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The Jesuit Seven

Scranton planted the initial seed for a Jesuit vocation for seven alumni.

With fewer than 2,500 members of the Society of Jesus now ministering in the United States, this fact speaks volumes: The University has fostered the Jesuit vocation in at least seven men in the past 21 years — five of them in the past decade. All say their years at Scranton electrified their lives in the manner St. Ignatius charged with his signature expression of ite, inflammate omnia, or “go, set the world on fire.”

In a recent conversation, these seven men shared with The Scranton Journal how they chose this nearly 500-year-old religious order, and what it means to be a Jesuit in modern society:

Top row, from left:
• The Rev. Stephen L. Surovick, S.J. ’96 (Political Science)
• Adam Rosinski, S.J. ’07 (Theology and Counseling/ Human Services)
• Doug Jones, nS.J. ’10 (International Studies and Political Science/SJLA)
• Brian Konzman, S.J. ’08 (Chemistry and Philosophy/SJLA)

Bottom row, from left:
• William Woody, S.J. ’11 (Theology/Religious Studies/SJLA)
The Rev. Angelo (A.J.) Rizzo, S.J. ’03 (Biology/Philosophy/ SJLA)
Carl Caceres, nS.J. ’11 (Philosophy/SJLA and Theology/ Religious Studies)

"Here was this group of guys at this school where everybody seems to have bought into the mission and bought into it loudly. They challenged me to ask these big questions about myself. They helped me really realize the person I was created to be.” -Adam Rosinski, S.J. ’07

The men are at varying stages of Jesuit formation or priesthood, with only Rizzo and Surovick, a cousin of University President-elect Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J., currently ordained and Konzman, expecting ordination on June 9, 2018, next in line. Those with an “n” before their S.J.s are novices in the earliest stages of their vocations. 

Community, Translated

For nearly all seven, Scranton planted the initial seed for a Jesuit vocation, and the fire ignited from there. The how and why will not surprise many: Retreats — legendary at the University — and Masses came up frequently as impetuses, as did a whole line of Jesuit influence both past and present.

“In college, I started to claim my faith as my own, and the University made that an inviting prospect,” said Surovick, 43, who resides in Syracuse, New York, where he is the socius, or assistant to the novice director, at the Jesuit novitiate of St. Andrew's Hall. “I was raised Catholic but was not all that faithful through those years. Once a student at The University of Scranton, I started to attend Mass regularly, as well as take advantage of the retreats and service opportunities that were offered by campus ministry. Eventually, I noticed there was something that continually appealed to me, at deep levels, in taking advantage of what the University was offering.”

Rizzo, who was ordained in June 2017 and recently began a pastoral year at St. Ignatius parish in Baltimore, Maryland, described Scranton and its “shared project” of community as instrumental in his decision to become a Jesuit. “The lived experience of community that I encountered there as a young man gave me such hope for our church and our world,” he said.

Konzman, a 31-year-old Carbondale native living in Berkeley, California, as part of JST (Jesuit School of Theology) Jesuit Community, noted he was not particularly interested in religion before coming to Scranton. “One of the things I was thirsty for was authenticity,” he said. “That is something I saw at the University” among the Jesuit community. “I found myself wanting that. They found the ‘it’ of life.”

“Ideologically and theologically, [Jesuits] are all over the map, but they hold a common mission — helping people grow closer to God — that truly unites them,” added Caceres, formerly a campus minister at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, now stationed at St. Alberto Hurtado Jesuit Novitiate in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“If I had to emphasize one thing, it would probably be the sense of community at Scranton,” said Konzman, a former resident assistant (RA), remembering how that key role transformed him. “We were there to help foster a community that supported one another, that suffered with one another, that fought with one another — but, in the end, really loved one another. It got me thinking, ‘Maybe community life is for me, particularly the Jesuits.’”

“One of the things I was thirsty for was authenticity. That is something I saw at the University. ...I found myself wanting that. They found the ‘it’ of life.” - Brian Konzman, S.J. ’08

 Caceres, an athlete and another former RA, also noted the academic community that grew in the Special Jesuit Liberal Arts, or SJLA, program. “Across the board at Scranton, in all these different spaces, were strong communities.”

Jones, 29, a West Wyoming native now at St. Andrew Hall with Surovick, also cherishes community and explained diocesan vs. Jesuit priesthood in terms of it. “It seems to me the biggest differences in being a Jesuit are community life and our vows,” he said, explaining those vows “make us uniquely reliant on the support of community.

 “Living in community has been a great experience for me, full of laughter, friendship and shared faith,” Jones added.

That is not to say Jesuits set themselves distantly apart from diocesan priests.

“Both diocesan priests and Jesuits, while living and working somewhat differently from each other, are all part of the same team,” Rosinski noted.

Indeed, Scranton’s Jesuit community was the glue that bonded the campus community, Rosinski said. “It was hard to resist something where everyone around you has bought in. Here was this group of guys at this school where everybody seems to have bought into the mission and bought into it loudly. They challenged me to ask these big questions about myself. They helped me really realize the person I was created to be.”

Tradition in a Modern World

These seven men in their 20s, 30s and 40s connected deeply with a religious order that began in the 16th century, long before cell phones and social media. Given the novitiate does not allow cell phones, Jesuit formation might initially feel like a throwback to that distant time, but modern communication tools quickly become critical.

“The Society comes pretty close to ordering guys to get cell phones,” said Philadelphia native Rosinski, 32, who lives within the Saint Peter Faber Jesuit Community at Boston College. “The world is not dead; it is a gift from the Creator to be embraced. We use phones to become better Jesuits.”

Living in the modern world as a Jesuit, therefore, is not as big a challenge as some might think, most of the men said.

“Because Ignatian spirituality sees God in all things, I do not see entering novitiate life as a huge jump into a whole different world,” said Caceres.

Jesuits embrace advances in technology but also rely heavily on something more traditional: their networks.

“The Society of Jesus is an incredibly diverse group of men, who serve in more than 100 countries around the world,” Jones said. “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.”

Sent where they are needed, these seven Jesuits embrace their geographic diversity, as well as their individual assignments.

“Jesuits are available to be missioned wherever the need is greatest,” Surovick, ordained in 2013, explained. “For the most part, whatever people do in the world, Jesuits also do. Doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, journalists, social ministries — you name it — and it can also be done as a Jesuit. I found something appealing about the reality that Jesuits are sent to be in the world.”

Konzman agreed. “We go where we’re sent,” he said, nonetheless, stating a Scranton preference echoed by all. “I’d love to go back, but the chance of ending up at any one place is low. If they ever ask where I want to go, I will definitely say Scranton.”

Read about the University Jesuits who inspired these men, here.

DID YOU KNOW? A Fast-Facts Jesuit Primer

Not all Jesuits are preparing for the priesthood. Jesuit scholastics are akin to seminarians, while Jesuit brothers are not in priestly preparation. The majority of men, however, enter the society as scholastics.

The most important thing a man does in the Jesuit novitiate is make The Spiritual Exercises, a set of meditations, prayers and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola in the form of a 30-day retreat. Jesuits are required to make this “long retreat” twice in their lives.

The standard track to ordination for a Jesuit is 10 to 11 years.

In general, because of the length of formation, the Society of Jesus does not tend to accept men much older than their mid-40s, but this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Even the 10-year process can be changed or adapted.

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