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"My vocation developed from six Jesuits I did not know — the martyrs of El Salvador."
A Heart on Fire: Br. Ken Homan, SJ

Adventures of a Jesuit Brother
By Br. Ken Homan, SJ 

Winter clouds floated over the golden-brown flood plains of the Missouri River. I was hiking Indian Cave State Park on the Nebraska-Missouri border. As I enjoyed the silence, a red-tailed hawk glided over my left shoulder, and the Holy Spirit flooded my heart like the river below: “It’s time, Ken. Stop stalling. Ask for the application.”

I grew up in St. Louis, Mo., loving camping and hiking adventures with my family. In addition to time outside, I spent much of my childhood around the Jesuits and Franciscans, with whom my parents worked.

Despite growing up around these great individuals, my vocation developed from six Jesuits I did not know — the martyrs of El Salvador. At a Mass celebrating these and other Jesuit martyrs, I first felt the tug to join the Society of Jesus. But as a junior in high school, I was not ready for that commitment.

Three years later, I was a sophomore at Creighton University, and that little voice had grown into a call I could no longer put on hold. Despite developing tremendous friendships and loving my studies, God made it clear that it was time for a new adventure.

I entered the Jesuit novitiate in 2010. Soon, I discerned that God was calling me to yet another adventure — to be a Jesuit brother.

Jesuit brothers and priests both have a vocation to consecrated religious life, but brothers do not feel called to ordained sacramental ministry. Historically, Jesuit brothers held hands-on jobs, working as carpenters, blacksmiths, farmers, electricians, and more. Recently, brothers have taken on broader ministries as college professors, social workers, astronomers, engineers, and high school teachers.

So what defines a brother? Discovering this has been one of my favorite adventures as a Jesuit. I am learning how to be a modern Jesuit brother and exploring why God called me to this particular vocation.

This adventure has taken me on journeys that are both deeply intellectual and hands-on. While most of my classmates in formation for the priesthood studied philosophy during first studies, I completed a master’s degree in American history, focusing on Jesuits and the labor movement in St. Louis. Simultaneously, I spent my afternoons learning to be a maintenance man at a school in the South Bronx. With questions like "Which chemical and tool combination is best for stripping and re-waxing floors?" the maintenance job was often more intellectual than my studies!

My Jesuit adventure has brought me to regency as a teacher at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee. I teach theology, coach wrestling and powerlifting, and help with activities like retreats and dances. Sometimes, my students ask, “What exactly is a brother?” I respond, “Maybe you should be one and find out!” 



Read more vocation reflections by young Jesuits.

Learn about the stages of Jesuit formation and a vocation with the Jesuits.

Br. Homan's reflection also appeared in the Fall-Winter 2016 issue of Jesuits magazine.

Br. Ken Homan, SJ, is a Jesuit regent of the Wisconsin Province. He completed his undergraduate studies and obtained a master’s degree in American history at Fordham University in New York. In addition to teaching and coaching at Marquette University High School, he writes for The Jesuit Post.
 


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Located 45 miles east of Omaha, Neb., in rural Iowa, the Creighton University Retreat Center is situated on 154 wooded acres on the Nishnabotna River.