Mike Manalastas, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Proctored JUG; coached the freshman teams to basketball championships; taught ethics to juniors and Scripture to freshmen; wrote for the Jesuit publication “New Frontiers”; and lived in community at Wade Hall during regency at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose, California.
- Lived as an expat, learned a new language, experienced a different culture and got to know the international Society as a theologian at the Universidad de Comillas in Madrid.
- Lived at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles in the summers during philosophy studies, where he taught at Verbum Dei High School in the mornings and surfed in the afternoons.
Post-Ordination: Will serve as associate pastor at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood, California.
Biography: Mike Manalastas, SJ, was born and raised in the “Garden of Eden,” a suburb outside of Los Angeles called Thousand Oaks. Vivid childhood memories include long summer days winning championships for the Lakers on his driveway with neighborhood friends, parties with relatives seemingly every weekend, and despite his constant protestations, the 10:45 Sunday Mass at St. Julie’s with his parents and older siblings, Patrick and Tricia. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Mike began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers. It was here, living in San Francisco that he met the Jesuits, and in particular, Fr. Charlie Gagan, SJ, at St. Ignatius Parish. Here, the faint whisper of becoming a priest began. Though because the allure of worldly success was too seductive, Mike ignored it as best as he could — and did so for 10 years — until that whisper became a boisterous clamor. So, he quit his job, gave his dad his Porsche, packed his bags — and traveled the world. He wasn’t totally sure what he wanted to do. However, when he returned, Mike knew he wanted to meet God everywhere, so he entered the Jesuit novitiate. As a Jesuit, Mike has met God in many ways. As a novice, he met God in the silence of the 30-day retreat and in the stories of the imprisoned adolescents at Sylmar. As a philosopher at Saint Louis University, he met God in the works of St. Augustine and in the shared meals at Bridges of Hope homeless shelter. At Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose, California, Mike met God in the faces of the students he taught. And as a theologian in Madrid, he met God as an immigrant in a far-off land speaking a foreign language. After ordination, Mike hopes to continue to meet God in the people that he serves. Education: Bachelor’s degree, economics, University of California, Berkeley; Master of Divinity, Universidad de Comillas
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you? I can’t name just one. Before I entered the Jesuits, the only hobbies I had time for (or better said, the only things that I thought were worthwhile for me to do in my free time) were playing basketball and golf. Once I entered the Jesuits, I took the idea of “finding God in all things,” which I loosely translate into “finding joy in all things,” literally and tried other activities, and they’re important to me because they bring me joy mostly because each activity is communal. I either can do them with others, or I can do them for others. Piano. The first time I took lessons was in the 5th grade. It lasted a summer because I preferred to go outside and play with my friends; I didn’t want to sit inside and read notes. Well, I regretted that I quit. So, I picked it up again in the novitiate. I love to listen to music, but to be able to play a piece after listening to it, that’s something amazing to me. Also, it’s important because I think music is a great way to create community, by playing music with and for others. Racquetball. Basketball’s a young man’s game, but racquetball is a sport for all ages. I enjoy staying active, working up a sweat and staying fit, and racquetball ball checks all those boxes — and it’s really fun. Surfing. I had always wanted to learn how to surf. One summer as a Jesuit, I was teaching at Verbum Dei in Los Angeles, and in one of our communities, I found a couple of old surf boards. Well, what better to do, but to take her out for a ride, so I did every day after class. It’s great to be out there past the break, looking out across the vast ocean. It’s during these moments I can’t help but feel God’s grandeur and him being delighted that I’m enjoying his creation. But there’s nothing like lying on a board, seeing a set come in, catch the wave and let it carry you across the surf, surfing the “green room.” I feel like I’m Peter walking on water each time I catch a wave. Cooking. I love to eat, and not for just the taste of the food or the community that meals create, but also because food brings back memories. Living abroad for the past three years, at times, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for a nice home-cooked meal by my parents or sitting down at a familiar restaurant that I would frequent when I was home. Cooking a familiar meal not only can bring joy to those that I cook for, but it could also transport me back to my childhood evoking happy family memories. French. Three years of French in high school and the only thing I remembered was “Je voudrais aller a la plage.” I probably wrote that sentence about a thousand times in my French journal. I wish I had paid more attention in class. I always wanted to speak French; I just didn’t want to learn it. But I picked it up again, and not being a “serious” student, I consider it a hobby. It’s a beautiful language and I love the idea of learning languages because what better way is there to get to know a culture or to connect with people but through languages? What’s one interesting fact about yourself not everyone would know? I was in a social fraternity in college called Pi Kappa Phi, which in some ways was a prefiguration of Jesuit life. First of all, we lived in a community of about 40 men, each with some sort of communal house job. We had community nights each Monday night (typical of Jesuit houses), Bible study Wednesday night and one semester I served as chaplain. Also, we were dedicated to service. In particular, we had our own philanthropy which served people with disabilities. In that effort, I, along with 70 other fraternity brothers from different chapters across the U.S., rode our bicycles from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco to the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. It took place in summer with the purpose to raise funds and awareness for people with disabilities. It was an amazing experience, and I have to thank the fraternity for allowing me to participate in it. Since it’s so easy to get lost in a big university, all