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On a Bus and a Prayer

Learning, prayer and discernment are complemented by a healthy dose of adventure for novices as they prepare to take vows in the Society of Jesus. Since the late 1960s, many Jesuit provinces have incorporated a month-long pilgrimage as part of the Novitiate, the first stage of becoming a Jesuit. While each pilgrimage is unique, they’re all distinguished by total reliance on God through “genuine faith and intense love.”

Here are some of their stories.


Matthew Stewart, SJ '98
CHICAGO

As a part of our training, all Jesuit novices go on a pilgrimage of some kind. The details vary from province to province, but we all do some version of “very little money, and a long trip on the Greyhound.” In my novitiate, we were each given a one-way bus ticket and a $10 bill. No cell phone, no computer and only a backpack with a couple changes of clothes to take with me. My ticket was for a 40+ hour ride on the “Dirty Dog” from Houston to Washington, DC. From there, I hoped to get to Chicago to pray at the tomb of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

People always ask: “How do you survive? Where do you sleep? What do you eat?” The question of survival is actually one of the key reasons Ignatius of Loyola requires every Jesuit to make a pilgrimage: to learn humility and gratitude by relying exclusively on the generosity of God shown in the generosity of others.

Pilgrimages are not merely trips to some holy place. Instead, they give our deep spiritual struggles, uncertainties, and our limitations an opportunity to work themselves to the surface. Just as our physical bodies make progress toward our physical destination (like Chicago), our souls progress toward a spiritual one. The paradox of pilgrimage is that even though the physical journey and destination are set, you never know where you are going or where you will end up spiritually.

On my last day of my pilgrimage, hours before my bus was to take me back to the novitiate, I found myself standing at the door of the mausoleum at Mount Carmel Cemetery where the bishops of Chicago are buried. I pushed the door to open it and it was locked. Locked! Had I really come all this way only to be frustrated at the very end? Unwilling to admit defeat, I hiked to the cemetery office to ask them to let me in. They called the groundskeeper on the radio, who responded that he would meet me at the mausoleum.

“Take as long as you like,” the groundskeeper told me as he opened the door to the mausoleum. “I’ll be happy to take you to the train station when you’re done.” I slowly went inside and turned to my right and saw “His Eminence Joseph Louis Cardinal Bernardin” on a plaque attached to the marble slab in front of me. I fell to my knees with tears in my eyes, feeling waves of immense gratitude wash over me at arriving at this holy place. Tired and cold from weeks of travel, I was never more aware of my dependence upon others and God for loving me into existence and lovingly holding me there every moment of my life.

Even today, I am deeply struck by the power of this moment to capture my pilgrimage, but also the spiritual life more broadly. I wouldn’t have made it much past Houston to begin with without the generosity and the presence of other people who let me borrow their mobile phone, or paid for a meal when I was hungry, or helped me get to my destination. But here in this final moment I had reached my physical destination, I couldn’t get in without someone else to open the door with the key.


Fr. Ian Gibbons, SJ
SLUH Principal
CANADA

As a first year Jesuit novice, the idea of undertaking a pilgrimage was daunting. Initially, I tended to focus on the rules rather than the process. $30, a one-way bus ticket, and six weeks on the road. My novice director helpfully explained that these were merely the details. I needed to focus on the authentic center of the project. This pilgrimage was to be a journey to a holy place to put myself at God’s disposal. The rules would allow me to better listen to God’s voice.

I’ve always admired French spirituality and culture, so I asked to be missioned to visit Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. Traveling from the Twin Cities to Quebec Province by Greyhound was uneventful, save that of losing the paperwork identifying me as a Jesuit novice on pilgrimage on the third day of the journey. Oddly, after the initial panic of losing this document, I felt truly liberated without the letter of introduction. Tranquility just seemed to kick in.

After praying for the grace of the pilgrimage my first evening in Montreal, I slept in a park. I returned to the church the next morning and then went walking along Rue Sainte-Catherine. Within a few hours, I found a Catholic Worker drop-in center. From there a series of bizarre coincidences began to occur. At the center I asked if I could help out with the building maintenance in order to stay there. Apparently, the residence was always filled, but someone had just departed; the director agreed to let me stay. The next day the facility’s cook quit and the director was panicking. I had worked as a prep cook in a French restaurant in college, so I offered to help. Soon, I was running a drop-in center kitchen that served more than 300 meals a day. I was helping some of the most desperate people at the edges of society find safety and care. A homeless and vulnerable Jesuit pilgrim was somehow empowered to serve others, reminding me of Joseph’s powerful story in Genesis.

My time in Quebec Province was filled with many other eerie moments of God opening doors to conversations and experiences that could easily have never happened. By the time I departed home to St. Paul, I felt a stronger connection to God and the global Church. I’d never thought of myself as a pilgrim before, but now I was capable of seeing my life as an epic journey with God. 


