By Jerry Duggan
Bill McCormick, SJ, considered a religious vocation from a young age. An accomplished student, he found himself always thirsty for knowledge. Eventually, he discovered that a Jesuit vocation would allow for the two to coexist, and even complement each other.
Growing up in predominantly Hispanic, predominantly Catholic south Texas, McCormick has a bone-deep understanding of the universality of the Church.
“I was able to see that the Church was not for one nationality or race, but for all of humanity,” he said. “I saw that God’s church was a unifying force for good in a world full of differences.”
The connection he struggled with was faith’s relationship with intellectual rigor.
“For a long time, I didn’t make the connection that being a man of faith and being a believer in reason and science were compatible,” he said. “I saw the two as separate things that I would have to sort through, with one side of my brain being at odds with the other.”
McCormick pursued his scholarly interests at the University of Chicago. He started out studying chemistry and physics but soon found that the humanities appealed more to his intellectual curiosity. He changed his major to classics, and then again to political science. He also began to consider a religious vocation as a diocesan priest. Then, the unexpected happened.
“As I discussed my interests, particularly in intellectual disciplines, knowledge and reason, with several diocesan priests, they recommended I look at the Jesuits,” he said.
This guidance was especially powerful because of the source.
“I knew that these diocesan priests were not in any way recruiters for the Jesuits, so I felt confident that they genuinely believed the Society would be the right place for me,” he said. “There was no regret about their own vocation; these men were happy as diocesan priests, but they told me they felt I was called to be a Jesuit.”
At the time, McCormick knew of the Jesuits but had not given the Society of Jesus serious consideration. He needed time to figure out his vocation, so he embarked on a gradual discernment process.
After college, McCormick spent a year with Jesuit Volunteer Corps on a Native American reservation in the state of Washington. It was here that McCormick learned about Ignatian Spirituality, which proved transformative for him.
“I was introduced to the Spiritual Exercises at exactly the right time in my life,” he said. “I felt like St. Ignatius knew what was going on in my soul.”
Next, McCormick attended graduate school, completing his doctorate in political science at the University of Texas at Austin, all the while fairly certain he would eventually pursue a Jesuit vocation.
“I knew what I was called to do at this point, but still needed some time,” he said.
In 2013, McCormick entered the novitiate at the age of 29, and has not looked back.
After completing first studies at Fordham University, McCormick was missioned to Saint Louis University for his regency, where he was a visiting assistant professor in the political science and philosophy departments. For McCormick, this assignment was proof that what the diocesan priests had assured him of years ago was true – devout faith and intellectual stimulation did, in fact, go hand in hand in a Jesuit vocation.
McCormick is currently in theology studies at Regis College in Toronto. While formation has been a long process, he has always felt at home.
“I don’t feel alone, but rather supported by a wonderful community of men of faith,” he said.
He looks forward to his priestly ordination in summer 2023, and after that, to serving in whatever capacity God calls him.
After searching for a world in which serious thinking and dogmatic adherence to his faith could coexist, McCormick feels he has found a sweet spot in his Jesuit vocation. Others have noticed that this seems to be the right place for him, too.
“One of my friends from college, after not seeing me for several years, remarked that I seemed ‘more myself than ever” he said. “Even though I already felt fulfilled as a Jesuit, that, to me, was an assurance that being a Jesuit was simply the way I was called by God to be a Christian.”