in all, it was a great experience. It was a place to build community and make lifelong friends. I really enjoyed my time at Berkeley, and my time in the fraternity helped make that a reality. What do you love about the Society of Jesus? I love the fact that we exist for others. Our mission is to serve, which is a service ultimately rooted in the Gospel. That means that our service isn’t just an earthly endeavor, but something transcendental, something that goes beyond space and time. That doesn’t mean that the service that we are dedicated to is something only ethereal; it’s a service practical and tangible that relates to everyday life, where we can get our hands dirty, but with mystical and supernatural ends. With that in mind, we Jesuits are always trying to read the signs of the times, feeling for the pulse of society, looking for what’s relevant so that we can then serve others in a profound and real way. In doing so, it requires creativity, change and being adaptive. Which means I might be dedicated to teaching in a high school for a few years and later dedicated to serving immigrants at the border. It means that I might be dedicated to working with the sick and infirm during one phase of my Jesuit life, then during another phase in a ministry dedicated to young adults. The opportunities to help others, to serve, are unlimited and so are our borders, where we’re called to be ready to go anywhere in the world where there’s a need. One of the best things about this is that we don’t work alone, but we work and live with fellow Jesuit brothers. Just like Jesus always sent at least two disciples together to preach and heal, we too are sent off in mission together, to live together in community, to support each other and to work in God’s vineyard. What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you? In the fall of 2016, after completing philosophy studies, I was sent to Guadalajara, Mexico, to study Spanish. Arriving there, the only Spanish words I knew (aside from the bad ones) were taco, burrito and cerveza por favor — it was very limited. One of the Jesuits picked me up at the airport and drove me back to my new community. When I got there, they had just started eating dinner, so I joined them. There were 12 of us around the table, everyone was smiling, chatting, laughing, having a great time — except me. I couldn’t understand a single thing they said, and nobody there spoke English. I wanted to join in on the fun, I wanted to get to know them, to be in on the jokes, but I couldn’t. It was my first time living as a foreigner, and it was the first time in my life that I felt like an outsider, an immigrant. Through this experience, I finally understood what it meant to empathize, and I learned the importance of hospitality and of welcoming the stranger. Where has your Jesuit vocation taken you that you never thought you would go? Dubrovnik. Sunnyside. Vienna. Horseshoe Bend. Oporto. St. Louis. Salamanca. Spokane. Lake Como. Applegate. Oaxaca. Kansas City. Antibes. It’s taken me to the doorstep of death, ministering to terminally ill patients in hospice; to the precipice of despair, ministering to young men in prison serving practically life sentences; to a new way of thinking, understanding and communicating through the acquisition of the Spanish language. But probably the least exotic but most surprising: the front of a classroom and the pulpit of a church. When I was a kid, the last thing I ever thought I would be was a teacher, because I never liked school, or a priest, because I never liked going to church. Yet there I was, during my regency stage of Jesuit formation, teaching classes and giving homilies in clerics and loving every minute of it. Who is one important mentor who has accompanied you on your journey? What made them a good mentor? When I first moved to San Francisco after college, I began to look for a church. I probably went to five different parishes and each one I went to always left me wanting, looking for something more. I wasn’t too sure what I was looking for, though I seemed to have found it when I finally made my way up to St. Ignatius on Parker Street. I remember that first visit as if it were yesterday. Driving up Fulton Street toward the towering Italian Renaissance and Baroque inspired church, I couldn’t help but feel awed by its grandeur and beauty. Walking inside was a treat for the senses. Looking up, the impressive stained-glass windows depicting scenes from the Bible and the frescos adorning the walls made my eyes gleam with delight. Hearing the angelic music filled my ears with joy that lifted the soul. But it was the homily that captivated me. Though I was just one of around 500 or so gathered, it seemed as though the homily was written just for me: relevant, interesting, witty, Jesus-centered — it’s exactly what I was looking for at the time, and it would change my life forever. That homilist was Fr. Charlie Gagan, S.J. His homily lit a fire in me and made me want to learn more about this faith that I had professed to believe in all my life. So I went back Sunday after Sunday to hear his homilies. One thing that surprised me about him was the fact that he seemed to really enjoy his job — in a sense, he exuded joy — and I wanted that. For someone who never thought about a vocation to the priesthood, I found that strange, and I began thinking to myself, how can a priest be so happy? They don’t have any money, family or freedom (or so I thought). What was even more surprising to me was the fact that at the time, I had just begun working at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and when I saw the partners of the firm, whom seemingly had it all — money, family, power, they didn’t seem all that happy or fulfilled. How odd, I thought. So, I continued to attend Mass whenever Charlie was the homilist. I began to get involved in the parish, and little by little I got to know him. I would go to him for advice, for guidance and even tips on the best restaurants in San Francisco. When he could tell that I was clearly unhappy with my career, he invited me to make the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, to discern what God’s will for me was, and in doing so, I discovered it was the Jesuits. He was, and still is, a great mentor and a great friend. First and foremost because he’s very genuine, he’s totally himself which makes him very easy to be around. Additionally, he never pushed or imposed ideas on me, but he always let me (through the Holy Spirit) figure things out. He was always available, willing to share stories or ideas and has always been there when I needed him — and continues to do so to this day. And most importantly, he does it all with a great wit — and a great appetite which allows us to laugh and dine well when we’re together — it’s always a good time.