Ignatian Spirituality in Northeast Ohio

A group of Ignatian colleagues in northeast Ohio are dedicated to sharing the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. They developed a unique Ignatian Spirituality Collaborative to strengthen their practice and impact in the region. Representatives of a dozen institutions and ministries have been meeting several times a year for a decade, and they support each other, pray together, share their experience, and foster cooperation. The image below shows the ministries active in the collaborative, but how did it all begin?

Back in 2009, Rita Carfagna, a spiritual director and board member of the Jesuit Retreat Center, discerned with Fr. Howard Gray, SJ, that is was the right time to call together people engaged in the work of the Exercises, as northeast Ohio was experiencing growing interest in the Spiritual Exercises. The Spirituality Program for Adults at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland had spread to Walsh Jesuit High School and parishes such as Gesu. The Ignatian Spirituality Institute at John Carroll University was certifying a growing number of directors. The Jesuit Retreat Center was near capacity with retreats and programs centered on Ignatian spirituality. However, ministerial and geographic divides kept practitioners of the Exercises somewhat isolated. The spirit, though, had other plans, and thus the collaborative was born. 

Since the earliest meetings, members of the collaborative have expressed a deep desire to be available to each other and to help each another respond to their unique charisms and call. They share ideas and best practices and inform one another about past, present, and future programming and opportunities. As a group, they also discern larger questions like: “What is God calling us to?”, “How is the Holy Spirit inspiring us to share the Spiritual Exercises with all God’s people who are seekers?”, and “What does God want to do here in northeast Ohio through our Jesuit ministries and through the Spiritual Exercises?” This year, the group worked to bring Fr. Brendan McManus, SJ, from Ireland to give retreats and programs at several centers.

During a visit to northeast Ohio as provincial, Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, attended one of the meetings of the collaborative. According to Rich Jerdonek, a longtime member and spiritual director, “Fr. Paulson helped us to better understand how the Holy Spirit is working through our ministries. His presence provided us a more regional and national perspective, and he helped us appreciate the distinctive nature and possibilities for the collaborative.” 

Martha Campbell, who chaired the group for many years, explained that some of the fruits of the collaborative are “growing relationships across institutional boundaries, greater awareness of how God is working within our region, sharing of resources, personal spiritual renewal, individual opportunities for development, more informed decisions, and growth of each of our ministries.” In one word: magis.

The members now share the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius in various formats with more than 5,000 people each year through their ministries. They do so, not as individuals, but as companions in mission, called by the Spirit and supported in friendship.

First row: Ginny Pippin, regional director, Ignatian Volunteer Corps; Dr. Joan Nuth, PhD, director, Ignatian Spirituality Institute, John Carroll University; and Rich Jerdonek, spiritual director; second row: Rick Krivanka, executive director, Jesuit Retreat Center; Lisa Massello, vice president for mission and identity, Walsh Jesuit High School; Virginia Malloy, vice president, mission, Saint Martin de Porres High School; Fr. Jim Strzok, SJ, retreat director, Jesuit Retreat Center; Amy McKenna, director, spirituality program for adults, Saint Ignatius High School; Brenna Davis, educational resource and environmental justice coordinator, the Ignatian Solidarity Network; Marcia Leous, Co-director of Faith Formation at Church of the Gesu, and Tom Pipp, SJ, director of Ignatian formation - mission and identity, John Carroll University.

How the Ignatian Spirituality Collaborative Enriched My Ministry

Fr. Michael Vincent, SJ, Church of the Gesu
The collaborative reminds me that Gesu is not alone in promoting the Spiritual Exercises. We have the resources of JRC, JCU, and other groups to serve our public. The enthusiasm of the SPA groups from the two high schools is very inspiring to me. I was always grateful when the group helped me identify speakers for the Annual Gesu Novena of Grace (our "Parish Mission"). They gave me good ideas when I didn't have any myself.  I also found the occasional "sharing" we did about important moments in our ministry to be very helpful.

Fr. Tom Pipp, SJ, John Carroll University
"When I meet with the Ignatian Spirituality Collaborative, I see the spirit of St. Ignatius of Loyola alive in the many apostolic endeavors in the Cleveland area, particularly those works led and served by the lay partners of Jesuits. The staff at the Jesuit Retreat Center—which John Carroll University utilizes so often—is particularly helpful to me at these meetings. It is good to have frequent contact with the folks from JRC, which serves JCU and the Cleveland area so well.

Sr. Kate Hine, S.N.D., Charis Ministries
Since 2011, the Sisters of Notre Dame have partnered with Charis Ministries to offer an annual retreat for young adults in their 20s and 30s.  As sisters moved out of the retreat ministry, I turned to Dr. Joan Nuth, director of the ISI program at JCU to help me identify spiritual directors who would work with me and the young adult teams. Two graduates of ISI stepped up and are now committed to their second Charis retreat. They also have continued to work with some of last year’s retreatants in spiritual direction.

Martha Campbell, spiritual director
The Ignatian Collaborative’s purpose is to bring together and grow the ministry of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in northeast Ohio. After several years and with significant support from provincial leadership, we doubled in size, growing from five to eleven Ignatian ministries. Together, we discerned our mission: to help one another by sharing resources, offering support, and providing opportunities for cooperative efforts. As founding director of the lay leadership program at Jesuit Retreat Center, our ministry was blessed and enriched by the confirmation of each representative giving of their time and talent.

Brenna Davis, Ignatian Solidarity Network
I started diagramming our organizations and found almost all are connected as part of an “Integral Ecology of Ignatian Ministries” in northeast Ohio.

Recent News

August 12, 2020 — Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Edward S. Sthokal, SJ, who died on August 11, 2020, at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He was 98 years old. May he rest in peace.

August 12, 2020 — Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Kenneth J, Herian, SJ, who died on August 9, 2020, at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He was 96 years old. May he rest in peace.

July 23, 2020 — Bishop Michael McGovern, installed as the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, on July 22, is an alumnus of both Saint Ignatius College Prep and Loyola University Chicago.

July 7, 2020 — Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Frederick J. Deters, SJ, who died on July 5, 2020, at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan. He was 83 years old. May he rest in peace.

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