and coached lacrosse and basketball. In August, he will begin theology studies at the Clough School of Theology and Ministry at Boston College.

Life as a Jesuit is not always easy, Bell acknowledges, but he has observed that the challenging days coincide with periods when his prayer life is not going well. At those times, he speaks to his spiritual director and tries new prayer practices or new devotions. He says his devotional life has grown during his years at Jesuit High.

“Everything clicks better when I am praying well, when I am striving after virtue and striving after being a good religious, even striving after being a saint – just trying to get there, right? So, sometimes prayer is hard, but you just have to keep showing up,” he says.

Peter Bell, SJ, (center) accompanies Tampa Jesuit High School students at a province discernment retreat hosted by the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. Photo courtesy of Jesuit High School of Tampa.

He hopes his own desire for a relationship with God is recognized by some of the young men at Tampa Jesuit. “I love coaching, being able to show the students a different side of myself, and showing them that, yes, I’m a Jesuit. I want to be a priest. I also love sports,” he said. “I would say a challenge apostolically is to get these young men to think about their spiritual life. That’s why I love coaching, because you get to instill some virtues and some good habits and can tie it to the faith in an area of their lives that they care about.”

Bell says that his job is to open space for the Lord to work. “How cool is it that my job is about creating a space for people to encounter God? And God shows up!” he says. “What else could I want?”

As he approaches his theology studies, Bell is excited at the prospect of learning more about Church history, Church documents and especially liturgy. “I am looking forward to growing more in prayer and devotion, and the intellectual life of the Church as I prepare for priesthood,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to create a space where people can encounter the Lord.  That’s what I’ll always try to do.”

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This story appeared in the Summer 2024 issue of Jesuits magazine.