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Inspired by Jesuits

Inspired by Jesuits
Top, from left: Rev. Stephen L. Surovick, S.J. ’96, Adam Rosinski, S.J. ’07, Doug Jones, nS.J. ’10, Brian Konzman, S.J. ’08; Bottom, from left: William Woody, S.J. ‘11, The Rev. Angelo (A.J.) Rizzo, S.J. ’03 and Carl Caceres, nS.J. ’11.

The Scranton Journal was able to connect with seven alumni, who have entered the Society of Jesus in the past 14 years. All enthusiastically cited The University of Scranton as the place responsible for their vocations, and all named several inspirational Jesuits in particular.

Carl Caceres, nS.J. ’11: “The University played a pivotal role in my vocation. Faculty and staff lived and modeled cura personalis, care of the whole person, in their unique individuality. I learned about Ignatian spirituality, especially in the Magis course, and I grew in my faith from experiences in the classroom, especially through theology courses and retreats at Chapman Lake. I ended up becoming the coordinator of the Search Retreat at Xavier University as a campus minister there, which was what I did prior to joining the Jesuits. Attending Mass at Scranton and learning from the Jesuits through their homilies were also important parts of my continued spiritual growth. The Jesuits I knew at Scranton, either from Mass, class or campus life, were good men who cared deeply for the students, the campus community, the Church and their work. Even though he was not a Jesuit at the time, my friend and classmate, Bill Woody, was also influential. It was helpful to have someone who was also discerning Jesuit life who had a similar set of experiences. We were both in the SJLA program, theology majors, participated in Dr. Engel’s leadership and civic responsibility seminar, etc. 

“Fr. Ron McKinney influenced me the most. He was the director of the SJLA Honors Program, of which I participated, my professor for Intro to Philosophy and the Jesuit Magis courses, and my spiritual director for three years. I switched my major to philosophy after being in his Intro class. He is a dear mentor with whom I have kept in touch.

“Fr. Rick Malloy worked in Campus Ministry when I was an upperclassman. He also served as my spiritual director on a three-day silent retreat I attended my senior year. I was edified by reading his books, A Faith That Frees: Catholic Matters for the 21st Century and Being on Fire: Top Ten Essentials of Catholic Faith and used them with my students at Xavier.    

“Tim O’Brien, S.J., did his long experiment in campus ministry when I was a student worker there.  We had great conversations, and I learned a lot from him.”

Doug Jones, nS.J. ’10: “I would say two of the biggest influences in my decision to consider becoming a Jesuit were:

  1. The strong Jesuit mission of the University, embodied by Fr. Pilarz, who was president at the time. It was clear to me that Jesuits didn't just talk about mission but lived it.
  2. SJLA, led at the time by Fr. Ron McKinney. As part of SJLA, I took a course on Jesuit history and spirituality, which exposed me to the identity of the Society in a much deeper way and led me to realize that the Society might be a very good fit for me.”

Brian Konzman, S.J. ’08: “The University provided two fundamental planks for my vocation: an intellectual formation in which faith and reason were not opposed, but complementary; and an intense experience of community. While I was influenced by particular Jesuits at the University, it was more the experience of the Jesuits as a community that inspired me.”

Adam Rosinski, S.J. ’07: “The University played a massive role in my choice to become a Jesuit. It introduced me to the Society, and I saw in the Jesuits at Scranton a way of living that I hadn't known about before. Scranton was completely infused with the Jesuit mission, and people – both Jesuits and others – brought in and were really on fire for it. The more I learned about the Society of Jesus, Ignatius Loyola and Jesuit education, and the more I got to know the Jesuits on campus, the more attractive the whole thing became.

“Particularly influential for me were Scott Pilarz, Ron McKinney and Phil Florio.”

Stephen L. Surovick, S.J. ’96: “Whether it was Masses, retreats or service opportunities, it was all geared to somebody my age, and that made my faith more attractive. The University helped build upon a great foundation for what would turn out to be a vocation to the Jesuits.

“Two Jesuits that stood out in my experience at the University were Pat Mohr and Tom Masterson. They pushed and challenged me to think in new ways about their respective disciplines. And while I may not have appreciated it as much then, I certainly do now.” 

William Woody, S.J. ’11: “Particularly influential Jesuits were Ron McKinney in philosophy (and SJLA), Terry Devino, who at the time was in campus ministry, as well as the then-Rector Thomas Roach and the late Henry Haske.”

We also asked the men what appealed to them most about the idea of becoming a Jesuit.

Caceres: “Jesuits are pastoral; they possess a deep joy, and their lives are grounded in a foundational relationship with Jesus. Ignatian spirituality is life-giving and accessible, especially for students and lay partners. The formation process to become a Jesuit is extensive and really provides us with a strong foundation to happily live this life of ministry. Jesuit life encourages us to become our best and truest self and to help build the Kingdom of God in a way that befits who we are and how we love best.”

Jones: “The Society of Jesus is an incredibly diverse group of men, who serve in more than a hundred countries around the world. The Jesuits I've gotten to know have impressed me because of their intellectual and spiritual depth, their openness, and their kindness. Jesuits are involved in an incredibly wide range of ministries, which are networked together in wonderfully collaborative ways.”

Konzman: “Community, the ability to hold intellectual rigor and mystic/Christic experience in creative tension, and an orientation toward a social justice that sees Christ in the poor.”

Rosinski: “I've been a Jesuit for more than eight years now, and I love it. I couldn't narrow it down to a single ‘most appealing’ thing, but two aspects that stand out to me the most right now are the opportunity to come to know intimately the person of Jesus Christ and the chance to share this life and mission with brother Jesuits, many of whom have become dear friends. “

Surovick: “The major Jesuit influence in my life is my cousin, the once and future President, Scott Pilarz (though he was not president while I was an undergraduate). Our families have always been close, which has been a great blessing in my life. From growing up around Scott, and through interactions with a number of other Jesuits who he would bring around, I noticed that these were good guys, doing good work, and they were happy. Eventually, I realized that there was something very attractive about that, and so the Society was going to be the first – and really the only – place I was going to look once I decided to discern religious life.”

Woody: “Ignatian spirituality and the Spiritual Exercises, the commitment to education and the intellectual apostolate, and the integral role that our experience of community plays in our religious life.”

Finally, we asked the men if recruitment is key, given the shortage of Jesuits, particularly in the United States.

Turns out indirect evangelization is more important than direct recruitment.

“We’re not headhunters,” Rosinski stressed. “Not once did a priest at Scranton say to me at Scranton, ‘You should be a Jesuit.’ One guy said to me, ‘You know, with X, Y and Z qualities, you’d make a great Jesuit.’ Then he walked away.”

Struck by that, Rosinski has a simple message for others considering joining the Jesuits, particularly anyone studying or working at the University right now. 

“If there are guys at Scranton who are thinking about this life, I would say, ‘Come join us!’ If you loved your time at Scranton, just consider it. You get to live out your time at Scranton in a much deeper way.”

Read more from these seven men in the article, here.

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