Pope Francis named 2015 the Year of Consecrated Life, a celebration to encourage a spirit of renewal for men and women in religious life.

Year of Consecrated Life: Jesuits Share the Joy of Religious Life

October 15, 2015 — Pope Francis named 2015 the Year of Consecrated Life, a global celebration to encourage a spirit of renewal for men and women in religious life. The year, which ends with the World Day of Consecrated Life on Feb. 2, 2016, marks a time to express thanksgiving for their service and invite Catholics to learn more about and consider a religious vocation.

To mark the year, many Jesuits are reflecting on this question: "What makes me happy to be a religious today?" Below, we share some of their responses. You can read more reflections at www.jesuitseast.org/consecrated.

Fr. John Mulreany, SJ

Fr. Mulreany teaches English and social studies at Yap Catholic High School and serves as vice-superior of the Jesuit community in Yap.

A year after ordination I was sent to the island of Yap in Micronesia to help start a high school and to do pastoral work. Initially, I was enthralled by a sense of the exotic, but I now realize at the end of the day what makes me happy is the privileged contact with God's people.

Recently, God blessed me with an unexpected encounter. Thirty-six refugees from Nepal and India arrived on Yap in a small boat from Indonesia. Our high school students organized a food drive for them. We brought the food to the Red Cross tent on a Friday, but we were not allowed to see the refugees.

The following Sunday, I said Mass in the village and was given a large basket of fruit. On my way back home, I passed through town and thought I might give my fruit basket to the refugees. No guard was in sight, so I waved to the refugees. They came over to my car and I offered them the fruit basket.

We started talking; several spoke significantly understandable English, so I asked if any were Catholics. They said, "Yes." I asked if they would like if I said Mass for them and they replied, "Yes, Father please." So, there on the First Sunday of Advent under a little thatched hut we had Mass. Five people joined at first, then about seven or eight more, Indians and Nepalese together. At the offertory they asked God to help them and their families. 

When Mass was over they thanked me for coming because, since it was Sunday, no one else visited them. I asked, "What can I do for you?" One man speaking for the group said, "Father, the best thing you can do for us is to pray. Only God can help us now."

I'm happy to be a religious today because God continues to put me in the presence of his people, at the margins, geographically and socially, where Jesuits have always been called to be.

Br. Robert Carson, SJ

Br. Carson is a teacher and student counselor at St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia and also serves as a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Fifty years ago, before I entered the Society of Jesus, there was never any exposure of Jesuit presence in my hometown of Trenton, New Jersey, except for the Novena of Grace Missions that were offered in my parish. Through my guidance director, Msgr. Thomas Coffey, who journeyed with me, I encountered the Society of Jesus. Ever since I walked through the doors of St. Isaac Jogues Novitiate, I have never had any regrets, but have only been filled with many gifts and talents that the Society of Jesus has allowed me to develop through spiritual formation or education to strengthen and enhance my apostolic missions as a Jesuit Brother.

I have been truly blessed to work in many apostolates, but mainly it has been in the field of education: as administrator and director of guidance at Wildwood Catholic High School in New Jersey; chair for the fine arts department at St. Joseph's Prep and Georgetown Prep; and now presently, working in the counseling department and as moderator of the football and lacrosse teams at St. Joseph's Prep. In between the school assignments, I worked with Hispanic youth in the Archdioceses of Philadelphia and spent a year in the Dominican Republic. 

One of greatest gifts I have been blessed with was being called to become a permanent deacon at a parish where I served, Our Lady Star of the Sea in Cape May. After ordination, I felt privileged to work with God's people, not in a different way, but with an added spiritual dimension that I wasn't expecting in my vocation as a brother. The call from the community itself was gift. Through these many apostolates I have journeyed with my Jesuit brothers and lay colleagues and learned how to search for God's grace and love for his people that the Society has placed in my path.

The Jesuit Brother is a grace-filled vocation with many blessings and gifts that are strengthened through the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and the love of the Trinity.

Jason Downer, SJ

Mr. Downer began the regency phase of Jesuit formation this fall as a campus minister at Saint Peter's University in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Throughout my short time of five years as a Jesuit I have been blessed with opportunities to accompany people in various stages of their lives. What a privileged space to be invited in and just be with people as they encounter God already at work in their lives. Three moments of pastoral accompaniment really stand out to me as grace-filled.

The first moment occurred during Holy Week of 2011 when my fellow novice classmates and I began working at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. Calvary is a unique place of great care and compassion for people, many of whom are in their final stages of life. We fed those who could no longer feed themselves. We bathed those whose bodies had been ravaged with cancer. And throughout this entire time God gave us the grace to accompany these men and women during their most vulnerable time of life. Grace-filled! 

The second moment of grace occurred when I had the opportunity to accompany a group of students from Loyola University Chicago on a service immersion experience to rural West Virginia. Immersion experiences are at the root of my vocation and being able to share this type of experience with students is privileged. Through an experience like this, the students began to fall in love with a real understanding of what Jesuits mean when we say "men and women for and with others." Grace-filled!

The third moment occurred when I accompanied someone through the Spiritual Exercises in everyday life. As anyone will tell you, the true director of the Spiritual Exercises is God; but through our weekly meetings, I came firsthand to see how God was working in this retreatant's life and how the retreatant became more and more aware of God. Grace-filled!

This fall as I commence the next stage of my Jesuit formation called regency, I'll be working at Saint Peter's University. I begin with great excitement and joy to know that accompanying students on retreats, service projects and in everyday moments will all serve as opportunities to encounter God.

Fr. Ugo Nacciarone, SJ

Fr. Nacciarone serves the people of God in pastoral ministry on Staten Island, New York.

As I celebrate 65 years as a Jesuit and 51 years as a priest, I reflect back in gratitude on what this vocation has meant to me. I cannot conceive of a calling that would allow me to teach in a high school in Buffalo, study chemistry at MIT, spend a year in Austria working with American soldiers, spending 40 years in three African countries teaching at universities, colleges of education, major seminaries and promoting vocations among young Africans, as well as visiting the homes of the poor in shanty compounds and rural villages.

Where else could I have been equally happy working among the affluent on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish as well as among the poor in Mariner's Harbor on Staten Island, where the parish is made up of Africans, African-Americans, European Americans and Hispanics of various backgrounds, all sharing the difficult life of the working poor? All of this is combined with life in community with my fellow Jesuits from many nations.

Every morning in my prayer, I can only be grateful for such a life. What is there not to be happy with? The Lord has blessed me with this vocation, and I only pray that I may live it well for the remaining years of my life, serving His people who reveal to me the riches of His person in the many men and women who have enriched my life.

Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.jesuitvocations.org for more information.

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