By Fr. Charlie Baumann, SJ
Born: November 16, 1945
Entered: December 1, 1970
Ordained: June 20, 1980
When I was a child, I was fascinated by bows and arrows. I used to make them out of string, twigs, and willow branches. So, when I read the Book of Isaiah (49:2), the idea of being an arrow in God’s quiver caught my attention. And the image came back to me during many retreats when I was dealing with discouragement. I could be an arrow that Jesus would use to reach a specific someone. Jesus was good at archery, and his arrows never missed their mark. I needed to be watchful and wait for the moment when he would launch me into the air.
The favorite “targets” for the Lord during my 50 years as a Jesuit were those who did not quite conform to the norms of polite society. Much of my time as a Jesuit has been spent meeting the person who showed up at the rectory door seeking alms or the person who had a rap sheet as lengthy as someone’s Santa Claus list. It was thrilling to meet people from other backgrounds, to hear their story, and to ask the Holy Spirit what to say next.
The Society of Jesus did its best to make me a “polished” arrow. Alas, it did not work. I sometimes wonder why God made me the way I am. Since God does not answer “why” questions, the only reply I get is, “I am satisfied with you the way you are.”
By Fr. Jim Bretzke, SJ
Born: February 22, 1952
Entered: August 23, 1970
Ordained: May 30, 1981
Jesus’ valedictory command “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (π?ντα τ? ?θνη)” (Mt 28:19-20) echoes in St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Inflammate Omnia missioning Francis Xavier to Asia. I remember this emblazoned on the statue of Ignatius at the Curia in Rome—but with a fire extinguisher kept nearby just in case we should do something that might get out of hand!
Having spent the bulk of my Jesuit life far from my native Milwaukee, I find a definite resonance with both Jesus’ and Ignatius’s commands. I first studied Greek at Marquette University High School, but ended up teaching it at Sogang University in South Korea, and it was there that the phrase π?ντα τ? ?θνη (panta ta ethne) took on special significance for me. It’s rather anachronistic to translate this as “all nations,” while another rendition might be to “all ethnicities.” In Korea, Rome, Manila, Boston, and Berkeley, California, I came to appreciate how culturally complex the real world was beyond Milwaukee and Omaha. This insight remains a graced challenge in my life: to attempt a genuinely inculturated “cross-cultural” theology and ministry in the way I believe Jesus has commanded and Ignatius had hoped. In this, I am both inspired and supported by so many Jesuits and countless others. I remain hopeful that anywhere and everywhere Jesus’ promise “I am with you always, to the end of the age” means “with us through thick and thin” to the end not only of my “age,” but until the Father’s kingdom completely comes.
By Fr. Jeff Loebl, SJ
Born: April 27, 1952
Entered: August 23, 1970
Ordained: June 17, 1982
“Finding God in All Things” captures the experience of being a Jesuit for 50 years to me. Finding God in our lives through every aspect of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola involves finding ourselves as loved sinners in God’s sight. Finding God in all things means growing in a personal and intimate relationship with Christ, coming to know, love, and serve him through engaging with him from his birth and maturity, public ministry, passion, death, and resurrection. Finding God in all things means praying “All that I am and all that I have, you have given unto me. I give it all to you.”
As Jesuits, we pray to Mary to be “placed at the side of her son, in the service of his Church, beneath the banner of the cross.” These are all part of how St. Ignatius captured my heart. There is not time or space to say more here; however, gratitude is a great part of the Ignatian charism. So, I express my profound gratitude, for my family, my friends, and my fellow Jesuits who have all nourished me in the love of God and in knowing his faithful, enduring love. I am grateful for how they have nurtured and challenged me to seek to grow more and more as a companion of Jesus. I am so grateful for all those who allowed me to accompany them as a priest and witness their lives in their joys and sufferings; here, especially, I saw God present in every possible moment, every heartbeat, every instance of life. Yes, truly and gratefully, we can “find God in all things.”
By Fr. John Paul, SJ
Born: June 11, 1949
Entered: August 23, 1970
Ordained: June 13, 1980
Massira (journey or pathway): My time in the Society of Jesus has been a journey that has taken me places I never imagined. Like with Abram and Sarai, the Lord has invited me to leave one’s home and to journey to other places with the continual message of “trust me, it will be good for you—and others; I will ‘broaden your tent.’” The Lord has gifted me with a desire to travel and to “embrace adventures.” Some of those adventures have been awesome and some of the side-trails on this journey have not been so awesome (at least at the time). Yet through it all is the realization that this journey is not of my initiative.
Mubarakat (blessed): Having been on this pathway/journey for 50 years(??!!) has given me the deep-felt knowledge of how deeply God has blessed me and gifted me along the way. My years on the Pine Ridge Reservation have given me a deep sense of the beauty of Lakota culture, language, and traditions in the midst of some “thorns.” It has given me hunka (adopted relatives) who have made me one of their own and who have invited me to be part of their lives and their faith. They also taught me and invited me to see the giftedness of my own cultural and ethnic background. God has further “blessed” me through internal governance in the Society of Jesus—especially as novice director and as formation assistant. What a gift to be able to journey with other young men that our Lord has called to serve our God with him under the banner of the cross—affirming them in their holy desires to be part of this wonderful company. And that sense of being blessed by God has continued while working with others in the ministry of “unlocking the potential” of students with other gifted staff and faculty at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Minneapolis.
Hayat (life): a favorite quote of mine from the prophet Jeremiah (29) speaks about God having “plans of life for you/us—not woe, not diminishment.” My massira has been an experience of God abundantly sharing hayat with me through others. I have enjoyed helping others experience life deep within them while realizing, sometimes belatedly, how much more they have been instruments of the Lord, deepening his life-giving love within me. In the Byzantine tradition, our Easter proclamation is: Christ has risen from the dead, and by his death, he has trampled upon death, giving life to those who are in the tomb. I see my journey being so greatly blessed by a God who continually bestows life within each of our tombs!