Meet the men who have courageously answered God’s call to ministry by clicking on their photos in the right column.
By Doris Sump
October 17, 2019 — The Society of Jesus in the U.S., Canada and Haiti welcomed 33 new Jesuit novices this fall at novitiates in California, Louisiana, Minnesota, New York, Quebec and Haiti. They have taken the initial step on their journey toward Jesuit priesthood or brotherhood, known as “Jesuit formation,” which can take a total of eight to 12 years.
In these first two years as novices, the men will learn what it means to live in community, adopt the rhythm of daily prayer and deepen their understanding of God’s call to the Society. They have selflessly devoted their lives to the service of the marginalized, to the church, to God and to each other.
St. Ignatius of Loyola, who co-founded the Society in 1540, first defined the elements of Jesuit formation in his Jesuit Constitutions. Jesuit novices still follow this plan today — adapted to the modern world.
“The novices best support the needs of the church in the modern world by preaching the Gospel in a way that all sorts of people can receive it,” says Fr. William O’Brien, SJ, novice director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado in St. Paul, Minnesota. “For this mission, they must learn to discern God’s presence in the wide range of cultures, sensibilities and human experiences that they will encounter.”
Thus begins a comprehensive program of service, ministry, study and prayer, methodically devised to help Jesuits grow in their relationships with Christ and identify how they can best serve him and all humankind.
At the novitiate in California, the novices’ first week starts with a welcome Mass and lunch for the new novices, families and guests, says Fr. Stephen Corder, SJ, novice director at the Jesuit Novitiate of the Three Companions in Culver City, California. The new Jesuits attend orientation sessions, take on house jobs, share vocation stories and visit local Jesuit ministries. In the second week, they do a three-day silent retreat given by the second-year novices.
From then on, typical days at the novitiate consist of classes taught by the director and his assistant (known as the Socius), as well as daily Mass, group prayer, discussion of their spiritual journeys and chores around the house.
Fr. Joseph Sands, SJ, director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Andrew Hall in Syracuse, New York, draws parallels between the novitiate and academics (something the Society knows a thing or two about). “I would compare entering the novitiate to starting college. I think they’re pretty courageous for it,” he says. “They may be anxious because they don’t know exactly where it leads, but once they get in, they find it a very positive and human environment.”
Indeed, the novices’ Jesuit community becomes their new family. “The novices enjoy going to movies together, bicycling, going to the Loyola Marymount University gym, playing volleyball at the beach, cooking and hiking,” Fr. Corder says.
Of course, the novices remain close to their old families at the same time. “Normally, the novices have opportunities to visit their families for the Christmas holiday and in late June, after returning from their summer program,” says Fr. O’Brien. Family members and close friends come to the novitiate for visits and stay connected through email and phone calls.
As for the work outlined in St. Ignatius’ Constitutions, the novices complete a series of “experiments” to explore their vocations and help them discern the specific ways they might be called to serve the church.
For example, experiments for the new novices in California might include working with prison retreats, spiritual programs and juvenile hall through Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative; becoming chaplaincy volunteers at a low-income hospital; care for the elderly at a nursing home; tutoring at Dolores Mission School; and providing a pastoral presence at the well-known gang intervention program Homeboy Industries.
“The purpose is to find that at the heart of our mission is a call to be with people on the margins, enter the struggles of the world and find the face of Christ,” says Fr. Andrew Kirschman, SJ, novice director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. “All these experiences help the novices grow in awareness of Christ laboring with us in the world today.”
Novices also make St. Ignatius’ 30-day Spiritual Exercises silent retreat, which they commonly regard as the most meaningful part of the novitiate.
“It surprises the novices,” says Fr. Sands. “They’re grateful for the way they encounter God’s attention, care and love for them.”
The novices aren’t the only ones on a path of discovery. Fr. Corder has found his duties allow him to view the Society through each novice’s fresh eyes.
“I’m always impressed with their generosity, compassion and desire to walk with people,” he says. “They have a good sense of humor and openness to God’s grace.”
