Celebrating Jesuit Brothers
Brent Stevenson Gordon, SJ
Highlights from Jesuit Life:
- The gift of the 30-day Spiritual Exercises. It was, in many ways, an intense experience and it continues to provide rich insights and topics of conversation with the Lord (as well as the Blessed Mother and some of the saints).
Being sent down to Belize as a novice and teaching philosophy at St. John’s Junior College in Belize City.
- The countless mornings (and early afternoons) of spending time with fellow Jesuits over a cup of coffee in the dining room. Such moments remind me that we are companions of each other as well as of Christ.
Current Ministry: Currently at Bellarmine House of Studies in St. Louis studying history.
Br. Brent Gordon, SJ, was born in Fayetteville, North Carolina, but grew up in Orlando, Florida. His parents were avid readers, and they instilled in him both a love of books and of education. In the eighth grade he stumbled upon the work of the mythologist Joseph Campbell for a class project, and this inspired a passion for stories and how they operate within religious traditions. By the time he entered graduate school at Florida State University, this passion took on a greater personal urgency, and Brent began to wonder what it was that he believed. This culminated in him being baptized and received into the Catholic Church in November 2012. Though his initial thought was to continue developing a career as an academic (though, now, a Catholic one), Brent found himself discerning a different calling a year later. Feeling drawn to a life of more intentional service to the church, Brent entered the seminary to be a priest for the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee. As he grew closer to the Lord and more developed in his prayer life, it became clear that God was calling him still elsewhere. After three years as a seminarian, Brent left in order to discern religious life as a Jesuit. During the next year, he taught sixth-eighth grade religion and writing and began speaking to a Jesuit vocation director. The following year he was accepted to enter the Jesuits at the novitiate in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. As he began to explore what closeness to the Lord and accompanying others would mean as a Jesuit, Brent realized he was being invited to become a Brother rather than a priest. He professed vows as a Jesuit Brother in August 2020. It remains an invitation from the Lord for which he is extremely grateful.
Bachelor’s degree in classics and religion from Florida State University; Master’s degree in history of religion from Florida State University; Bachelor of Philosophy from St. John Vianney College Seminary
What drew you to become a Jesuit? What drew you to become a Brother?
Even as a diocesan seminarian, I had an interest in and attraction to the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as well as to the community life and shared spirituality of the religious orders. On top of this, I knew that I really enjoyed teaching — and that as a diocesan priest, I would be needed in parishes, not schools. Still, I had decided that God wanted me to sacrifice those desires in order to serve him and the church. During a silent, 8-day retreat, it struck me all at once that God had not asked me to sacrifice any of those things (I simply thought he did without consulting God about it at all). Turning (finally!) to the Lord and praying over where to look next, I found the Jesuits to be the best fit, not just for my personality and interests, but as a community in which I was supported to keep talking with — and listening to — God.
When I first applied to the Society, I had no thought of being a Brother. I had spent three years studying to be a priest and I assumed that I would continue building off of that. Yet the idea of being a Brother stayed with me, even though I did not know why. I spent some time trying to nail down what it meant to be a Jesuit Brother (and still think about it often). For me, a big part of this vocation is helping to form and maintain spaces where others, and especially fellow Jesuits, can come to better know and more closely follow the Lord. At the core, who draws me to be a Jesuit Brother is Jesus Christ. This is the life to which he invites me: why this is so and what it means remain mysteries to be lived.
Describe one moment in your ministry life that has impacted you.
One of my first assignments as a novice was to support Trinity Catholic High School in north St. Louis. While I was not sure what I would be doing specifically, I knew the school had a majority Black population, many of whom were from nearby Ferguson, and so imagined my work would somehow be connected to racial reconciliation. What was most needed when I arrived, however, was a maintenance man and a plumber. Neither of these were skills in which I had any background, but after shadowing a plumber — and watching many YouTube videos — I became fairly competent in fixing toilets. Not two weeks in, there was an emergency need for someone to teach several sections of American history and current events (subjects for which I was only marginally more qualified than plumbing). My week became alternating days of teaching and plumbing — a fact much enjoyed by the students. This experience taught me that service means listening to needs and responding as best as one can. Many times there are doubtless going to be people who are more experienced or qualified for any given job that I may be given; but I am to do what I can until those people arrive.
What is your favorite book, movie, music or TV show you’ve encountered since entering the Society and why do you love it?
The Great British Baking Show. I am a huge fan of most baked goods (especially breads), and I also appreciate that there is less drama than there is in other competition-based shows. More than anything, though, what I like about it is that, on any given Thursday evening (when we watch), there are around 10 Jesuits gathered around the TV to watch the show — maybe two or three of whom have any interest in actually baking themselves.
What’s one interesting fact about yourself not everyone would know?
For a few years in high school and in college I was an amateur balloon artist. I would occasionally volunteer at school events or birthday parties and could make the standards: dogs, giraffes, rabbits (which, to be fair, are dogs with slightly different proportions), hats, swords, flowers. Not bicycles though (so many people would ask for balloon bicycles).
Describe the life of a Jesuit Brother. One catch: You must use only six words.
He must increase, I must decrease.