When a man becomes a Jesuit, he enters not a province, but the Society of Jesus. Members of the USA Central and Southern Province serve not only within the boundaries of this province, but wherever they are needed “for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the rendering of any service in the Church that may be for the glory of God and the common good.” (Jesuits Today, GC32)
The province currently has 15 men serving the worldwide Society and Church in Rome. Several provided an overview of their ministries to give you, our companions in mission, a glimpse of their work in their own words.
Fr. David Brown, SJ
Research astronomer, Vatican Observatory
My job entails doing scientific research in astrophysics/astronomy on behalf of the Vatican Observatory. My work is mainly of a theoretical nature, but occasionally I also observe celestial objects using the Vatican Observatory’s Alice B. Lennon Telescope (and Bannan Facility complex) on Mt. Graham, which is located a few hours northeast of Tucson, Arizona. The results of such research are then presented at conferences where I can receive valuable input and collaborate with my scientific peers. Ultimately, such research is published in the standard peer- reviewed journals of the astrophysics community.
An average day will begin at about 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. with the celebration of Mass, followed by breakfast and then departure to the office (at Vatican Observatory offices at Steward Observatory on the campus of the University of Arizona when I am in the USA for about seven months of the year; or in the offices of Vatican Observatory headquarters in Rome).
The morning is spent doing research, either analyzing data or working in front of the computer doing stellar simulations. After work, I return to the Jesuit residence for our community Mass at 5:30 p.m. After dinner and some community, I usually return to my room and catch up on correspondence, read, do my hour of meditation, recite night prayer and then turn in around 10:30 p.m. When I am in Rome, I usually go to some of the nearby Catholic university campuses in the local area to hear confessions, celebrate Mass and join the students for dinner. I normally help with the celebration of Masses in the local area, both in Tucson and in Rome, during the weekends.
My scientific collaborators are from the Institute for Astrophysics (AIP) in Potsdam, Germany. The project is called Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI). We are observing stars around which NASA expects to discover exoplanets (using its TESS probe). The hope is to find out the relationship, especially chemically, between host stars and the planets that orbit them. This could tell us a lot about those planets, including whether they may be habitable.
My most memorable experience last year was participating in a conference on Christianity in the Modern World at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico, in Ponce. In the coming year, I am looking forward to the completion of the PEPSI project.
Fr. Mark Lewis, SJ
Rector, Pontifical Gregorian University
I deal with outside institutions including the Dicastery for Culture and Education, the Jesuit Curia, the other Pontifical Universities in Rome, Italian government officials and various ambassadors. I preside over the Council of Deans that help me run the day-to-day operations, the Finance Council that helps shape the budget and examines spending, the Commission for Academic Quality and Research, and the Faculty Senate. I am helped by two vice rectors: one for academics and one who coordinates all the non-academic aspects of the school. There is also a fundraising component to my job.
Average days include appointments with various officials such as ambassadors, deans, representatives of business or philanthropy. I give institutional greetings to various symposia or gatherings. I also meet monthly with the Quality Commission and the subcommittee for the implementation of our strategic plan which we articulated last year after the visit of the Vatican Agency for Quality of Pontifical Academic Institutions (AVEPRO).
The completion of the AVEPRO visit and formulation of the strategic plan are perhaps the most impactful things that I accomplished in the first year of my term as rector.
I am looking forward to the challenge of incorporating the Biblical and Oriental Institutes into the Gregorian. That will be an important and significant move forward. I also think the implementation of the strategic plan will help strengthen the university for the future.
Br. Robert Macke, SJ
Curator of meteorites, Vatican Observatory
My job is primarily twofold: I curate the Vatican meteorite collection and I research the physical properties of meteorites and extraterrestrial materials. The former involves processing requests for meteorite loans from other researchers, sending meteorites, keeping track of outstanding loans, processing returned specimens back into the collection, and seeking meteorite donations to grow the collection.
The research part of the job is not easy to define, since it often changes as my research develops, but I measure the physical properties of meteorites, mostly density and porosity; people often send me specimens specifically for this measurement. Recently, I have been involved with the OSIRIS-REx space mission and analysis of the specimens delivered to Earth from the asteroid Bennu. I have been applying my expertise to the measurement of density and porosity of those space rocks. I am also involved in the Lucy space mission, which in early November passed by the asteroid Dinkinesh on its way out to study the Trojan asteroids near the orbit of Jupiter.