Another part of St. Ignatius’ Constitutions instructs novices to embark on a month-long pilgrimage “without money … begging from door to door … to grow accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging.” The pilgrimage teaches novices to adapt to God’s mystery in unique ways, a necessary skill they’ll draw on for the rest of their lives as Jesuits, as Fr. O’Brien explains. “In addition to an active prayer life and training in Christian theology, the qualities of flexibility and empathy that Jesus exemplified are indispensable.”
Details of the pilgrimage assignment vary at each novitiate, but Jesuits are generally sent out with a one-way bus ticket, little or no money and only the clothes on their back. They are directed to return within a few weeks to a month.
“Pilgrimage tends to be every mother’s nightmare. To be sent out of the novitiate with a one-way bus ticket and just $5 sounds terrifying. And yet there is an adventure side — rooted in Ignatius’ life experience — that novices find inspiring, even compelling,” says Fr. Kirschman. “Post-pilgrimage is grace-filled as novices return with a profound sense of trust in God.”
In the second year of their novitiate, novices are missioned to an assignment at a Jesuit-run organization, similar to an internship. Called a “long experiment,” this segment of the novitiate lasts several months.
Long experiments for the Jesuit novices in the Midwest Province have included helping with Clinical Pastoral Education programs in Omaha and Chicago, while others worked in Jesuit schools such as Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland and Red Cloud High School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Others served at Jesuit-founded social centers such as the Casa Romero Renewal Center in Milwaukee, Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles and the Thrive for Life Prison Project in New York City.
As novices, Jesuits in the U.S. and Canada spend one of their summers at Regis University in Denver at a conference on Jesuit history, delving more intensely into St. Ignatius’ life while meeting their peers at other novitiates.
After two years, the hope is that novices will have become confident in their vocations, nurtured a more intimate relationship with God and developed a profound love for the Society of Jesus. At the end of their time as novices, they profess First Vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
No longer novices, they are called “scholastics” as they continue to the next stage of Jesuit formation, First Studies, for two years of graduate-level philosophy courses.
For those considering religious life, whether with the Jesuits or elsewhere, Fr. Kirschman suggests young adults “begin by looking for Christ in the suffering around you.”
“Can you find Christ present in the messiness and brokenness of our world, of our cities and church, of your own heart?” Fr. Kirschman asks. “If so, Christ might be calling you to labor with him as a companion.”
The next step, Fr. Corder advises, is to “pray, let God love you and find a spiritual director you can talk to.”
Above all, Fr. Kirschman says, “Trust Christ … and come and see!”
Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit beajesuit.org for more information.
Toto, 21, graduated from National High School Charlemagne Péralte in Saint-Raphaël, Haiti, in 2017. He was part of a group who trained the residents of Saint-Raphaël in self-leadership and worked in the parish office. He also gave retreats to candidates for the sacraments of baptism and Communion. His hobbies include soccer, basketball and playing music. He is just starting to learn bass guitar.
Anderly, 26, completed secondary school at Collège Le Normalien in Haiti in 2013. From 2014 to 2017, he studied at the House of Salesians of Don Bosco in Fort-Liberté. He graduated from technical agricultural studies in January 2018 and volunteered with L’Arche in Carrefour, Haiti, an experience he found particularly fulfilling. Anderly enjoys soccer and reading.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Noah, 21, graduated from the International Baccalaureate program at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach. He first encountered the Jesuits during his preparation for confirmation while his older brother was a student at Fordham University, and quickly fell in love with the writings and spirituality of St. Ignatius. After high school, he studied at Loyola University Chicago and worked as an intern for the fund accounting team at an alternative investment firm in Minneapolis. Noah enjoys reading and writing, playing volleyball and brewing coffee.
Farmington Hills, Michigan
Brian, 21, graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School & Academy in 2016. While at U of D Jesuit he became acquainted with the Jesuits and began to discern God’s call. He attended Michigan Technological University where he graduated with a bachelor’s in chemistry in 2018. After graduation, Brian spent a semester as an intern doing research in science and engineering at Argonne National Lab in the Chicago area. Brian enjoys learning about and reenacting the American Civil War, spending time with friends and playing strategy games.
