By Trevor Rainwater, SJ
I grew up in North Dakota and attended Creighton University, where I first encountered the Jesuits. I was delighted to meet this group of men who shared a deep love of Christ but, at the same time, were involved in a variety of professions—teaching, medicine, law, retreat work, and parish life. This variety of work attracted me to the Society of Jesus, as one could be a priest and a medical doctor, a brother working in astronomy, or a Jesuit scholastic working in a refugee center. My desire to enter the Society was confirmed during a silent retreat and has deepened through my time in formation.
Through my ten years of formation, Jesuits have continued to engage the world in a variety of ministries, with men serving on reservations in South Dakota, high school teachers navigating online classes, pastors returning to full parish life, and men working in outreach programs providing food, clothes, or identification to those who are often overlooked by society. It is very consoling to return home and hear how members of my community adapt to serve those in need despite the current situation.
One adjustment occurred for me in May 2020, when I was ordained a transitional deacon. The most obvious change in the liturgy was when I turned around to see an empty church (due to COVID-19 restrictions). However, despite the physical emptiness, I was comforted by the “online Church” of family and friends who supported me through numerous emails, texts, and photos as they watched the ceremony.
Another adjustment grew out of my love for liturgy. After completing my first round of theology studies in Toronto, I moved back to the United States to pursue a graduate degree in liturgical studies from a non-Jesuit university. Through the liturgy, a Jesuit’s title (high school president, teacher, student, medical doctor) is dropped, as each person is equal at the Lord’s table. At the Eucharist we unite after a day in the “vineyard of the Lord” to celebrate the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ once again.
In the midst of this academic program, God willing, I will be ordained to the priesthood in 2021 to further share in the Eucharistic celebration and unite all people, regardless of their background, to the heavenly banquet of the Lord’s Supper. Despite living in an apostolic community where members work at the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, minister at a high school, or take part in graduate studies, we all come together to share in the gift of the Eucharist which Jesus left to us.
Trevor Rainwater, SJ, is a Jesuit scholastic currently in theology studies. He will be ordained this June.