Jesuit scholastic Erik Sorensen is a student in the Master of Theological Studies Program at Regis College in Toronto.
November 2, 2015 — Most young men who complete aerospace engineering degrees might consider working at NASA or a prestigious engineering firm; few think of joining a religious order. But this is precisely what Jesuit scholastic Erik Sorensen did.
Sorensen grew up in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, with an interest in aviation. A strong student in math and science, Sorensen knew he wanted to become an engineer, and he earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 2012 from Carleton University in Ottawa. But the idea of working for an engineering firm also meant something would be missing in his life. He wasn’t satisfied with being the occasional volunteer and felt he was being asked to do more with his life. He says he began to hear God’s call and realized that the desire was not his own, but rather a gift and an invitation from God.
Sorensen has always had a passion for aviation.
A chance meeting with a Jesuit who was studying engineering also helped in his eventual decision as it showed him that he could in fact be a priest and an engineer.
“After I met this Jesuit, something clicked,” says Sorensen. “I could see that the idea of being a priest did not have to be completely separate from the engineering that I loved.”
It also helped that one of the Jesuits Sorensen met through the Catholic chaplaincy program at Carleton University, Father David Shulist, SJ, was very down-to-earth and related well to students.
As a Jesuit novice, Sorensen assisted at a L’Arche community, a home for those with intellectual disabilities.
Sorensen grew up in a family that encouraged involvement in parish ministry. In his youth, he was an altar server, while one sister sang in the choir and his other sister helped with the children’s liturgy. His family was very supportive of his decision to join the Jesuits. Upon hearing the news, his grandmother remarked, “Just the other day I was telling someone that I thought you were going to be a priest.”
Many of Sorensen’s friends didn’t understand his decision to become a Jesuit until he simply said it was his desire to dedicate his life to serving others. “I am responding to a deep internal desire of serving others and the (Jesuit) vows are my way of expressing my gratitude to God for his overwhelming gifts in my life.”
Still there are practical adjustments to be made when joining a religious order. It’s not simply living with fellow roommates who have separate lives. Sorensen says it is much more intense, in a good way, as his fellow Jesuits provide support.
Sorensen hiking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain in 2013 as a Jesuit novice.
“Being able to come home and share my struggles and joys with my fellow Jesuits has been central to my life as a Jesuit,” says Sorensen. “We are all in this together.”
Sorensen also points out that his Jesuit family extends to the province’s donors, and he is especially thankful for their help. “Our formation, which is such an integral part of what it means to be a Jesuit, is impossible without the generosity of our donors.”
Sorensen entered the Jesuits in 2012, and during the novitiate, his service included ministering to the homeless in downtown Montreal and working with inner-city youth at Mother Teresa Middle School in Regina.
Sorensen working with the homeless in downtown Montreal.
He professed first vows in August 2014 and is currently studying philosophy at Regis College in Toronto. For those considering a religious vocation, he offers this advice: “Be open to the Spirit working in your life. God’s will becomes apparent in our deepest desires, so pay attention to these desires and interior movements.”
Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.jesuitvocations.org for more information.