Chris, 34, earned a bachelor’s in civil engineering from Cal Poly Pomona in Pomona, California. He earned his professional engineering license in California and has worked as a design engineer for the past 12 years in California’s Inland Empire, specializing in stormwater and water quality. He served as a sacristan and was involved in the Divine Mercy prayer group at his local parish. Chris enjoys playing and watching sports (especially soccer), fishing and working out.
Lucson, 21, graduated from the National High School of Cité Soleil in Haiti in July 2017. He attended the Congregational School Dominique Savio, Eugène de Mazenod College in Plaine du Cul-de-Sac, and the Cultural Center of Saint Vincent de Paul in Cité Soleil, where he also worked as a biology teacher. He was vice president of the Vincentian Marian Youth Group in his parish and volunteered with the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, a home for the elderly, and among missionaries of the poor. Lucson enjoys reading, music, television, video games and basketball.
Nate, 22, is a recent graduate of the University of Kentucky (UK), where he studied as a Gaines Fellow in the Humanities and earned a degree in English and music. While at UK, he worked as an editorial assistant for an academic journal, performed with the university’s wind symphony and men’s chorus and was involved in the Newman Center. A native of Louisville, he first encountered the Society of Jesus through the writings of Jesuits James Martin, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Daniel Berrigan while in high school. He enjoys reading and writing poetry, cooking, taking long walks with friends and watching college basketball.
Giovanni Díaz Jiménez
San Juan, Puerto Rico
Giovanni, 28, completed a bachelor’s in philosophy at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum in Rome and continued theological studies at the University of Navarra in Spain. He was the pastoral director and a teacher of ethics and religion at the San Juan Bosco Salesian College in Cantera, San Juan, Puerto Rico, while working toward a master’s in history at the Pontifical Catholic University in Ponce. Giovanni assisted with the Salesian social project and served as a tutor in the youth program in one of the poorest sectors in San Juan.
David, 25, grew up on a farm outside of Fontanelle, Iowa. He studied psychology at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was introduced to the Society of Jesus and became familiar with Ignatian spirituality. He studied clinical psychology at Missouri State University and after graduation worked as a therapist and couples counselor. David has enjoyed teaching the Catholic faith and spirituality as a 7th and 8th grade catechist and adult RCIA instructor. In his free time, David likes playing a variety of musical instruments.
Ronald Francis Jacobs
Parkersburg, West Virginia
RJ, 31, graduated from West Virginia University with a bachelor’s in chemistry and a master’s in secondary education in 2011 and a Doctor of Pharmacy in 2018. He was a high school science teacher for four years, a math and science summer camp teacher for three summers and a pharmacy intern at a community hospital for two years. He enjoys traveling, photography, hiking, singing karaoke, watching movies, trivia games, reading and spending time with family and friends.
Richard, 26, attended Saint Louis University where he was involved in student government, peer education programs and campus ministry. After graduating with a bachelor’s in theological studies in 2015, he joined the Jesuits’ Alum Service Corps and taught at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City. Richard then taught theology and directed the campus ministry program at Xavier College Prep in Palm Desert, California. During the summer of 2017, his relationship with Christ was deepened by his encounters with people and nature as he traveled the Camino de Santiago in Spain.
Thomas, 22, was first exposed to the Society of Jesus at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha where he ran track and cross-country. He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a major in theology and minors in philosophy, Catholic social tradition and Italian. There, he participated in the Rome International Scholars Program, which allowed him to intern with the Commission for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation and study at the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies. Many conversations with religious and others influenced his decision to enter the Jesuits, but the most impactful were those with homeless people, migrants and refugees in Omaha, at the U.S.-Mexico border and across the Mediterranean Sea Basin. His favorite hobbies are centered on time in nature — running, fishing, backpacking, disc golfing and yardwork.
Ben, 34, studied Japanese at the University of Hawaii and Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan, before working in hotel management in Waikiki. He returned to his science roots and worked in a biomedical engineering lab before completing preclinical studies at the Indiana University School of Medicine. Ben spent the past two years working as a medical writer for a health care marketing firm while discerning a religious vocation. He first encountered Jesuit spirituality while learning about St. Francis Xavier during his time in Japan and has continued to explore the order through the works of Walter Ciszek, SJ; James Martin, SJ; and others. Ben enjoys astronomy, running, tennis, cooking, reading and playing strategic board games with friends.
