Brad Mills, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Took a migration pilgrimage in 2015, traveling by land from Guatemala to California to learn from the experiences of migrants traveling northward.
- Collaborated at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Diego, teaching catechesis, helping people apply for citizenship and accompanying volunteer groups to Tijuana.
- While in Bogotá, made weekly visits to a neighborhood on the outskirts of the city to assist with various pastoral activities with a community organization, Codo a Codo.
Will serve as an associate pastor at Most Holy Trinity Church in San Jose, California.
Brad Mills, SJ, was born and raised in the Santa Clara Valley in California by his parents, Andy and Marilou Mills, alongside his sister, Andrea. He went to St. Simon Elementary School in Los Altos and later to Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. His undergraduate studies were at Santa Clara University, where he received degrees in psychology and environmental science. After college, he joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps for two and a half years, first in the rural village of Tiraque, Bolivia, and then in the coastal city of Tacna, Peru, working as a teacher and school counselor. It was during these years accompanying the people of Latin America that his desire to become a Jesuit priest became clear. After spending a year teaching at Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Grace Nativity Schools in San Jose, Brad entered the novitiate in August of 2010. As a novice, he collaborated at many places including a L’Arche community in Seattle and Jesuit High School in Sacramento. At Saint Louis University he completed his philosophy studies and received a master’s degree in social work. In 2015, he participated in a pilgrimage from Guatemala to California along the route taken by migrants traveling northward, where he and several Jesuits learned from the experiences of these migrants. For regency, Brad worked at Catholic Charities and Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Diego, where his duties included individual and group psychotherapy, catechesis, helping people apply for U.S. citizenship, visiting an immigration detention center for woman and visiting a home for children with HIV/AIDS in Tijuana. For theology studies he returned to Latin America, spending a semester at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and two years at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia. After being ordained a deacon in November 2020 in Bogotá, he moved to Cartagena, Colombia, to work as a deacon in several small villages near the city with the Misión San Pedro Claver. After ordination, Brad will serve as an associate pastor at Most Holy Trinity Church in San Jose, California.
Bachelor’s degrees, psychology and environmental science, Santa Clara University; Master of Social Work, Saint Louis University; Bachelor of Sacred Theology (equivalent), Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
My favorite saint is Alberto Hurtado, a Chilean Jesuit who dedicated his life to working with the poor and with young people. I admire the dedication and energy with which people describe his work. I hope, in my life, to imitate the total gift of self with which he accompanied young people, seeking to inspire in them a sense of meaning and purpose to their lives, and the tireless energy he dedicated to working with the people most discarded by society.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
One hobby I have cultivated as a Jesuit is running. Mostly, I run for recreation; however, I have also run four marathons and a half marathon. Running is a simple activity I can do anywhere in the world, as long as I have space and a pair of running shoes to lace up. It consistently helps me feel spiritually and physically balanced. Like prayer, it is something I sometimes feel like I lack the motivation or energy to do, but which I seek to always do anyway: I never regret doing so, and it adds a layer of necessary meaning and vitality to my days. Some of the most memorable moments of many weeks for me are braving the cold of the early morning hours to jog, or watching the sun set during an evening run. Running has also been a way in which many friendships in my life have been strengthened and shaped: with Marcos, Greg, Jack, Ben and countless others. The simplicity and regularity of meeting with people to jog, combined with the conversation between huffs and puffs, is a way in which I find the consistency and trust necessary to forge meaningful friendships. When I have run marathons, the long months of finding the time to train, combined with the emotion and excitement of the race day, have challenged me, invigorated me and boosted me with enthusiasm.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only 10 words or less.
I imperfectly strived to love others constantly.
How has your spirituality changed since entering the Society?
Since entering the Society of Jesus my spirituality has become more authentic, less rigid and simpler. It has become more authentic in the sense that I bring more of who I am to my prayer: my worries, my concerns, my insecurities, my passions, my deepest desires. I have grown more able to bring all of who I am to my prayer, even if on some days all that I can muster is a dry, heavily distracted attempt to listen to God. I trust that God accepts all my attempts at prayer for what it is, just as God accepts all of who I am. My prayer has become less rigid because, rather than praying how I think I ought to pray, I have grown more able to pray in the way God wants me to pray. Finally, my prayer has become more simple. On many days, my prayer is a simple attention to my breath, my body and the world around me, along with a few words that express my desires, gratitude and hopes.
Imagine you could travel back in time and meet yourself the first day you entered the Society of Jesus. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to yourself?
If I could talk to myself on the day I entered the novitiate, I would tell myself to trust in the value of working with individuals in simple ways. The Jesuits are full of members currently, and in the past, who are profoundly charismatic and have created well-known movements and works that have positively affected the lives of thousands of people. Many of these Jesuits are deeply admired, frequently quoted and celebrated. These “giants” of spirituality, pastoral work and academic work are inspiring, yet they can be difficult models if I believe that I need to imitate them. The truth is, few Jesuits are called to be great founders of works, and few become celebrated public figures. Rather, during my time as a Jesuit in the last 10 years, the Jesuits who have become my mentors and models are those men who are known above all by the relatively limited group of individuals with which they have worked in simple ways: as pastors, spiritual directors or friends, often with a sense of humor and unassuming gentleness. I have come to see this as my call: doing small works of love for individuals, on a day-to-day basis. Focusing my life on this mission, rather than distracting myself by the “great works” of the most well-known Jesuits, I am more able to see clearly how God calls me to love others in the here and now: in hidden, simple, everyday ways that build community and fraternity.