Province: USA Central and Southern
Birthday: June 12, 1980
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Education: Bachelor’s degree, music, Saint Louis University; Master’s degree, theology, Saint Louis University; Master’s degree, philosophical resources, Fordham University; Master’s degree, choral conducting, University of Denver; Licentiate in Sacred Theology, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
1. Worked with immigrants and refugees in the Bronx, New York, during first studies at Fordham University.
2. Taught theology, supervised the Peer Ministry program and helped coordinate liturgies at Regis University in Denver.
3. Served as a deacon at St. Brigid and Gate of Heaven parishes in South Boston.
Post-ordination: Will serve as parochial vicar at St. Francis Xavier College Church and assist at Loyola Academy, a Nativity-model middle school, both in St. Louis.
Matthew C. Stewart, S.J., was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, by his two wonderful parents alongside his younger brother. He met the Jesuits while a student at St. Louis University High School (SLUH). He attended Saint Louis University (SLU) where he majored in vocal performance, was involved in campus ministry and was an active member of his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon. After college, he joined the Alum Service Corps (ASC) and taught theology and music at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri. After this volunteer year, Matt was hired at his alma mater, SLUH, where he worked for the six years prior to entering the Society, serving as a theology teacher, director of campus ministry, assistant racquetball coach and assistant music director for most of the school's musicals. While teaching, Matt received his master’s degree in theology from SLU. Matt did his novitiate in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and did apostolic work in New Orleans, Nicaragua, Denver and the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. After first vows, Matt studied philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx, New York, and was able to take classes at The Juilliard School. While in first studies, he taught English as a Second Language to immigrants and refugees at St. Rita’s Center in the Bronx. After graduating, Matt went to Denver to pursue a degree in choral conducting at the University of Denver while doing his regency at Regis University. While there, he taught theology, supervised the Peer Ministry program and coordinated liturgy alongside his colleagues in university ministry. Matt next earned his Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry focusing on liturgical theology. He also served as a deacon at St. Brigid and Gate of Heaven parishes in South Boston. Currently, he serves as the Ignatian Formation Coordinator of the ASC in the USA Central and Southern Province. His first Mass will be at his home parish of Christ, Prince of Peace. After ordination, Matt will be serving as parochial vicar at St. Francis Xavier College Church and assisting at Loyola Academy, a Nativity model middle school, both in St. Louis.
What are three words a family member or fellow Jesuit would use to describe you? (Ask someone.) Do you agree with his or her selections?
I was actually pretty moved by people’s responses to this question. They said: musical, culinary, extroverted, engaged, curious, faithful, magnanimous and sensitive. It’s not so much that I’m surprised. I’m just very touched by the ways my fellow Jesuits responded.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
As a Jesuit, I know it's a cliche, but it's St. Ignatius of Loyola. Since college, I've been fascinated with his story and have been deeply formed by the spiritual tradition that he founded. I find his way of praying with the imagination by placing myself in the Gospel stories to be a dynamic and engaging way of encountering God in my life. I find his method of discernment of spirits — of learning how to listen to God in prayer — to be a moving and enlightening addition to my spiritual life. Most of all, I love the way he desires that all people become a companion, a true friend, of Jesus. The way Ignatius teaches the church how to pray, his exciting and engaging story, and his deep love for Jesus make him my favorite.
Matt playing piano at Mass at Regis University in Denver.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit and why is it important to you?
After regency, a colleague gave me one of his used sewing machines, and I've been using it ever since. I've been able to learn how to hem things, turn old long-sleeved shirts into short-sleeved ones and have even learned how to make whole shirts. I’ve also made two albs for myself and a set of altar cloths for our house. Ever since I was a kid, I've loved being creative and making things. Sewing is a way not only to engage my creative impulses, but also to make things that can be helpful for the community.
What’s one interesting fact about yourself not everyone would know?
Most people don't know that when I was in grade school, I had the opportunity to attend Space Camp in Alabama. Also, I think people might be surprised that I love shopping malls, and even though I love to cook and eat nice food, I love fast food like Taco Bell and Jack in the Box.
What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
Throughout my Jesuit life, I have been blessed with some of the best friends that I could have ever hoped to have. There is something so rewarding and so moving about having friends with whom I share this same common life and common mission. Even though we don’t see each other all the time, there is a tie that binds us which is supernatural — the life of prayer and grace that we share as members of the Society. I love that when I meet a fellow Jesuit, no matter where I am in the world, we automatically have something in common. Not simply the “S.J.” after our names, but that same common life and common mission that I share with my closest Jesuit friends.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
Learned. Heard. Waited. Avoided. Surrendered. Entered.
What’s one thing about life in the Society of Jesus other people might not realize?
It’s full of introverts! Since Jesuits often hold very public jobs as teachers, school administrators, retreat directors and pastors and can be so apostolically effective, people assume that community life can be very extroverted as well. As an extrovert myself, I have found the opposite to be true. Jesuits in community life are generally fairly quiet and to themselves. I love a really active community with a lot of lively conversation, and Jesuit life can have that as well. But most of the time, life is actually fairly normal and quiet.
Matt preaching to kids at St. Brigid Parish in South Boston.
How has your spirituality changed since entering the Society?
I think that since entering the Society, my spirituality has become less about heavy internal lifting and more about being present to the Lord. As a novice, I had to spend a lot of time getting to know my insides better — knowing myself better and the ways that God likes to be with me, the ways that I respond to God’s invitations and the spiritual traps I fall into. After 10 years, I find that a lot of that more active kind of spiritual life has settled down, and I find my spirituality more about being attuned to God’s movements and simply being with the Lord in prayer. I find that years of Jesuit life have made me more attentive and conscious of the feelings of other people and have helped open my heart to their desires, perspectives and struggles, and to be more empathetic.
Imagine you could travel back in time and meet yourself the first day you entered the Society of Jesus. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to yourself?
“You’re in the right place.” For some guys, including myself, novitiate is really difficult. Particularly entrance day. For me, I was very aware of the pain I felt in leaving my family and friends back in St. Louis, my job teaching and all the things I had gotten used to and enjoyed doing. I think that “past me” needed to hear that showing up to explore the vocation that had been quietly nagging at him for years was the right decision. I knew that I wasn’t going to get more data unless I showed up and tried it out, but I was very uneasy about it and was very anxious. Now, I see the immense joy that life in the Society of Jesus has brought me, the innumerable people whose lives I have been able to be a part of and the countless ways in which God’s presence has been made known to me, and I am so grateful for taking that initial risk.
How might you explain the Jesuit motto "ad maiorem Dei gloriam" to someone who’s never heard it before?
Most people have an innate awareness of how important it is to give credit where credit is due. People know how important it is to be grateful and to say “thank you” when someone does something nice. AMDG is about cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” that always gives credit to the one who has given us everything. AMDG is about living a life so that when people see me, they see not only me, but the one who made me, the one who loves me and the one who has sent me.