Jonathon Polce, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Worked at Cristo Rey Jesuit in Houston during the novitiate and got to learn from Fr. TJ Martinez, SJ, and the incredible faculty and staff at the school.
- Led two pilgrimages for students at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston to Spain to walk in the footsteps of St. Ignatius.
- Spent 10 weeks in a full immersion French studies program in Quebec, Canada, despite his initial reluctance — and gained a better appreciation for religious obedience as a resul!
Will serve at Jesuit High School of New Orleans.
Jonathon Polce, SJ, was born and raised in Connecticut, the fourth child in a family of five brothers and sisters. As a child, he learned his faith from his mother, manners from his sisters, his love of sports from his brothers, and his love of cooking and literature from his father. He got his love of mystery shows and novels, as well as snacks, from his grandfather who lived with him for 20 years after his grandmother passed away. In 2005, he attended the University of Dallas where — after graduation in 2009 — he got a job for their Rome program in Italy. It was this job that introduced him to the first Jesuit he ever met: Fr. David Brown, SJ It was through Fr. Brown, while working in Rome, that Jonathon first met the Jesuits, learned of the life of St. Ignatius and Ignatian spirituality, and discerned a call to the priesthood as a Jesuit. After two years of discernment, Jonathon returned to the U.S. to enter the Jesuit novitiate for the Central and Southern Province in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, in 2011.
After taking vows in 2013 with eight other vow classmates, Jonathon was sent to Toronto, Canada, for his first studies program at Regis College. While in Canada, Jonathon studied philosophy and theology before being sent back to the U.S. for regency at Strake Jesuit College Prep in Houston in 2016. He taught theology, coached freshmen baseball, worked in campus ministry and led students on pilgrimages in the footsteps of St. Ignatius. From Houston, Jonathon was sent to Boston College for theology studies, where he pursued a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) in Scripture while also serving as a deacon at a local parish in Brookline in his final year of studies. Jonathon is excited for his ordination and for his future ministry as a Jesuit priest, which is something he has been longing for since those earliest days in Rome when his paths crossed with the Jesuits.
Bachelor’s degree, history, University of Dallas; Master’s degree, philosophy, Institute for Christian Studies, Canada; Master of Theological Studies, Regis College, University of Toronto; Licentiate in Sacred Theology, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
One of my favorite saints is St. Thomas More. I was first introduced to the writings of this saint through the class of Dr. Gerard Wegemer at the University of Dallas. Beyond the common tropes about More being the patron of lawyers and a model for statesmanship (all true) he remains for me a model of the Christian life regardless of one’s vocation. More was also a passionate promoter of liberal arts education as a pathway to authentic freedom. I loved More’s humor and joy; his talent for images and storytelling in his writing; his passion for liberal arts education, especially for himself and his daughters; and his conviction and clear thinking in the face of immense social pressure to conform to popular opinion that he knew to be wrong.
One of his more beautiful writings that I come back to every year is called the “Sadness of Christ,” which is his meditation on the Passion of Christ. More wrote it while imprisoned and awaiting his fate at the hands of the king. More’s meditation on Scripture and the Passion of Christ is very personal, the fruit of his intimate search for courage and wisdom in the life of Christ considering his own suffering. This work on Scripture planted a seed in me that came to fruition in my own Scripture studies in my Jesuit formation, and More’s model in finding in the person of Christ wisdom and courage to face his own struggles in life remains for me a constant model in my daily life.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
While studying philosophy in Canada, I longed to have a less book-intensive hobby to help relax my mind from my studies. Since I lived close to a cooking school and enjoyed cooking — but was very untrained — I enrolled in their evening classes. I was not trying to become a professional chef, but rather, to begin to hone a craft I had long enjoyed but knew little about. After almost cutting my finger on day one and messing up the soup we were making (my professor even used me to demonstrate what one should not do), I settled down to months and months of fun and learning. After class, I would return each week with a full dinner around 9 p.m. to my community, and any late-night study owls who were up would join me in the kitchen for a snack before returning to their work. This weekly evening snack group was full of fun and laughter and good bonding. This has been the most important thing for me about cooking: Good food brings people together. It’s a community enriching skill, and it has served me well in the communities I’ve lived in, as well as opened doors for future ministry opportunities and desires.
Secondly, cooking has taught me about my faith and spirituality. Cooks bring recipes to life. Recipes don’t feed people, food does. Anyone can cook with a recipe. A good cook uses a recipe but tinkers with it based on taste. The best cooks do not need recipes because the knowledge is within them. So too in the spiritual life, spiritual recipes for holiness need to be brought to life to feed us and others. Anyone can pray and follow tips for living virtue. The more we practice virtues and our prayer life in dialogue with those who have left us recipes to read, the more we will add our own wisdom to each “spiritual recipe” as we test what produces the best fruit. Finally, the saints are the master chefs in our spiritual school, leaving behind their own recipes for following Christ in all walks of life, inviting us to bring these Christian ways of living to life and to add to them as we are led by the Lord to discover what spiritually nourishes and feeds us.
What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
In my first year as a Jesuit, this question was asked of a priest I lived with at the time. Without hesitating he said, “The people I’ve gotten to live with, know and work with. Your vocation as a Jesuit will put you in contact with some of the finest people you’ll ever meet.” I have nothing to add to his answer. This has been my favorite part of being a Jesuit: working and living alongside the finest people I could ever hope to know. The finest in the sense of hearts on fire for the Lord who work with diligence, creativity and joy to serve Christ’s mission. Without exception, I’ve been inspired, enriched and humbled in every place I’ve been as a Jesuit, discovering the beauty of such wonderful people worldwide in places I would have never thought to go myself, but now I can’t imagine not having been.
Where has your Jesuit vocation taken you that you never thought you would go?
Every single place I’ve been is a place I couldn’t imagine being prior to my life as a Jesuit. If I had to pick just one that stands out, it would be my novice pilgrimage experience. Here, I was sent out to cities unknown for almost three weeks, with almost no money ($5), no communication devices or credit cards, and I had to beg my way from city to city, asking for money for food and transportation, and begging for places to stay. I did not know this was part of being trained as a Jesuit prior to entrance, and I found myself asking many times during those three weeks: “Why am I doing this? This is crazy!?” Yet, each morning when I arose, I would meet someone or experience something that was encouraging, inviting me to keep going one more day on this journey. I witnessed so much kindness on the road, toward me and toward others, small gestures between strangers that strengthened both for their own paths. I had no real physical destination for these three weeks, but my spiritual destination was to cultivate gratitude, joy and humility in the face of the unknown, the uncertain and the unpleasant. Being completely in the hands of others was humbling, uncomfortable and sometimes harsh, but often it was enriching, and it was an experience of utter trust and reliance on God through the goodness of people he placed in my path.
Jesuit spirituality is anchored in a disposition of mobility. We are taught as novices that as Jesuits “our home is the road.” This pilgrimage experience was an unexpected way for me to learn this truth and to learn to make the road my home. I’ve never done anything like the novice pilgrimage again, but I have been on the road regularly in my formation, and I will continue to be called out again onto new roads as a priest in my future ministries. Like in my pilgrimage, I have savored much goodness and shared goodness as well; experienced some harshness; and made detours and mistakes on the way. But regardless of the road, I have always tasted God’s grace and seen God’s hand guiding me onward. Like my first experience of pilgrimage, I do not have any physical destination of a final city to get to in my work and mission, but my spiritual destination remains clear: My eternal home in heaven is at the end of the road the Lord has me walking.