Dan Finucane, SJ '06
LOS ANGELES

Before entering the Jesuits and certainly since entering, I know that there is one aspect of Jesuit life that people are always fascinated by: pilgrimage. Upon sharing the practical details of pilgrimage – departing with a one-way bus ticket and a $5 bill, carrying no phone and only a backpack – I find that most people think that I, and by extension, Jesuits, are crazy. The truth is, we kind of are. We deliberately choose to renounce comforts and most safety nets for these two weeks of pilgrimage because of a radical belief that God shows up. And provides. And that God does this in ways that we cannot predict or even begin to plan for. Which is, of course, the point: it is when I possessed the least control that I discovered God’s tender love and care.

Los Angeles was the third and final city of my pilgrimage. Upon arrival, I walked for a mile and a half through cold rain to Dolores Mission, a Jesuit parish in East LA. By the time I got there, I was miserable; along with being wet and cold, I hadn’t eaten much since dinner the night before and hadn’t slept hardly at all.

As I waited in a dark, damp room to get a cot in the church that night (the Mission runs a homeless shelter in the church), I felt so deeply alone and scared. What would happen to me? I quietly prayed, trying to seek comfort.

Tony, a homeless man who I’d met during dinner that evening, leaned over and quietly asked: “Are you okay? Can I get you anything?” He helped me get a cot, blankets, a towel for showering and secured a spot for me in the church. The next day, another man, Juan, gave me $15, got me lunch and we spent the morning listening to one another’s stories and helping out at a local community center. He even walked me to the bus stop right before we parted to make sure I safely got on the right bus.

I think it is often much easier to give to others than it is to receive. I much prefer being in control by taking care of myself. Yet I think that through renouncing my usual safety nets, God wanted to teach me how to receive, how to rely on others – especially those deemed least by society – with humility and gratitude. By letting go of control, I found God in my very midst, taking care of me down to the last detail.


Fr. Paul Sheridan, SJ
Theology teacher, SLUH President Emeritus
AUSTRALIA

In 1983 I did my last year of training (tertianship) in Sydney, Australia, which meant a lot to me since it’s where I attended high school at Riverview-St. Ignatius’ College. I chose to do the pilgrimage right after a 35-day Spiritual Exercise experience.

On the first day I walked up into a small mountainous region west of Sydney, soon reaching a town called Katoomba. Along the way I begged for food to no avail. It was cold and rainy. For two days I continued in that region sleeping on benches. I had no coat and only one change of clothes. I was miserable but willing to keep going.

Each day, weather permitting, I would wash up by a stream out of sight of others. There I would offer Mass with a small bottle of wine and hosts. It was a very personal offering. I borrowed from Teilhard de Chardin, SJ and would lift the world up to God with all the joys and sufferings that that day would bring to my brothers and sisters.

I slept in the fields unless I was in a town. At times, I would walk up the long entrance of a farm and ask if I could shelter in the barn. One night, sleeping on straw in a barn, a snake slithered over my chest. I did not move for a half hour. Then, with a small pocket flashlight I checked the straw and made a lot of noise. Australia is filled with very venomous snakes.

In the middle of my journey, I came upon a motel run by a couple who asked me to stay for a few days and assist them in their operation. I was in heaven. A bed, a shower, food and good companionship were gifted to me. It really helped me restore strength and have the inner resources to plod on.

One time, I was freezing and went to a police station. I asked to be put in a cell. They obliged and gave me tea at 6:00 a.m. before I left. Another time, I tried without success to stay in a library. I was tempted to force my way in at night (since it was freezing) but I did not. Other times, I tried to get food and shelter from the Vincent de Paul center. In Wagga Wagga they allowed me to stay in a trailer for two nights.

The most inspiring experience was in Cootamundra where I sat on a bench drenched in a storm. I was starved, wet and without hope of shelter. It was four in the afternoon and darkness was quickly descending. In the middle of this, a car full of teenagers stopped and began to mock me. They shouted obscenities and contemplated getting out of the car to rough me up. It didn’t happen. Shortly afterwards a dilapidated truck came by with an elderly gentleman and a smelly old dog. He asked me if I needed shelter. I was wary of him but in desperation rode with him to his broken-down house. There in front of a fireplace, he heated one can of soup (that was our dinner) and sharing a spoon we consumed it. I was worried about contracting a disease but thought that God would protect both of us. That night I slept in an old trailer. I was safe, dry and so thankful.

The experiment brought me closer to God. I trusted in Him in a very deep way and was not disappointed. I saw generosity in a very special way. To give to me in my condition was a brave thing to do. Yet people did that. To see the common person – no station in life – be so charitable was uplifting. I was grateful for my vocation, for my life and for my family.


