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How Ignatian Indifference Helped Me Realize I Had to Leave a Dream Job

By Dan Masterton

September 25, 2019 — For many years, I dreamed about working in a Cristo Rey Network school. Then, last summer, the right job came open at the right time. I applied, interviewed, and was invited to work in campus ministry at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago. The job was a dream come true, with one caveat. I’m a (mostly) stay-at-home dad who works part-time to make a little extra money but I’m focused primarily on my daughters, Lucy and Cecilia, and our family home life.

After Lucy was born, I returned to the same job with the same students, just in reduced hours; here, I’d be starting in a part-time role at a new school. This is a difference I underestimated.

Ignatian indifference as defined by Marina McCoy.
After a few months on the job, it was clear that my ability, training and experience were all a nice fit. But coming into school just two days a week was leaving me at a serious deficit, as I struggled to substantially initiate and develop relationships with my many new students. My effectiveness as a mentor and advocate for them was not where it needed to be.

I thought out loud about this tension to colleagues as the year unfolded. My closest colleague listened charitably and told me, “This will be a good conversation for us to all keep having together.” Another colleague told me, “We’d miss you, but you have to do what you have to do.” Our chaplain and supervisor helped our team lead a discernment workshop for our seniors in which he emphasized to them knowing the difference between being driven and drawn.

As all this unfolded, an old friend of mine was thinking out loud about hopes and dreams. His religious community had asked him to do a few important jobs simultaneously, and he worried that his vocation ministry, and those it ought to be serving, was suffering because of it. There was a clear resonance and fit between my gifts and passions and the needs of his community. What’s more, he offered to create a position that was 20 hours per week like my current job, but allowed half the hours to be done remotely.

Actively considering this transition, I shared the whole of it with my principal as he discerned staffing for the upcoming school year. He was supportive and affirming of me and my work, and, as a father of three himself, understood the need for balance and multi-layered discernment. Given his support and the collegiality and collaboration I had with my campus ministry colleagues, I was not being driven out or driven to choose a new job. I was loved, supported and embraced as a professional and as a person. Yet at the same time, I was being drawn to a new opportunity — to work with a religious community close to my heart in a role focused more on adults and on communication and resourcing (rather than falling short in accompanying young people) with more flexible hours to support my growing family.

I strived to process this with Ignatian indifference, the spiritual discipline to uncomprisingly prioritize what brings one closest to God and God’s love without clinging to anything that may distract from that. When I discerned to leave my first job — also at a Jesuit high school — my principal modeled indifference well. After complimenting my work and my gifts, he said, “At the end of the day, I have to be able to take you or leave you.” He said that not because he was bitter or angry but because he understood that the most important thing for me, for him and for the school is fostering discernment and helping everyone toward God and his love. We have to be detached from selfish or short-sighted motivations to most clearly see and follow that larger call.

In this case, I had discerned the call was to move on. I never imagined I’d be leaving a dream job after 10 months, but the objective decision was to do just that. My current principal was disappointed to lose me but excited for what drew me, affirming my discernment and my identification of that overarching call.

I have been blessed to be immersed in communities that embrace and live out indifference. My colleagues placed service and accompaniment of our high school students above any attachment to me. My bosses affirmed me as a person while rightly prioritizing the ongoing welfare of the school above all. My friend and new supervisor acknowledged the importance of his ministry as well as the fact that he needed help, placing service and accompaniment of others well above his own vanity. All of this formed me to practice indifference effectively in my own spiritual life and more faithfully discern this path forward with God.

So, now, the opportunity to go where God’s call drew me, without feeling driven to go, feels peaceful. The detachment we gain from proper indifference gives us two major gifts, as described by Marina McCoy, that I’ve rediscovered through this process: knowing our worth apart from anything of the world, including any one job, old or new, and knowing our capacity to give and receive love in any and all contexts in our lives.

Dan Masterton currently serves as assistant vocations minister with the Viatorians. He previously worked as a campus minister at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago; St. Benedict Prep in Chicago; Bishop Noll Institute in Hammond, Indiana; and Xavier College Prep in Palm Desert, California. He lives with his wife and two daughters in the Chicago suburbs. He blogs at The Restless Hearts.

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