Justin Grosnick, SJ
Province: USA East
Hometown: Hershey, Pennsylvania
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Served at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, New York, as part of his hospital experiment.
- Spent time with the L’Arche community in Syracuse, New York, which helped inform his understanding of mission.
- Served in Tomsk, Russia, where he worked in support of a parish, taught high school and helped out with a L’Arche-inspired interreligious group for disabled people.
Will continue studying comparative theology/religion in pursuit of a doctorate at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, while helping out in campus ministry at the University of San Francisco.
Bachelor’s degree, peace, war and defense and physics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Master of Divinity, St. Charles Borromeo Seminary; Master’s degree, international relations and economics, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; Master’s degree, theology, Loyola University Chicago
Justin Grosnick, SJ, was born in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he studied physics and astronomy, as well as international relations and history. After reading the Gospels during his senior year of college, he spent the next year considering the priesthood while teaching at a Catholic middle school in Charlotte, North Carolina. For the next four years, he studied theology at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, and worked in a number of apostolates, the most formative of which were St. Rita’s Senior Center and the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. He left the seminary before ordination and went on to pursue his earlier love of international relations, first studying at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and then embarking on a short career at the State Department. He feels most blessed to have spent some time serving in both Russia and Ukraine, and he continues to be interested in the culture and history of those places. At some point during that time, Justin returned to the spirituality he was first introduced to while in seminary, and he embarked upon a version of the Spiritual Exercises in daily life. This ultimately led to his decision to enter the Society of Jesus.
As a novice, Justin worked at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx and the L’Arche community in Syracuse, New York, both of which informed his understanding of mission and ultimately spurred him to take vows. He spent six months at Georgetown University, helping out in the classroom and campus ministry. At Georgetown, Justin also discovered his love for interreligious dialogue and Hinduism in particular. Subsequently, he studied theology at Loyola University Chicago, while also supporting the Hindu students there and helping out at Arrupe College. For regency, Justin lived in Tomsk, Russia, where he worked in support of the parish, taught high school and helped out with a L’Arche-inspired interreligious group for disabled people. He currently studies comparative religion and theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. After ordination, Justin will return to Berkeley to complete his studies towards a Ph.D., while also continuing to work in campus ministry at the University of San Francisco.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
Joan of Arc is my favorite saint because she is an example of the absolute uniqueness of God’s work in a person’s life and their individual response to that grace — it goes beyond all categories and reminds me of the Ignatian idea of the creator dealing directly with the creature. She is also brave, loyal, trusting and a wonderful example of a Christian pilgrim and mystic. Beyond all of that, however, she reflects the somewhat wild and absurd nature of God and God’s love, and she provides us with a beautiful reminder of what it means to be a fool for Christ.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
Being interested in art, particularly in museums, has become a very important part of my life as a Jesuit. This hobby grew in earnest while I was living in Russia and provided a new way of learning about Russian culture. During my time in regency when I struggled with the Russian language, art and mini retreats to art museums became important ways of communicating with people and my students. Eventually, looking at art became an important spiritual practice for me: seeing the Spirit at work not just in icons, but in all sorts of art genres and as a reminder of our call to be co-creators.
What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
I love our commitment to being our authentic selves in relationship with God and how this manifests itself most beautifully in our community life.
What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you?
When I lived in Tomsk, Russia, I became very close to an organization called “Little Arc” that consists of a community of volunteers and people with disabilities working together across faith traditions. I loved my time with this group, and they always made me feel welcomed when I was struggling most with the language and as a foreigner very far from home. During one particular pilgrimage we made to a monastery, they showed me a most inspiring image of Christianity and service in the way they took care of one another, the way they prayed together across traditions and the way they made sense of individual differences within the greater group. Through this experience I came to better understand my own role within the church too.
Where has your Jesuit vocation taken you that you never thought you would go?
During the novitiate, I spent some time working at Georgetown University, and this initiated my involvement in interreligious dialogue with a particular interest in Hinduism. When I first arrived at the Jesuit community, I was given an assignment for the upcoming Jesuit Heritage Week: giving a talk on the Jesuits to the Hindu Student Association. Since I had absolutely no familiarity with this faith tradition, I asked the group’s president if I could start attending their weekly meetings to find out a bit more. The students were most welcoming, and I participated in their meetings for the rest of the semester. I was so moved by my time with them that I continued to work with and in support of the Hindu students at Loyola University Chicago and began to formally study Hinduism while studying there. During my time in Chicago, I also spent a summer in Chennai, India, and thus began my current work on Christian-Hindu comparison and dialogue, something I hope to continue working on in the future.
How has your spirituality changed since entering the Society?
Since entering the Society, I have been encouraged to see God in places I wouldn’t have expected. I’ve grown more open-minded and been pleasantly surprised by the ways God is working in my life, the lives of others and in the world around us.