Celebrating Jesuit Brothers
Mark J. Mackey, SJ
Highlights from Jesuit life:
- Helping lead a group of Loyola University Chicago environmental science students on a field-based tropical ecology trip to the Amazon Rainforest of Peru.
- The three annual week-long backpacking trips to the Appalachians I have had the good fortune to experience with some Jesuit friends.
- Getting to accompany Brebeuf Jesuit Prep students and adult leaders on their transformative Kairos retreats.
Current Ministry: Teaching environmental science at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Environmental Sustainability and working on province ecological Initiatives
Br. Mark Mackey, SJ, is from Cincinnati, Ohio, where both sides of his rather extensive and close family still call home. He grew up with his older brother, David, and twin sister, Tracy, raised by his parents, Bob and Terri. His family was (and still is) very outdoor and nature oriented, and that passion was stoked early and never left. He went to St. Xavier High School, a family legacy, where he first met the Jesuits. He then went on to study zoology and environmental science at Miami University in Ohio, where he was able to learn about and later publish ecology research. That segued him smoothly into graduate studies at the University of Missouri where he investigated the environmental impact of golf courses on ecosystems — and how to manage them to better bolster biodiversity. Mark entered the Jesuits in 2015, the year “Laudato si’” was published, and has been continuing to explore the intersection of faith and a call to environmental stewardship. In the novitiate, Mark taught English to Somali refugees, served as a jail chaplain and spent a summer at Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Arizona. Mark worked at Arrupe College for three years while studying at Loyola University Chicago, where he helped teach and tutor environmental science. Mark has spent two summers abroad in the Kohima Region of India, in the State of Meghalaya, where he worked at Loyola College of Williamnagar, which works with and serves the Garo tribe. After teaching for an eventful pandemic year at Brebeuf Jesuit Prep in Indianapolis, Mark is now beginning two years of teaching environmental science at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Environmental Sustainability, where he will also be working on projects furthering the Jesuits’ commitment to caring for our common home.
Academic Degrees: Bachelor’s degree in zoology and environmental science from Miami University in Ohio; Master’s degree in biological sciences from University of Missouri; Master’s degree in Christian spirituality from Loyola University Chicago
What drew you to become a Jesuit? What drew you to become a brother?
I was first drawn to a deepening of my own faith and a re-prioritizing of my relationship with God. My call to the Jesuits came as a response to a deepening desire to honor that faith and to live a vocation that brought spiritual depth to others. I’d say the Jesuit’s commitment to transformation through education, the invitation to find God in all things, and the balance of both contemplation and action, all drew me in. It took further discernment to recognize that my call was to consecrated life but did not include a call to sacramental ministry. Also, when I looked at my life and saw how I already related to people in my previous 28 years of living, I saw what felt much more like what I had grown to know the general vocation of a brother to be.
Describe one moment in your ministry life that has impacted you.
Recently, my Jesuit community at Loyola University Chicago hosted a group of student resident life directors. I shared a table at dinner with three of these upbeat young adults. We had a great evening of getting to know each other through laughter, stories and just generally enjoying each other’s company. Toward the end, our conversation became a little more serious, and one person in the group shared how they grew up Catholic and went to a Catholic high school. They had bad past experiences with the church, mostly related to their queer identity, and said they were actually quite nervous leading up to the evening at the Jesuit residence. They said the evening had brought some healing. Reflecting on this later, I was humbled by the fact that this had not come from preaching, Scripture studies, the sacraments or even direct prayer. It came from a simple invitation, and it came from sharing a meal and common humanity. I realized later that not only does this capture how I want to relate to people as a Jesuit brother; it also captures how Jesus himself lived and related to others.
What is your favorite book, movie, music, or TV show you’ve encountered since entering the Society and why do you love it?
Adele. She had some big hits while I was in the novitiate, so her music will always be tied to memories of dancing and singing in the kitchen while doing dishes and long road trips in mini vans. Hello. It’s me…
Who is a spiritual hero of yours? Why?
Richard Rohr. He is still living, which I can relate to … and his spiritual writing has had a huge influence in developing and inspiring my own faith. I appreciate how he can make complicated and sometimes overly academic ideas both understandable and practical to our own lives. I have great respect for the Franciscans, and I think he represents them well.
What’s one interesting fact about yourself not everyone would know?
Although I don’t eat most meat for ecological reasons, I archery hunt and can skin, butcher and tan the hide of a deer.
Describe the life of a Jesuit brother. One catch: You must use only six words.
What would Jesus be? Oh, yeah.