Every year, eighth graders in Cleveland have several options of where to attend high school. Luckily, in eighth grade, my parents let me choose where I would attend. When I got to Saint Ignatius High School, I remember being impressed with the Jesuits there. I was struck by how different they were from my parish priest. I was surprised that priests could be so human as to tell jokes and laugh. This would be the first of several encounters with Jesuits that would seal my own fate as a member of the Society of Jesus.
I did not have a Jesuit as a teacher until my freshman year at Boston College. Like with high school, what I saw in the Jesuits at BC was a prayerfulness and commitment to the Church combined with a sense of humor and ability to laugh at oneself. At the time, I had no idea that these encounters would become the seeds for further discernment. I did not seriously consider becoming a Jesuit myself until my senior year of college. For me, discernment and growth took time. I ended up working with the Jesuits at Hogar de Cristo in Ecuador and then at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy before I finally entered the novitiate. I came to the realization that if I were to become a Jesuit, I would still have opportunities to work in jobs and places that I knew would be fulfilling.
My experience in formation so far has proven this to be true. I spent the last three years teaching and coaching at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep in Chicago. I found it interesting that some students had the same questions that I had when first considering life with the Jesuits. “What is it like living in community? Who is in charge? Do you have to ask permission to do everything?” Life in community has been an unexpected grace in my journey thus far. To live with others who are both committed to the Gospel and who possess a sense of humor inspires and grounds me. As formative as academic studies can be, I more often find myself recalling time spent with other Jesuits than lectures or philosophical arguments. If St. Ignatius of Loyola or Christ were to visit my community, I hope that they would not be disappointed. Like any group of people, we have our flaws, but focused on Christ, the goal becomes more evident. It is not about us; it is entering the lives of others that matters.
Patrick Hyland, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic in theology studies at Comillas Pontifical University in Spain. He recently completed his regency at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep in Chicago.