Br. Pat Douglas SJ is a vocation promoter for the Midwest Jesuits and chaplain at Creighton University
Through my ministries,
I enter into many
with people who want to
talk about life, faith,
struggles, and many other
From there, I work
to bring people
closer to God.
I love being a brother!
By Jeremy Langford
Q: What is the Year of Consecrated Life?
A: I’m very excited that Pope Francis is using this year to focus on the many gifts that consecrated religious men and women bring to the Church and world. A couple of years ago I was part of a think tank of religious brothers from different orders tasked with finding ways to promote the brothers’ vocation. One of our recommendations, which went to the Vatican, was to complement Pope Benedict’s declaration of 2009 as the Year of the Priest with the Year of Consecrated Life in 2015. Apparently, Pope Francis took the idea to heart!
Q: What are the goals of this year-long celebration?
A: The Vatican has called for the Church to “make a grateful remembrance of the recent past” while embracing “the future with hope.” The Year of Consecrated Life has three main goals—to provide renewal for men and women in consecrated life; to give thanks for the service of sisters, brothers, priests, and nuns; and to invite young Catholics to consider a religious vocation.
Q: When considering your vocation, why did you become a Jesuit brother?
A: When I discerned that I was being called to serve Christ and the Church, I felt called to be a Jesuit. I knew the Jesuits and Ignatian spirituality through my family and my high school experience at Creighton Prep in Omaha. I also knew great Jesuit brothers, like Mike Wilmot and Jerry Peltz, who inspired me with their humble service and showed me the possibilities of a religious vocation outside of sacramental ministry. I knew that I did not want to get married or to be a priest, so vowed religious life as a Jesuit brother made perfect sense as a way for me to live in community and share my gifts, work, and prayer broadly.
Q: What is unique about being a brother?
is a good word. Sometimes people ask me, “Why be just a brother?” Besides being hurtful, the question places limitations on what it means to serve God. We wouldn’t ask a parent, “Why be just a mother, or just a father.” “Just” equals “less than,” and whenever we serve God or others, there is no such thing as “less than.” Saint Ignatius believed in the diversity of vocations and considered priests and brothers in the Society as different ways of fulfilling the same mission.
Q: What do you love most about your vocation?
A: Having the spiritual freedom to serve wherever God and the Society call me. As long as God is the focus of my work, I can make everything—from cutting grass to coaching to counseling—about God. I also love the relational aspect of being a brother. Through my ministries, I enter into many spiritual conversations with people who want to talk about life, faith, struggles, and many other related things. From there, I work to bring people closer to God. I love being a brother!
Q: What is the formation process for Jesuit brothers?
A: The two-year novitiate is the same for all Jesuit novices, then a man either takes vows as a scholastic or as a brother. The scholastics go on to study philosophy and theology in depth, and brothers complement some philosophy and theology with further studies based on their personal gifts and the needs in the Society. For example, I was a social worker before I became a Jesuit. Once I took vows as a brother, I went on to earn Master’s degrees in counseling and in spirituality, as well as a certification in spiritual direction. Jesuit formation for priests is 10 to 12 years, and for brothers 8 to 10 years.
Q: What advice would you give to someone considering a religious vocation?
A: Be not afraid! One of the saddest things I encounter is young people who are terrified to make a commitment.
I see people in discernment for religious life sitting on the fence, scared to commit to one side or the other. Have you ever sat on a fence? They are very uncomfortable! My advice for someone considering religious life would be to pray for courage! We need courage to get off the fence. I tell guys who are entering our novitiate that they do not have to have it all figured out, they just need the courage to show up and see if religious life is for them.
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