by Fr. Charlie Rodrigues, SJ
On a still, snowy morning in Woodstock, Illinois, I was received—fully—into the Society of Jesus. It was January 1, the solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God. Fr. Tim Kesicki, SJ, Provincial of the Chicago-Detroit Province, received my final vows. Fr. Tom Lawler, SJ, Provincial of the Wisconsin Province, was also at the altar. Fr. Ray Guiao, SJ, Formation Assistant for both provinces, splendidly directed an all-formation choir. Buoyed by the men in formation, supported by a handful of cherished Jesuit companions, and watched by my family in Mumbai via Skype, it surely felt like an auspicious beginning to a new year . . . and a new life, or least a new mode of existence in the Society of Jesus.
Final vows, after all, are about “becoming the Society of Jesus.” For all these years, the Society of Jesus has nurtured and nourished me. Now, I assume full responsibility for nurturing and nourishing the Society itself—wherever, however I may be called upon to do so. Of course, with my work at the novitiate I’d already been given a taste of nurturing and nourishing the future Society, which made it all the more special to have so many present and recent novices in that chapel with me.
Not surprisingly, then, “motherhood” was a theme that kept coming up for me during the Mass that morning. The faith, the generosity, the example of my own dearest mother now frail in health and far away. The mothering of Mary on whose feast of the Assumption I professed my first vows and with whom I was having another rendezvous at my final. Holy Mother, the Church, who has given me a sense of mission and meaning since my earliest days. And, so presently, the-Society-of-Jesus-as-a-mother, which is a phrase used in one of the final-vow documents.
More than a coincidence, I had requested Fr. Tim Kesicki to preach at the final vow liturgy . . . since he had also preached at our liturgy for first vows fifteen years ago. He even reiterated a theme from that homily: “How can you be a man-for-others if you act just like other men”? A perfect reminder that this final incorporation into the Society meant that I could no longer “act like other men” even as I had to start acting like those countless great and holy Jesuits who have lived and died in the Society over these four hundred and seventy four years. What a challenge! What a grace!To view our 2014 Midwest Jesuits Formation Timeline (pdf format) please Click Here