Lucas S. Sharma, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Taught sociology at Seattle University and worked as a research fellow at SU’s Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture.
- Tutored elementary kids at Dolores Mission School in Los Angeles.
- Lived with and learned from retired Jesuits at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center during the heart of the pandemic.
Will work at St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco this summer and then move to San Diego to begin a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of California San Diego.
Lucas S. Sharma, SJ, was born in Kathmandu, Nepal, and was adopted when he was six months old. He grew up in Olympia, Washington, and is the oldest of four children. While he did not know it at the time, the first Jesuit Lucas met was Fr. Bill Hausmann, SJ, who worked for a year at his parish in Olympia. (He died the year Lucas took vows and his vow cross was Fr. Bill’s). Lucas went to Gonzaga University where he majored in sociology and economics. Lucas worked as a Jesuit Volunteer at Bread for the City in Washington, D.C.; as legal clinic coordinator representing clients in Social Security court; and did affordable housing advocacy. He then went to Loyola University Chicago for a Ph.D. in sociology. Having met such wonderful scholastics doing philosophy studies there, Lucas finished his master’s degree and entered the Society of Jesus in 2012.
During novitiate, Lucas worked as a chaplain at Eastlake Juvenile Hall and tutored children at Dolores Mission School, both in Los Angeles. He received a kidney transplant while living in Seattle during his second novitiate year from a Gonzaga University classmate. Lucas went to philosophy studies at Fordham University and worked as chaplain at a low-income dialysis unit in the Bronx. For regency, Lucas taught sociology at Seattle University and was a research fellow at SU’s Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture which worked to infuse the Catholic intellectual tradition across disciplines in the university. Finishing regency, Lucas attended the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. Due to his kidney transplant and uncertainly with the coronavirus, Lucas spent one year of theology studies sheltering in place with the retired men at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, something he holds as a special experience in his formation. He also worked as an intern and eventually as a deacon at St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco. Lucas has also served on the Jesuits West Equity and Inclusion Committee since 2017, the board of directors of JVC Northwest since 2018 and the board of trustees of Seattle University since 2019. Upon ordination, Lucas will work for St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco for the summer and move to San Diego in the fall to pursue a PhD in sociology at the University of California San Diego.
Bachelor’s degree, sociology and economics, Gonzaga University; Master’s degree, sociology, Loyola University Chicago; Master’s degree, philosophy, Fordham University; Master of Divinity, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
St. Mary Magdalene: Though depicted in the tradition as a prostitute, biblical scholars widely dismiss this interpretation. Instead, as a woman, she is the first to see the risen Jesus and announce he has been raised. She is an example of how God chooses to work through women in ways that surprise and disrupt our expectations.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
I have always loved cooking but have grown tremendously as a cook during my formation. I love the creativity that comes with thoughtfully preparing a menu and providing it for fellow Jesuits and other friends. Cooking is a way to learn about new cultures and traditions while also giving to others and creating an experience of community. The process is one that requires intellect but not the same intellect needed in the classroom.
Cooking helped me greatly during the pandemic. Living at our retirement center, Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, I would spend Saturday making a five-course meal plated in the guest suite for three retired Jesuits and me. Rotating the group and the menus, I loved being able to simulate “going out to a restaurant” as we sheltered in place.
What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you?
As a second-year novice, I learned that my kidneys were operating at less than 10% capacity, and I needed a kidney transplant and dialysis in the interim. I moved into the Arrupe Jesuit Community in Seattle and did dialysis next door until a close friend of mine from college was deemed a match, and she donated her kidney. Her gift was the most generous gift I have ever received — a chance at living again, and it is something I treasure with all of who I am. I am also profoundly grateful to the Arrupe Jesuit Community who welcomed me and my family in and who have been a home to me ever since. I have become the Jesuit I am today in such a large part because of my friend Megan and the Arrupe community.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
Internalizing God’s radical tender compassionate love.
How has your spirituality changed since entering the Society?
Ignatian spirituality has opened my heart and mind to see how profoundly and radically God looks into each of our hearts and sees that we are created good, in God’s image and likeness, and desires that we share this with the world. Experiencing God’s tender compassion and mercy, I feel compelled as a Jesuit to share that with others, in order to help others feel that same way so that one day we will be one family, free of exclusion and marginalization. It is like the Samaritan Woman at the well who encounters Jesus and feels so loved that she cannot help but go back and tell the community that previously excluded her about how loving God is. Ignatian spirituality has helped me grow to see our mission and ministry as one of total and radical inclusion of all who feel marginalized and excluded.
What brings you joy?
A meaningful conversation with a good friend over dinner, whether made together or out at a restaurant.
Who is one important mentor who has accompanied you on your journey? What made them a good mentor?
Jodi O’Brien, Ph.D., is a professor of sociology of religion, sex and gender and special assistant to the provost for faculty at Seattle University. She was my first contact with the Anthropology, Sociology, and Social Work Department, which became my placement for regency. Jodi is also the recipient of a $2.3 million National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Grant to study what prevents women and minorities from advancing to full professor at Seattle University. Her team has already helped SU find ways to promote women and minorities as well as reveal the countless ways these faculty work to help our students thrive and succeed.
As my teaching mentor, Jodi helped me to think through my courses and allowed me to TA a course with her to observe her masterful teaching style. She pushed me to be a deeper thinker and professor, and her perspective influences how I work with the Province Equity and Inclusion Committee and as a board member at Seattle University and JVC Northwest. She also encouraged and continues to encourage me to think about my Jesuit vocation as one of “holding tensions” like the kingdom of God: We have a vision of the radical inclusion we desire and yet we fall short as we work to build it each day. Jodi models holding the tensions that come with conflicting identities for me in her professional and personal life.
What does Jesuit community mean to you? What’s one example of this lived out?
What I love about Jesuit community is the ability to get to know all sorts of people I may not have ever met or become friends with. What unfolds as a consequence is the opportunity for deep, meaningful relationships with such a diversity of people with complex and interesting backgrounds. I think about the ways in which Jesuits I have lived with have pushed me to be a better person, have been there for simple laughs and adventures, and have comforted me during deep difficulties. Jesuit community is also intergenerational: To be blessed to be friends with men as old as 87 and as young as 28 in intentionally and intimate ways is one of the greatest gifts I have been given in life, and something I do not take for granted.