Jacob, 31, earned an associate degree in culinary arts and management and a bachelor’s in English and psychology at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida. He was received into the Catholic Church in 2011. Jacob taught for three years at Lincoln International Academy in Managua, Nicaragua, while earning a master’s in education from Framingham State University in Framingham, Massachusetts. He returned to his hometown of Birmingham last year to teach English at John Carroll High School. Traveling throughout Latin America and living in Nicaragua introduced Jacob to the transformative beauty of God’s love in action.
De Pere, Wisconsin
Evan, 26, graduated from St. Norbert College in De Pere in 2015 with a bachelor’s in English. After graduating, he worked in both corporate recruiting and the financial services industry. Evan learned about the Jesuits through retreats, classmates, spiritual direction and the writings of James Martin, SJ. Evan enjoys live music, volunteering in his community, comedy shows and just about anything that entails a little competitive spirit.
Luke, 22, attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, earning a bachelor’s in history with an anthropology minor and peace and conflict studies concentration. He was a student captain at Kimball Dining Hall, a supervisor of a shift of student workers. He enjoys reading and running and is a fan of the Boston Red Sox and the New England Patriots.
Kevin, 23, is from Virginia, but has called five states home. After he graduated from the University of Virginia with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physics, Kevin joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, serving as the youth minister at Dolores Mission Parish in Los Angeles. Kevin enjoys board games, video games and turning whatever he can find into a percussion instrument.
Rockaway, New Jersey
Nick, 26, graduated from Rutgers University-Newark in New Jersey with a bachelor’s in history. He received a master’s in church management at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania. He was a pastoral associate at St. Teresa of Avila Church in Summit, New Jersey, director of faith formation and office manager at St. Lawrence Church in Weehawken, New Jersey and director of faith formation at Ss. Peter and Paul Church in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Fort Thomas, Kentucky
Rob, 41, attended St. Xavier High School and Xavier University in Cincinnati. He earned a bachelor’s in biology with a minor in theology. He was a park ranger with the National Park Service for the past 15 years and served in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Sacramento, California. Rob has traveled extensively in all 50 states and hiked/backpacked in 51 national parks. He enjoys lifting weights, “Lord of the Rings” and nature and history documentaries.
Manuel Luna Vega
Aibonito, Puerto Rico
Manuel, 21, attended the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico in Ponce. He served with the youth group and as an altar server in his home parish of San José. He assisted with various pastoral groups and ministries at Parroquia Santos Ángeles in Yabucoa as part of his formation as a diocesan seminarian. At the seminary, Manuel learned about the spirituality and the lives of Jesuits, which motivated him to further discern a call to life in the Society. Last summer, Manuel was an evangelist and catechist with Obras Misionales Pontificias in the Amazon region of Colombia.
Pether, 21, graduated from the Lycée National de Saint-Jean-du-Sud in Haiti in 2017. He volunteered with Foi et Joie and at L’Arche de Chantal and enjoys classical music and soccer.
St. Albans, West Virginia
Bruce, 25, graduated from Washington and Lee University with a bachelor’s in classics, philosophy and history. He earned a Master of Divinity from Duke University in 2019. He also enjoys studying the Bible, biology and politics. He was deeply influenced and inspired by the Jesuit chaplains he met while studying abroad at Hertford College in Oxford, England, as well as by the biographies of Jesuit missionaries.
St. John’s/Torbay, Newfoundland
Bryan, 42, attended Memorial University of Newfoundland, earning a bachelor’s in English literature and philosophy. He completed coursework toward graduate studies from St. Patrick’s College, National University of Ireland, Maynooth Campus. He holds a Cambridge Certification in English Language Teaching to Adults and worked as a language instructor in South Korea, Yemen and Qatar for the College of the North Atlantic, a Newfoundland-based technical teaching institute. Previously, he worked in privacy management, as a supervisor with at-risk youth in the St. John’s area and with ex-offenders as a coordinator with the John Howard Society. He volunteered with the northeast Avalon, Newfoundland and Labrador ground search and rescue team, the ROVERS.
