A Deacon’s Diary: A Deacon Going Home

by | Mar 9, 2023 | A Deacon's Diary, The Jesuits

I’m stepping onto the aisle of the chapel, standing next to one of my best friends, Fr. Eric. Only a handful of months ago he was just Eric. This aisle in the chapel is the chapel at the Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado in St. Paul, Minnesota. It’s the same chapel where, a little over a decade and counting, I entered the Society of Jesus. August 25, 2012; my grandfather’s birthday, he died a few months prior. 

This chapel is like the face of someone vaguely familiar, like when running into a classmate you haven’t seen since 8th grade; they resemble the childhood friend you once knew real well but time and age has transformed their features. The beauty of Catholic sacred spaces, like this chapel, has the characteristics of every other chapel and church and cathedral and basilica I’ve been to: altar, crucifix, pews, tabernacle, stations of the cross. And this chapel was inside the building, a former convent, where the beginning of my Jesuit journey, like all Jesuits before me, started by stepping over the threshold to become a Jesuit. 

It is now January 2023. And I’m a deacon, five months from ordination. And around me are men considering religious life; this is a discernment retreat. I recall my own discernment retreat way back in 2012, uncertain about the choice I would make and the life I would live as a Jesuit. In some ways, I’ve returned home. 

Home, in the nurturing sense, is any place where one’s personhood is cultivated and encouraged, at least that’s been my truth. I’ve had many homes. My grandparents’ home, where I was raised during the most formative years of life. I learned about God and Jesus in that home. I saw struggle and pain in that home. I experienced love and discipline in that home. My grandparents’ home was my first-ever home. 

My parents’ home, a duplex next to a hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, where I would discover my sense of humor and how to overcome fear. I witnessed parents actively working on their marriage in this home. I uncovered my identities in this home. And I heard music of Motown and 70’s soul, and joined my parents who loved to dance in the living room in this home. 

Maria Hall and Berchmans Hall, the places my dorm rooms were located at Saint Mary College in Leavenworth, Kansas; homes for four years where I investigated my love for theatre, mended heartbreak from first loves, and established lifelong friendships. My first apartment – and every apartment after – where I learned to claim my independence. And my studio in Chicago, the home where I figured out how to live on my own in a new city with no connections, no job, and eventually creating the features of a good life for three years. 

And then this place where I now find myself standing, the novitiate chapel. A place filled with prayers, and tears, and anxiety, and uncertainty, and hope, faith, love, and big steps into the unknown. A home where Jesus and I found each other again, renewing a relationship with a new context as a Jesuit novice. A home where strangers were picked by the Holy Spirit to live together to discern their vocation to religious life (I’m imagining the opening theme of MTV’s The Real World). A home where I saw myself for the first time as a child of God. 

Becoming a deacon has invited me to examine the people and places that formed me and encouraged me to live my life authentically. For me, ordination to the priesthood points to a demarcation, a life being radically changed. These past several months as a deacon have been like one big deep breath. Some friends of mine, when telling their story about the birth of their twins, spoke about a similar deep breath. “Giving birth in the hospital was the easiest,” they shared, “it was leaving the hospital with the twins that the real adventure began.” 

In the story of my life, as I glance back and hold all that I’ve been through with great love, I can identify how my experience of “home” has brought me to this time and place, all the while being prepared to take on the greatest adventure of my life. But, for now, I take the first step down the novitiate chapel aisle, to deacon with one of my best friends, carrying my history and my homes and God at my side. All of it drenched in faith, hope, and love. And one big deep breath. 

I’d love to hear from you! Email me at [email protected], and we can pray for one another!


Photo courtesy of Br. Matt Wooters, SJ.


Damian Torres-Botello, SJ

dbotellosj@thejesuitpost.org   /   All posts by Damian