By Ignatius Plato
Jesuits have an inherent desire to serve actively in the world. Senior Jesuits, who have spent their lives in service to others, can often be frustrated when physical limitations impact the ways in which they serve.
Father Steve Kimmons, SJ, the delegate for senior Jesuits for the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province, wants to help these experienced Jesuits appreciate what they are still able to do. He believes that an “active ministry” is not defined by what a Jesuit is physically capable of doing; rather, being active in the Society of Jesus’ mission is more about how Jesuits lead others to spiritual growth.
Father Kimmons’ assignment as delegate for senior Jesuits is a relatively new role in the province. He assists Fr. Provincial Thomas Greene, SJ, by meeting with the Jesuits who live in senior communities. He visits with each Jesuit individually and listens to their accounts of conscience – annual conversations from Jesuits on the status of their ministries and how they feel God is making Himself present through their work.
This gives Fr. Kimmons an opportunity to talk with the men about how they have been doing physically, mentally, emotionally and – most importantly – spiritually.
“I’ve gotten to know many Jesuits who have done great things over the years, and they want to do more,” said Fr. Kimmons. “They still are capable of great things, and part of my ministry is to meet with those Jesuits as they decide how to continue their ministries into old age.”
Some senior Jesuits are assigned to a ministry of prayer, praying for the mission of the Church and the Society of Jesus. Living in Jesuit communities offers many other opportunities for senior Jesuits to continue to serve by accompanying their brother Jesuits.
“Praying with a sick friend, talking through one’s anxieties, living together and praying together: these are all a part of an active spiritual ministry,” said Fr. Kimmons. “Our senior Jesuits always have something to contribute.”
Father Kimmons also serves as a retreat director at Manresa House of Retreats in Convent, Louisiana. His experience in retreat work and background in clinical psychology help him to bridge the gap between a senior Jesuit’s personal and ministerial concerns.
“These men are still Jesuits, no matter the circumstances,” he said. “When I take a senior Jesuit’s account of conscience, it really serves as a reflection: How have they been living the Society’s mission within their communities, and how can they continue to do so?”
While one’s physical abilities may diminish over time, these senior religious prove how spirituality continues to grow, regardless of age. Father Kimmons finds God in the senior Jesuits and hopes that others can do the same in accompanying them.
“To see them find ways of remaining spiritually active and to be a part of these Jesuits’ lives as they continue their ministries is both a privilege and a grace.”
Think you might be called to life as a Jesuit priest or brother? Visit www.BeAJesuit.org for more information on the Jesuit vocation.