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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Veteran Jesuit, Rookie Priest

This is not meant to speak ill of anyone, but simply a clarification because people might like to know.

In past years, people have often said things like "Mark's studying to be a Jesuit." To which I would often reply: "No, I'm actually already a Jesuit, I'm studying to be a priest." The confusion no doubt stems from the fact that most of us spend nearly 10-11 years as Jesuits before we are ever ordained priests, but once we take our first vows after two years in the novitiate we are "SJs."

So, in recent weeks it has taken another form: "Mark is a new Jesuit," or "Mark was just ordained a Jesuit," as if my ordination as a priest made me a Jesuit.

It hasn't seemed necessary or worth it to try to correct people during these celebratory weeks, but it's not just a matter of semantics but one of identity. And, it is part of my challenge in these early weeks of priesthood.

I have spent nearly eleven years being a Jesuit. I have a pretty good idea of what that means for me, and a pretty good sense of my identity as a Jesuit. But now it can no longer be the same because now not only am I a Jesuit, but I am a Jesuit priest. And while that is not completely different, I'd be kidding myself if I thought it the same.

So, I am not a new Jesuit (though newer than a lot of my wiser Jesuit brothers), but I am a new priest, and though I'm a little fearful, I'm looking forward to discovering what that means. That is what I'll be writing about here.