PILGRIMAGE INSPIRATION

St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote in the General Examen (No. 67), which is part of the Jesuit Constitutions, about the experience of Jesuits in formation. He instructed the novices to go “...spend another month in making a pilgrimage without money, but begging from door to door at times, for the love of God our Lord, in order to grow accustomed to discomfort in food and lodging. Thus, too, the candidate, through abandoning all the reliance which he could have in money or other created things, may with genuine faith and intense love place his reliance entirely in his Creator and Lord.”


DID YOU KNOW?

The various elements of Jesuit training emerge from the experiences and life of St. Ignatius Loyola. The length of Jesuit formation is about 15 years, though it varies depending on one’s background and course of studies.

Novitiate
In the first stage, a two-year novitiate, a novice:

  • Learns about life in the Society of Jesus
  • Begins to live vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in a community setting
  • Makes the Spiritual Exercises, a 30-day individually directed silent retreat
  • Serves the poor, visits the elderly, cares for the sick and teaches catechism
  • Discerns, with his superiors, whether he is called to perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as a Jesuit scholastic who will prepare for priestly ordination or a Jesuit brother who will serve in non-ordained ministry

First Studies
Having pronounced three vows, a Jesuit begins a three-year period of philosophy and theology studies.

Regency
Next, the Jesuit works for two or three years in a Jesuit secondary school, college or other approved ministry while he lives in an apostolic Jesuit community.

Theology
A Jesuit scholastic preparing for priestly ministry:

  • Advances to theology studies, lasting three or four years
  • Prepares for ordination, first to the transitional diaconate and then to the priesthood
  • Is assigned to full-time apostolic work or specialized studies Men who desire to serve as Jesuit brothers:
  • Engage in a shorter time of theology studies
  • Focus on preparation for one or another specific apostolate mission

Tertianship
After theology and some years of ministry as a priest or brother, the Jesuit renews his formation during some months of prayer, reflection and study of Jesuit history and rule. During this time of reaffirmation, the Jesuit will again make the full Spiritual Exercises and engage in some ministry with the poor or marginalized. After tertianship, a Jesuit may be called to full incorporation into the order and pronounce his final vows.

Are you considering becoming a Jesuit?
Learn more at www.beajesuit.org


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You may know that many Jesuits experience an impactful, inspiring and at times terrifying experience of being sent on a “pilgrimage.” Young novices with little money or direction are sent into the world to encounter the holiness of the people they meet, directed and protected only by their faith and the Holy Spirit. With life’s comforts removed, these young men in formation are placed in a strange land, and like St. Ignatius on his journey to Jerusalem, they encounter powerful experiences and formative lessons. Jesuits are taught experientially, though it may seem random at the time, that God is living in the intense care and generosity of strangers encountered along the proverbial and literal road...

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Spiritual Pilgrim
  • Features

When St. Ignatius wrote his autobiography, he reflected on his life and realized it was something far deeper and more meaningful than a journey. He was a pilgrim, and his entire life had been a pilgrimage – a revelation from which we can all learn.

Home Sweet Home

After a 21-year career in the St. Louis Police Department, the son of SLUH legend Joe Schulte '54 is bringing his own expertise and larger-than-life personality back to a place he calls “home.”

Getting a Fresh Start

The SLUH journey for freshmen begins well before the first day of school. What are some of their experiences and perspectives? How are they transitioning?

Happy Birthday to SLUH!
  • Events & Announcements

Actor Chris O'Donnell and his brother John, founder of Johnnie-O apparel company, saluted SLUH with their best rendition of 'Happy Birthday' at Cashbah and the Bicentennial celebration.

SLUH Recognized as National Green Ribbon School

The U.S. Department of Education, which recognized SLUH as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence a few years ago, has honored SLUH as a National Green Ribbon School for its excellence in sustainability.

Schlanger '89 Shares Gold Medal Moment
  • Alumni

Veteran broadcaster has called exciting action for the Tour de France, MLB, NBA and PGA, but his most acclaimed moment came this winter during his fourth consecutive Olympics.

Dilworth '87 Launches Black History Month
  • Alumni
  • Student Life

Dr. Rollo Dilworth '87 brought his energy, perspectives and musical expertise as the keynote speaker for SLUH's all-school assembly that kicked off Black History Month.

A Broken Ankle and a Broken Heart

Emanuel Parker '18 experienced a uniquely frightful Senior Project, facing the regular endeavors of being in a foreign land without a familiar face, piled on by unforeseen complications testing his dedication and willingness to serve.

#30ManRoster Skates to Championship Title
  • Features

The ice hockey team, deservedly dubbed #30ManRoster by fans, was marked by incredible depth and talent, and kicked off a string of championships by racquetball, volleyball and water polo.

