Juan Pablo Ruiz, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Served as a deacon at Our Lady of Lourdes in Toronto.
- Collaborated closely with a small team at a Jesuit infirmary to provide emergency volunteer assistance during a COVID outbreak early in the pandemic.
- Visited the sick as a chaplain at a hospital in Los Angeles.
Will serve as assisting priest at Gesú Church in Miami.
Juan Ruiz, SJ, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, to a Cuban father and Dominican mother, but raised in Memphis, Tennessee. He is Hispanic by nature and American by nurture, which prepared him well for ministry as a Jesuit of the U.S. Central and Southern Province. Having both a Jesuit uncle and a long-running desire to serve others, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, where the local charm drew him in, and God’s grace kept him. As a novice, Juan accompanied migrants, youth and the dying, both in nearby Sunset, Louisiana, and as far as Camden, New Jersey. He was sent to study philosophy in Chicago, where he completed a Master of Arts in social philosophy and taught seventh and eighth grade religion at St. Procopius Elementary School. The philosophers revealed a limitless universe of possible worlds, while his students kept him grounded in the present reality. Armed with solid philosophical training, spiritual formation and some theology, Juan was missioned to teach Spanish at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School in Houston, where he spent most of his time slicing away at humble pie. Juan completed a Master of Divinity at Regis College in Toronto, while also serving as a deacon at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. After ordination, he will serve as assisting priest at Gesú Church in Miami, Florida.
Bachelor’s degree, business administration, Saint Louis University; Master’s degree, social philosophy, Loyola University Chicago; Master of Divinity, Regis College, University of Toronto
What are three words a family member or fellow Jesuit would use to describe you? Do you agree with his or her selections?
One relative used the words “humble, compassionate and stressed” to describe me, all of which have truth within them! It seems self-defeating to admit that I consider myself humble, but I believe that to mean I am no better nor worse than anyone else. On my best days, I remember that. It is precisely the reality that we are all people doing our best before the great challenges life throws our way that gives me the desire to be a merciful priest above and beyond anything else. The word compassionate seems to capture a sense of mercifulness, so I am quite grateful to hear that descriptor. I hope it remains true…
In Spanish, the word for stress sounds like “es” plus the word for three, “estres” (es-three). Sometimes my family jokes about going beyond “estres” to “es-cuatro” (four) or even “es-cinco” (five), given the situation. I often make use of the higher gears and can find it difficult to downshift, but that’s all part of the fun when there are good friends to raise my self-awareness.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
My favorite saint, as I have come to know him, is Paul the Apostle. He was zealous, creative and unabashed in his efforts to express the transformation he had experienced after his encounter with Christ. Though I would not consider myself as equal to Paul when it comes to audacity and determination, I find both traits to be admirable, especially insofar as he put himself completely at the service of God who used them for the good of others. In some moments, Paul has deeply human expressions of frustration, like when he says that Alexander the coppersmith will get what he deserves for some past personal harm (2 Tim 4:14). In other moments, he transcends frustrations by the grace of God, such as when he speaks of how weak he is. I do not know that I have the freedom for Paul’s reckless abandon, in word and in deed, but he is an admirable and inspirational model toward which I continue to strive.
What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
To put it simply, the quality of care. I joined the Society to be at the service of God and others; however, the Society does everything possible to look after my own care. It is difficult for me to imagine a more loving organization in how much attention and energy is put into looking after its members. It would be impossible for me to imagine myself enduring in religious life or doing so with such joy were it not for the tremendous support that I receive from the Society.
How has your spirituality changed since entering the Society?
My spirituality has shifted considerably since I entered the Society of Jesus. I entered thinking I had many wonderful gifts to share with others and that God had given me a superabundance of love with which to share them. I believe both of those remain true to this day, but the great shift in my spirituality is not that I have strengths to share, but weaknesses as well. Except that the weaknesses are not for others, but for God. My flaws, shortcomings and faults may be burdens for others, but they are gifts to God when given over in surrender. The more that I have handed these over to him, the less bitterness, frustration, resentment or anxiety I have felt in connection with them. Instead, I find he pays me back with the strengths that I share with others. In this sense, I echo deeply what Paul heard from the Lord in the process of his own conversion: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). The great shift in my spirituality is that all I must do is give my weakness to God, and he will ensure that everything else needed in my life will come as I continue to cooperate with him.