Today, we have a reflection by one of the Jesuit Priests of the novitiate community in Birmingham.
CALLED TO SERVE AS A JESUIT
Inside Manresa House in Birmingham, you find Jesuits who are young and dynamic (mostly novices) as well as Jesuits who are extremely experienced (mostly finally professed) members of the Society. The mix of dynamism and experience is a blessing to Manresa House. Between that dynamism and experience lies a journey of grace.
My journey, which began as a novice in 1991 and continues today as a finally professed, has indeed been graceful. Before final profession, I had spent twenty years as a Jesuit! Those years in the Society produced the singular reason that has made life on earth worth living: to be in service of God and humanity.
At first there was a lot of hesitation. My application process to join the Jesuits took three years. During that period of application/communicating with the Society, I learnt to maintain a close relationship with God through the Eucharist and spiritual reading. I can still savour the feelings evoked in my reading of Weeds Among the Wheat by Thomas Green. Attendance at the daily Eucharist, serving as secretary for St Vincent De Paul Society and reading various other spiritual books for guidance towards God’s call, began in me an evolution into a contemplative in action. The spiritual guidance and encouragement that eventually brought me into the Jesuit order also sowed in me a seed of appreciation for spiritual direction. The formation I received at the novitiate left an inexplicable love for spiritual things. Hence as an educationalist I hold the view that no formation of the young that excludes the sacred/divine is truly human.
After Novitiate came the period of first studies in the humanities at the then Arrupe juniorate in Zimbabwe and in philosophy at Milltown Institute in Dublin. Living in Ireland in 1994 was a culture shock for me, but I received much support from a number of my Jesuit brothers. I returned to Nigeria in 1996 and taught social studies at Loyola Jesuit College in Abuja for three years, as a regent, which gave context to my desire for service. That desire in turn gave orientation to my theological studies in Kenya in 1999. By the time I completed the Master’s degree in psychology of religion at the University of London in 2003, the desire to serve God and his people was already overwhelming. There was great eagerness to engage in fulltime apostolic labour.
Hence I was grateful for the opportunity to serve as assistant parish priest, to contribute as socius in the Jesuit novitiate and to serve as the administrator of Loyola Jesuit College in Nigeria. Through those fulltime apostolic experiences, between 2003 and 2011, I grew deeply and became more realistic in my desire to serve God and humanity.
The road to apostolic maturity is enriching. At the same time, there are often challenges. Although most of my frustrations came from my own brother Jesuits, some of my Jesuit brothers have also been the greatest support and inspiration over the years. I prayed through those challenges and inspiration during tertianship. In the end, tertianship greatly refreshed my belief in the faithfulness of God’s love. It is in humble response to the love that God has shown me throughout this journey that I continue to offer myself and renew my deepest desire to serve. That self-offering for service is the only worthy gift I possess for the One who has loved me so much.
It is God’s love that enables me to say “Take Lord and receive!”