By Brian Harper
How do we reconcile the way we pray on Sunday with the work we do Monday through Friday?
"Our purpose is to create a broader, deeper, Jesuit young alumni, staff, and volunteer community in the Chicago area," said Anne Williams, executive director of Charis, which offers retreat experiences and Ignatian Spirituality to young women and men. "So many of the young adults we talk to are looking for connection and a community to explore their faith — what better way than a community of those with shared Jesuit values."
The first Jesuit Connections featured Fr. Pat McGrath, SJ, president of Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill. Father McGrath addressed a packed room of attendees in their 20s and 30s at the Hidden Shamrock in Chicago.
"This notion of an intersection between your work life and your faith life is almost an odd question to somebody that's been formed in the Jesuit way of looking at things," said Fr. McGrath, "because all things are connected to your faith life in the Jesuit worldview."
|Video by Jimmy Boratyn||
"The first is Ignatius had an unbelievably positive view of the world," said Fr. McGrath. "His fundamental orientation to every moment of his life became an appreciation and a gratitude for what is, because, the second point, he had become so utterly convinced that God could be experienced in all things." This outlook, said Fr. McGrath, brought Saint Ignatius and his early companions to see the world as their monastery; rather than working and praying in cloistered communities, they lived out their faith wherever God called them.
"That's why you find Jesuits who are anthropologists, physicists, theologians, social workers, doctors, lawyers, who are doing all sorts of different things," said Fr. McGrath. This call, however, is not only for Jesuits.
"Your work, what you do, whether you believe it or not, is holy work," Fr. McGrath told the audience. "And you're saying, 'Yeah, you should see what I do!' But the point is where you are in your life is the intersection of God in this world. You: that's where the Church is at that moment. Work is one of the ways you become the person God created you to be. The intersection of faith and work is you."
Father McGrath encouraged young people who find their jobs pointless or disconnected from their faith to ask themselves several questions at work:
"What's happening to me in the process of doing this work? God, what are you asking me to notice when I work? What is it you're calling me to do next? How am I called to be a companion to the people I work with? How do I bring to the people I work with some sense of hope?
"I'm not talking about preaching at the water cooler," he added. "I'm talking more about what Saint Francis of Assisi is sometimes accredited with saying: 'Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.' How do you live? How do you witness to the values of the Gospel in who you are?"
||Click to see photos from Jesuit Connections.|
Kaitlyn Ryan, 25, a Saint Louis University graduate who works in public relations in Chicago, said the event was a good reminder of her call to share her faith with others.
"It reaffirmed why we're on this Earth," she said. "It was nice to have someone reaffirm why we're doing what we're doing and how these jobs that may seem meaningless every day actually are teaching us about ourselves and our faith."
Patrick Hyland, SJ, who is in first studies at Saint Louis University, also attended the event. Like their lay companions, Hyland said young Jesuits face the challenge of maintaining the many varying commitments in life.
"It's a balancing act," he said. "It comes down to dedication, setting aside time, even if it's just 15 minutes, where we're doing what Fr. McGrath was talking about: reflecting and really praying. Whether it's Scripture, something that happened to us that day, or a person that came up, it's taking that time to be contemplatives in action."
The next Jesuit Connections event will be Tuesday, May 3, with Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ, executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, in the Anthony Fornelli '51 Alumni Lounge (1019 South May Street) at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. The Jesuit Connections Advisory Board, which consists of alumni and staff from various Jesuit high schools, universities, and service programs, hopes to eventually expand beyond talks to include service projects, a city-wide Jesuit Mass, and possibly a 5k run.
To learn more about Charis and Jesuit Connections, visit http://charis.website/jesuitconnections/