By Lauren Gaffey
Beginning with St. Ignatius of Loyola and his first companions, the Society of Jesus has gone to the frontiers to meet people where they are, inviting them into a deeper relationship with God. In 2012, the former Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits continued this tradition by putting the gifts of Ignatian spirituality directly in people’s hands, specifically their phones and computers. In the eight years since the launch of the Jesuit Prayer initiative, the ministry has become a global community by offering uniquely Ignatian resources for daily prayer, all free of charge.
Each day, the site features a Scripture reading from the day’s Mass, a brief reflection on that passage, and a corresponding prayer. Individuals can sign up to receive the readings via email each morning or view them anytime through the mobile app or at JesuitPrayer.org. These easily accessible prayer resources allow users to stay connected to their faith, no matter where they are physically or spiritually. As regular reader Diane Owens said this spring while many were sheltering in place due to the coronavirus, “In these times when we cannot even go to Mass, I so appreciate having the dependability of daily Scripture, a thoughtful reflection, and a meaningful prayer and visual.”
To date, more than 500 Jesuits and lay colleagues have written reflections for the site. These authors represent Jesuits in all stages of formation, as well as staff, volunteers, board members, and students at various Jesuit schools and institutions. While the reflections are all based in Ignatian spirituality, the diversity of author backgrounds means that the reflections come from a variety of theological and personal perspectives, offering different insights each day.
The ministry of Jesuit Prayer would not be possible without the work of the Jesuit Prayer team which is made up of Jesuits and lay collaborators. The team includes Troy Bengford, who ensures that the technology is in place to publish the reflections each day. Quentin Maguire is the co-founder of the site and oversees the operation. Kathy Sullivan manages the prayer requests received through the site, ensuring that each person receives a personal response and has their intention prayed for by the senior Jesuit communities. More than 23,000 requests have been remembered in the daily and Sunday Masses of the men at Colombiere and St. Camillus. “People are so grateful to the Jesuits for praying for them during important moments and very difficult struggles in their lives,” Sullivan says. “They frequently write how much it means to receive a personal response, assuring them that they are not alone, that the Jesuits walk the pathway with them.”
While the content of the site is curated through the Midwest Jesuits province office, Jesuit Prayer enjoys a relationship providing many of our educational and pastoral works with these same prayer and reflection materials. These institutions are able to offer the content to their constituents as a tool for prayer in their daily lives, while also deepening their understanding of Ignatian spirituality. Many Jesuits serving as teachers or administrators in high schools use the Jesuit Prayer materials with students in their classrooms.
The other Jesuit provinces in the United States also partner with the Midwest Province to spread the word about the app and help recruit new authors. Therese Meyerhoff, provincial assistant for communications for the Central and Southern Province Jesuits invites authors from institutions in that province and continues to publicize the ministry. “Our province supports Jesuit Prayer because we want to make it easy for people to include Ignatian spirituality in their daily prayer life,” she said. “Jesuit Prayer allows users to experience and benefit from the broader Jesuit family, with the wide range of perspectives and insights each brings. Praying together through Jesuit Prayer is a great unifier.”
Recently, the Midwest Jesuits received a grant from the Helen Brach Foundation to expand the reach of Jesuit Prayer to three Cristo Rey schools: Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Milwaukee, and Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep in Waukegan, Illinois. This initiative will include the technology to translate the reflection material into Spanish. Chicago Cristo Rey Jesuit High School president Tony Ortiz said, “We are honored that the Midwest Jesuits and Helen Brach Foundation have partnered with us to recognize the importance of customizing this app, with great care and intentionality, to the rich language, culture, and spiritual traditions present in the Latinx community. This resource will allow us to deepen the faith experience we provide by weaving Ignatian spirituality into the digital daily life of our school community—from our students and their parents to our graduates and staff—with an emphasis on Hispanic ministry.”
Because the addition of these schools requires significant upgrades to the app, it is anticipated that the technology to add computer-aided translation will be included as part of a larger initiative, enabling readers to access the prayer and reflections in their preferred languages. All are welcome to join the JesuitPrayer community by submitting a prayer request, downloading the app, or signing up to receive the daily email at JesuitPrayer.org