Class Notes: Two Jr. Bills Ordained to Transitional Diaconate
  • Alumni

Congratulations to Stephen Schumacher '08 and George Staley '10 on being two of the seven men ordained to the transitional diaconate in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. And congratulations to Will Smith '14 for earning a Fulbright Scholarship, and to many others in Class Notes.

SLUH Band Plays for, Meets with Pope Francis
  • Features

It's not often a Jesuit high school turns 200. Just as infrequent are spontaneous, personal encounters with the Pope. The odds of both happening at the same time? Providential.

Athletics: Tradition Never Graduates

Following racquetball's incredible eighth consecutive national championship, spring sports featured lots of excitement and achievement, including volleyball and water polo state championships.

Laughlin Leaves Lasting Legacy
  • Features

For the past 13 years, David Laughlin has led SLUH as the first lay – and longest serving – President in the school's history. He leaves a lasting legacy as he begins a new chapter as President of Rockhurst High School.

Man for Others: Building the Common Good
  • Alumni

Dr. Paul Young '68 always knew he wanted to become a doctor, but he could not have imagined how a service trip to Africa in 1999 would impact his future and affect the lives of many in an underdeveloped part of the world.

Students Showcase Creativity

Jr. Bills illustrated a broad spectrum of creativity – ranging from fun and whimsical to reflective and stoic – at the annual art show and in the newest release of Sisyphus.

What are We Doing for Christ?
  • AMDG

Fr. Ralph Houlihan, S.J. '52 reflected on what we are doing for Christ relative to SLUH's 200-year history at the Bicentennial Mass.

Dolan Brings Courage, Joy to SLUH

The Fathers Club has been blessed with many great speakers over the years, but perhaps none more prestigious than His Eminence Timothy Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York.

History Worth Preserving
  • SLUH Archive

In this and future issues of the SLUH Magazine, the SLUH Archive presents 'From the Archive' to keep our rich history alive, while inviting contributions of artifacts, materials and memories.

A Venture Worth Pursuing

Tom Purcell ‘61, known for his leadership and vision in revitalizing St. Louis, was involved with the development of Laclede’s Landing and the surrounding area decades ago, and more recently with MetroLink and regional economic development. Today he is still going strong, working on an innovative community startup that may have far-reaching effects on how our metro area embraces urban agriculture – one that may serve as a national model in sustainability in the future.

Innovation as Tradition

Dear St. Louis U. High Community,

Happy Birthday, to all of us...200 years old!

I find myself thinking about different decades of history in our 200 years and what has taken place in our local, national and global history. St. Louis University High School has truly lived through many changes over the years. Always, I think of the people in those times. I think of school leaders, faculty members, parents, students and benefactors. We stand on their shoulders...

Merits of Intellect

In addition to 13 seniors being named National Merit Semifinalists this semester, SLUH had one student who earned a family hat trick with a top score on the ACT.

Celebrating through Service
  • Features

On October 20, all students and faculty/staff dedicated more than 3,000 service hours to 20 organizations in the metropolitan area in gratitude to the City of St. Louis for 200 years of partnership and support.

Science Program Gets Boost

SLUH's improved lab space provides flexible seating and tables, state-of-the-art monitors and projection, and new lab equipment.

Rising Above
  • Features

For more than 50 years, Upward Bound has helped thousands of young men prepare for the rigors of high school. Today it continues to adapt, grow and flourish, illuminating the school's Jesuit mission of working for the Common Good.

SLUH Launches INSIGNIS Podcast
  • Features

SLUH's new INSIGNIS podcast features lively interviews with members of our school community engaged in a variety of roles and fascinating projects "down the hall, across the Metro area and around the world" in support of our mission. 

Bull in the Ring
  • Features

Joe Castellano's new book reveals the tragedy, triumph and resilient spirit that defined SLUH's remarkable, even unlikely 1970 football championship season.

Fall Sports Update

The cross country, football, soccer and swimming & diving programs featured stellar performances, new records and exciting competition.

#2centuries2words | Marty Hagan

Several Class of '64 RifleBills recently met for a mini reunion, after which they assembled a video that is nothing short of compelling and heart warming.

Impressions & Alumni Events
  • Alumni

Check out upcoming events, including our alumni art exhibit that is open now and culminates with a reception on November 30.

Parents Go Back to School

A group of parents recently formed the AMDG Ignatian Spirituality Group to deepen their faith in the Ignatian tradition and to form friendships with others.

From the Principal: Working for the Common Good

Dear SLUH Community,

Like any organization, SLUH strives to remain focused on mission. Incorporating our Ignatian tradition, we find that being reflective and deliberate in our decision-making process helps us to hold course...

Media Gallery: Alumni Reunions
  • Alumni

Alumni classes ending in 2 or 7 celebrated reunions this fall, with the Classes of 2002, 2007 and 2012 celebrating over Thanksgiving weekend.