This month marks the 10 year anniversary of The Jesuit Post!
On January 22, 2012, a group of young Jesuits in formation started this site and published its first 12 articles, ranging from reform of U.S. healthcare to the reform of the Catholic Liturgy, from Little League to the Trinity to Socrates. It seems like from the beginning we talked about everything under the sun.
For me, a decade feels simultaneously like a long and short time. In the grand scheme of things, 10 years is relatively short, especially when we compare it to the 500 year anniversary of Ignatius being hit by a cannonball and his subsequent conversion. We consider a 10-year-old person to still be a kid, after all! On the other hand, a lot can happen in 10 years. We tend to talk about decades as different eras of time. (I’m a 90’s kid!) Not only do trends, clothes, and music change drastically in a decade, but so do we. What happened in your own life in the past 10 years?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the last 10 years of my life because that’s when I entered the Jesuits! When those first articles were published on TJP, I was in my first year of novitiate starting a new assignment in Kansas City. As a kid from Texas, that was the first time that I lived in a place where an inch of snow didn’t mean that school (or in this case, work) was canceled. I’ve learned a lot since then (about snow and other things). The entirety of my Jesuit life has taken place over the last 10 years and as I prepare to (hopefully) be ordained in the next few years, I’ve been thinking about who I’ve become and what I want to do. I think it’s important that we reflect on the same questions for The Jesuit Post.
So, who are we?
We are Jesuits. Specifically, we are Jesuits in formation. Just about everyone who works with TJP is somewhere on the 10+ year track of Jesuit training. This is kind of a novel concept for a few reasons. First of all, there aren’t any Jesuit works that are just for Jesuits that are still in training. Normally we spend time at Jesuit institutions as part of our training. I’ve worked at a variety of ministries during my formation, my two longest assignments being at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas and America Media. As great as these experiences are, TJP gives us a chance to work together with Jesuits from across the country (and sometimes the world), reflecting on what we are learning and doing.
The decision to make TJP a work of Jesuits in formation also means that there is a natural turnover in those who write and produce content. I met the original founders of TJP (Paddy Gilger, Sam Sawyer, and Eric Sundrup) after they had already been ordained. The first time that I saw them all in the same place, we were filming a video series at America Media. Paddy and Eric were both answering some of the most searched Catholic questions on the internet and Sam was helping produce (and help with answers, if needed). Each brought their own dynamic to what we were doing and I could see in their interactions, the results of over a decade of friendship and working together in various capacities, including TJP. They spent years creating something with great love and passion, then handed it off for others to take over. At this point, TJP has been through a few “generations” of Jesuits in formation, each building on the work that has come before them. This work isn’t about any one person. That is both humbling and a great relief.
Since we are Jesuits in formation, by definition, we are still learning. We don’t really claim to be experts on, well, anything. Almost all of what we write about comes from the fact that we are learning and grasping at what our own identity means. We love to share what we learn about our Jesuit identity and spirituality, but it goes beyond that. We are also grappling with what it means to be young religious, Catholic, and human beings.
We are also sinners loved by God. In the words of Pope Francis, “I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We are not experts, we are not perfect Catholics or perfect people, but we continue to try. In this way, all of us are still “in formation” and we will continue to be for the rest of our lives.
God continues to remind me that I will always be in formation when it comes to understanding God’s great love for me. I was told before the 30-day Spiritual Exercises that the greatest insight that we could receive is that we were loved by God. With 30-days of silence, I was expecting something in the form of a mystical vision or great insights about the universe. In my prayer, I could hear (in a spiritual sense) God saying, “I love you.” After a few days of this kind of prayer, I finally said, “I hear you and I love you too, but when are we going to move on to something else? Don’t we have more to do?” The response that I felt from God was, “We can move on when you get it.” I find that Jesus continues to show me that he loves me and I have been taught that lesson over and over. When it comes to comprehending the love of God and how to show it to others, I think I’ll always be a Jesuit in formation.
What do we do?
So what exactly do we do at The Jesuit Post? That might be hard to determine just by looking at the variety of pieces that we produce. From Broadway to LeBron James, from physical exercise to Spiritual Exercises, from Loyola to Loki, we still write about everything under the sun. So what is the common connection? In a word, God.
Everything that comes from TJP is the result of each of us exercising the Ignatian theme of “Finding God in All Things.” Sometimes that means sharing an overview of the latest encyclical from Pope Francis so that we might all gain insights from his spiritual wisdom. Sometimes that means reflecting on the lessons that we can take from the latest movie, Netflix series, or from classic literature. Sometimes that means reflecting on our own struggles and the places where we find light in the midst of darkness. Once again, we are not claiming to be experts in these areas, but our formation gives us many opportunities and tools to find God at work in our lives and that is what we hope to share.
What we share is also influenced greatly by our own interests, experiences, and skills. Another goal of TJP is to provide a space for young Jesuits to grow by exploring different ways to share our faith. While I was in studies at Saint Louis University, I had the opportunity to study Communication and I began to develop some skills in video production. I was grateful to spend a year at America Media to develop those skills as an Assistant Producer of Audio and Video. For the past few years, I have loved working on video projects for The Jesuit Post, like the One-Minute Homily series and our Holy Week retreats. TJP has given me a space to continue to learn and to find a way to contribute to the ever-expanding arena of digital ministry.
Some Jesuits have been able to share original music, artwork, and short stories through TJP. Others have shared their experiences coaching, teaching, serving as a deacon, ministering in prison, and working along the U.S.-Mexico border. Finding God in All Things is at the core of what we do, but where we find God and how we talk about God will only continue to grow.
As I look at my own future, I hope to be ordained in the next few years, but I have no idea what to expect afterward. I find that truly exciting. I used to have precise plans about my future. One of my hangups about entering the Society of Jesus was the vow of obedience and giving up control over my life. An area of growth for me is seeing the possibilities that come with this vow. I used to think that no one could dream bigger for me than myself, but I’ve realized that isn’t true. Those closest to me just might have a better idea of what I’m capable of and could challenge me to try new things. There are so many possibilities and that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to the Jesuits in the first place. I was amazed at the number of ways that they serve God and the world. I’m excited to see where I wind up and I trust that no matter what, God will be right there with me.
I’m also excited for the future of The Jesuit Post. The possibilities are wide open as more young Jesuits contribute to this site. Their gifts, talents, hopes, dreams, struggles, and worries are all intertwined in it. As we celebrate the 10th anniversary of TJP throughout this year, we will continue to reflect on the path that others have forged and where God is calling us as we move forward.
Thank you for being part of the journey. Thank you for the ways that you have formed us through your support, prayers, comments, and by holding us accountable when we miss the mark. Please keep us in your prayers and know that you will be in ours.
We look forward to continuing the conversation…and the journey.
Tucker Redding, SJ