(April 2013) It started with football.
John Madden (not to be confused with the former NFL coach of that name) received a football scholarship to Marquette University.
That scholarship enabled him to study at a place where he was "deeply impressed by the work of the Jesuits. I had a wonderful experience and made great friends at Marquette."
The Jesuit impact on John's life did not end there, however. The reality is far from it.
"My wife Mary and I have been so fortunate to have Jesuits in our lives as friends, mentors, and spiritual directors," he says. "For example, in 1958 we started a retreat group going to Bellarmine Hall – the Jesuit Retreat Center in Barrington, Illinois. More than 50 yearly experiences of following the Spiritual Exercises have added great depth to our spiritual life and considerably strengthened our faith."
"After all these years, Ignatian values have become part of the fabric of who we are, of how we think and feel," he adds.
John's gratitude has led to a life of giving back. His numerous contributions include service as a Bellarmine Retreat Center board member and Marquette University trustee.
"There are so many ways the Jesuits impact and enrich our lives through their work in high schools, universities, hospitals, retreat centers, and missions with Native Americans and in foreign lands, that it is hard not to want to help in some way," he explains.
"The Jesuit motto of 'Women and Men for Others' is powerful," John continues. "If those of us who have been exposed to it have heard the message loud and clear, it means we have to reach out and make this world a more hospitable place for those who are disadvantaged. Supporting the Society of Jesus fosters an ever-growing number of committed people who will continue to strive to make the world a better, more just place for all."
John is quick to say that supporting the Society is not a relationship with one-sided benefits.
"Volunteering in Jesuit ministries exposes you to the true spirit these men exhibit to promote Ignatian spirituality and Ignatian values in their schools and in their dealings with people on a daily basis," he says. "Being involved in decision-making roles, I've observed how they bring Ignatian principles forward when making tough choices. That rubs off on all of us who are working with them."
John's enthusiasm for the Jesuits is difficult to contain.
"They are very skilled at so many roles and adapt to various assignments so well – from university president one year to serving in a foreign mission the next," he explains. "And, in spite of all their education, they are easy to know and make wonderful lifelong friends. Some of our dear Jesuit friends like Fr. John Dillon are now at the Colombiere retirement center in Michigan, and we stay in touch with them and visit them when we can."
After all, "Once they got ya, it's hard to get away!"