Mahens Chanzy Mondésir
Mahens, 20, attended National High School Charlemagne Péralte in Saint-Raphaël, Haiti, graduating in 2017. He studied communication and journalism at the Alliance École Professionnelle and office automation at the Wonderful Institute in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. He enjoys watching television, listening to music and soccer. He learned of the Society from a visiting seminarian and was inspired by the story of St. Ignatius.
Santa Maria, California
Jose, 27, graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a bachelor’s in psychology. After graduation Jose worked at Catholic Charities as a client resources coordinator in assisting low-income families with basic needs and support. He volunteered in two of his local parishes, helping in confirmation, youth ministry and hospitality for Mass. Jose enjoys company with friends, grounding (a therapeutic technique for relaxation and reducing stress) at the beach and walking his pugs, Milo and Simba.
Michael, 30, attended Fairfield College Preparatory School in Fairfield, Connecticut. He received a bachelor’s in religion and English literature and a master’s in English literature from Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont. Previously he served as a high school theology teacher, as well as assistant director of faith formation and youth ministry at St. Philip Parish in Norwalk, Connecticut. He led worship music on Sundays at Assumption Parish in Ansonia, Connecticut. Michael’s hobbies include rugby and playing the guitar and drums.
Min Keun Daniel Park
Daniel, 32, was born and raised in South Korea until his family immigrated to the north suburbs of Chicago in 1999 when Daniel was 12. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he studied world literature. He has worked as an associate at a CPA firm and as an assistant manager at MCA Corporation. Daniel began discerning God’s call during his confirmation retreat and while serving as a catechist at his home parish of St. Paul Chong Ha Sang in Des Plaines, Illinois. He became aware of the Jesuits through the Christian Life Community and his parish. Daniel enjoys playing table tennis, video games and board games.
Joseph, 20, attended McGill-Toolen High School in Mobile, where he played football, basketball and baseball. He was active in the Latin and chess clubs and wrote for the literary magazine. Joe then entered the seminary for the Archdiocese of Mobile. Already inspired by the lives of Sts. Ignatius, Francis Xavier and Jean de Brebeuf, Joe found his call to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience nurtured at St. Joseph’s Seminary College. Last year, he assisted with the Life Teen program at St. Ignatius Parish in Mobile.
Ryan, 22, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and was raised in Edwardsville, Illinois, a suburb of St. Louis. Ryan is a recent graduate of Marquette University, where he earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering. While at Marquette, Ryan participated in the all-male a cappella group, the liturgical choir and various intramural sports and led retreats. Ryan first encountered the Society of Jesus at Marquette, where he began discerning his call to the Jesuit priesthood. Ryan enjoys singing and playing piano and guitar. He also likes to play board games, card games and many sports, including disc golf and ping-pong.
El Paso, Texas
David, 23, graduated from Cathedral High School in El Paso, Texas. He earned a bachelor’s in computing and the arts from Yale University, where he sang with the Yale Whiffenpoofs, an a cappella group. Influencing his decision to join the Society was a formative volunteer experience at a refugee center in El Paso with Jesuit novices. He enjoys marathon running and squash and has walked part of the Camino Portugues, visited over 30 countries and cantored at his local parish.
Mario, 33, earned bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and psychology from Syracuse University in New York. He also holds a master’s in liberal arts from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Prior to joining the Society, he was a substitute teacher and a bartender and server. He enjoys soul music (including Otis Redding and Sam Cooke), Boston professional sports, Syracuse football, hiking and walks on the beach.
John Tyler Wahlbrink
Ty, 25, attended the University of Cincinnati for both his bachelor’s and master’s in applied economics. After graduating, he worked as an econometrician in a leadership program at a regional bank.Ty learned about the Jesuits through literature, social media and America Media. Ty enjoys discussing politics, watching soccer, hiking in national parks and playing pickleball.
Oneida, New York
Christian, 23, graduated from Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, with a bachelor’s in applied mathematics. He was a math and computer science teacher and assistant coach and strength trainer at Canisius High School in Buffalo, New York, for one year. He also served as sacristan, altar server, liturgical coordinator and service trips leader with Fordham Campus Ministry and did technical support for internet services with Fordham IT. He enjoys soccer, running, cooking, computer coding, video games and weight lifting.