By Therese Fink Meyerhoff
Tucker Redding, SJ, is a storyteller. His formation experience – like all Jesuits’ – has been tailored to his skills and interests, in addition to the needs of the province. It includes a master’s degree in communications and a regency that saw him splitting time between a classroom and the office of advancement at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, as well as a year at America Media in New York City. He is a longtime contributor to the Jesuit Post, an online blog written by Jesuits in formation, and has special expertise in video-storytelling.
“My interest in communications comes from being interested in people,” he says. “So much of the tensions in our Church and our society stem from missing the other person – not hearing their story. If we consider Jesuits as agents of reconciliation, our role can be to help people interact with one another and help them get to know each other’s stories. It’s impossible to hate someone when you’ve heard their story. That’s the value in storytelling.”
Redding’s affinity for stories may play a part in his love for Ignatian Contemplation – prayer using the imagination. “This form of prayer helps the stories from Scripture come to life so that we can connect with them more personally and grow closer to Jesus,” Redding says.
Redding grew up on a ranch outside San Antonio. A childhood spent exploring the outdoors led him to Texas A&M to study agriculture and environmental science. Instead, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science.
“I think my fascination was in human behavior,” he says. “As I grow in my faith, I look at how I can use my intuition about human behavior. I always wanted to work with people, but the motivation and the way of doing that has changed. The sense of wanting to be with people and help people is now motivated by faith.”
In college, Redding began to explore and grow in his faith, recognizing he wanted to work in ministry. As a senior, he was part of a group of students helping an elderly Franciscan Friar, who served at St. Mary’s Catholic Center, move to Cincinnati, staying at schools and churches along the way. The first stop was Jesuit High in New Orleans, where they had dinner with the Jesuits and heard from a vocation promoter.
“I was a little annoyed at first, because I wasn’t expecting to go to a vocations talk. I typically avoided them,” Redding admits now. “But I found myself really engrossed by it.”
The speaker was Fr. Randy Gibbens, SJ, then a Jesuit in formation.
“Randy’s vocation, community life, the variety of ministries Jesuits do … all of that really spoke to me,” Redding says. “There was a spark that started with that simple talk that’s never gone away.”
Following graduation, Redding became a youth minister in Houston. Four years passed before he finally attended a discernment retreat with the Jesuits.
“The retreat helped me sift through my questions, my doubts,” he says. “It brought me to a place where I felt ready to apply.” He entered the Society of Jesus in August 2011.
Redding is now in his final year of theology studies and was ordained a deacon on Sept. 24. He is excited by the opportunities that lie ahead. “This coming year, I’ll get to do so many new things,” he said, priestly ordination not least among them. “It’s really renewing.”