Travis Russell, SJ
Travis Russell, SJ

Province: USA West

Birthday: April 9, 1985

Hometown: Sutherlin, Oregon

Bachelor’s degree, global security studies, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Master’s degree, social philosophy, Loyola University Chicago
Master of Divinity, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry

Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
Served as a pastoral care worker with Jesuit Refugee Service at Dzaleka refugee camp in Malawi
Worked inside Chicago’s juvenile hall with the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, a ministry that seeks healing in communities that have been impacted by violence and conflict
Worked with Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative in Los Angeles, giving retreats in prisons throughout California

Will serve at St. Ignatius Parish in San Francisco, California

Travis D. Russell, SJ, grew up in the small town of Sutherlin, Oregon. He earned a bachelor’s degree in global security studies from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona, where he went through RCIA and became Catholic. His path to the Jesuits was marked by many improbable twists and turns, including an influential Franciscan who was instrumental in his discernment. After working for a year, he applied to the Society, even though he did not know any Jesuits. In 2008 he entered the novitiate. As a novice, he volunteered at the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (JRJI), was an assistant at L’Arche Seattle and taught at Verbum Dei High School, Los Angeles. He was then missioned to Loyola University Chicago for first studies, where he earned a master’s in social philosophy and worked inside juvenile hall with the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, a ministry that seeks healing in communities that have been impacted by violence and conflict. His next mission was to Malawi, where he worked for Jesuit Refugee Service as a pastoral care worker at Dzaleka refugee camp. He was then missioned back to Verbum Dei High School, where for two years he taught religion and helped in campus ministry. In 2017, he was missioned to Guadalajara, Mexico, to study Spanish, and afterward was missioned to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry to study theology. In Boston, he served as a deacon at St. Mary of the Angels, a warm and lively parish located in the neighborhood of Roxbury. (USA West Province)

Travis (center) with fellow Jesuits in Mexico.

What are three words a family member or fellow Jesuit would use to describe you? (Ask someone.) Do you agree with his or her selections?
On my bookshelf I have a framed list of words that my community gave to me for my birthday, and they are words that are supposed to “describe me.” The list includes words such as “resilient,” “humble,” “Jesuit,” “magnanimous” and “travieso,” which means “trouble maker” or “mischievous” in Spanish. I would say the only one I agree with is the latter. The others are too kind — and I’m not just saying this because I’m “humble.” They are too merciful and give me too much credit, which I think is a truism for us all: others see us in a better light than we see ourselves.

Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
More surprises than certainty. All grace.

Imagine you could travel back in time and meet yourself the first day you entered the Society of Jesus. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to yourself?
It’s not really advice, but more of a reminder: You’ll never experience more joy in your life than being a Jesuit. Wait, maybe that is advice: Never stop being grateful!

Travis with his grandmother, who has had a big influence on his life.

What is your favorite book, movie, music, or TV show you’ve encountered since entering the Society and why do you love it?
My favorite book since entering the Society is "Lying Awake" by Mark Salzman, which, coincidentally, I read in an interview is Paul Farmer’s favorite book — and his is my second favorite book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains.” I love “Lying Awake” because it’s a book about hair-raising discernment, something Ignatius was known for.

The protagonist is a nun who is prone to mystical visions, but after fainting one day in front of her community, she finds out that her visions may be the result of a benign brain tumor. She is therefore confronted with a choice: remove the tumor or not? Behind her discernment is the haunting possibility that her mystical visions — and consequently her vocation — are made up, a mere figment of her imagination. This highlights the risk (and thrill) of faith: What if I’m wrong? The beauty of the book is how she discerns. Spoiler alert: It involves community.


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Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House
Bellarmine Jesuit Retreat House is located on 80 acres of gently rolling meadows and wooded countryside just 40 miles northwest of Chicago.