I work most closely with Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, the director of the Vatican Observatory and former curator of meteorites. We collaborate with Fr. Cy Opeil, SJ, and my former thesis advisor, Dan Britt, to study the thermal properties of meteorites.
Most of this past year has been spent in preparation for studying the specimens from the Asteroid Bennu brought back to the Earth by the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft. I designed and built an ideal gas pycnometer for measuring density and porosity of the specimens. The device is currently mounted to a glove box in the OSIRIS-REx clean room at NASA Johnson Space Center.
In my spare time, I like to make stuff. I created a YouTube channel (Macke MakerSpace) to share my creations. After a day of science, I often spend my evenings working on projects that will be showcased on that channel.
I look forward to two big things in the upcoming year. One is to get lots of data from studying the specimens of Bennu at NASA. The other is a personal project that I am working on: I was asked by the director of the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome to build a model of the church (complete with Fr. Angelo Secchi’s observatory on the roof) to exhibit in the church itself for the Jubilee Year 2025. I can’t wait to complete the project and see my handiwork on display in such a beautiful and popular venue.
Fr. Jesús Rodríguez, SJ
Regional Secretary for Canada and the United States for the Jesuit Curia
The regional secretary assists the regional assistant of Canada and the United States and works under the direction of the Secretary of the Society of Jesus. I receive all correspondence addressed to Father General (Arturo Sosa) arriving from Canada and the U.S. I work with the regional assistant in the processing of letters and ensuring that letters are registered and eventually archived.
My normal routine once I arrive in the office in the morning is to review emails and begin the process of responding to correspondence received. We receive all sorts of letters, mainly from the provincials of the five provinces of Canada and the United States, and various requests that come in from the province offices. My work brings me in close contact with the province socii (assistants) and with a number of province staff members.
The relationship with the province socii is a particularly important aspect of my work: being available to help provinces! Sometimes this is by organizing meetings here in Rome or being a contact person for visitors to Rome.
Sometimes I might help organize the men from Canada and the U.S. for meetings or celebrations.
I am a confessor at St. Peter’s Basilica. I celebrate Mass for a number of women religious groups here in Rome. I also hear confessions at Holy Spirit Church, located across from the Curia, which is a Sanctuary of Divine Mercy.
One of the most impactful parts of my work here in Rome is being at the service of Father General. Never did I imagine that I would work in Rome serving the international Society of Jesus, meeting Jesuits from all over the world, and seeing firsthand the organizational aspects of the Society. This never ceases to amaze me and is, indeed, the biggest grace of my work.
Fr. Luis Orlando Torres, SJ
Spiritual director at Collegio S. Roberto Bellarmino
Collegio S. Roberto Bellarmino is an international formation house for Jesuits doing licentiates and doctorates in Rome.
I also serve at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, a Vatican institution for the training of diocesan priests for the diplomatic service of the Holy See. I am also available to accompany Jesuits living in other communities in Rome. At the Bellarmino, I help the rector organize the annual retreat for the new students and the semester retreats (Advent and Lent) for the whole community. At the Academy I give biweekly talks on various aspects of spirituality.
On an average day, I rise early and after some time in contemplative prayer, I celebrate Mass with a group of about 15 Jesuits of the Bellarmino Community. On Mondays, I celebrate the noon Mass at the Gesù church. I have an open-door policy, so anyone can come to talk at any time, or make an appointment. I usually direct two eight-day retreats per year. I also spend time preparing my talks for the Academy.
Last year, I did a series on discernment since the Holy Father has recommended that we teach elements of discernment to seminarians and diocesan priests. This semester, I have been giving instruction on spiritual conversation, since it is the method used at the Synod.
I choose the topics for my talks after consultation with the president of the Academy. I usually have a study project to which I dedicate my free time. Jogging for about 45 minutes is part of my daily routine.
The most important thing I did last year was to listen to people´s stories and accompany them in their growth in the Spirit. For me, personally, the celebration of my 50th anniversary of ordination with the Jesuits of Puerto Rico and with my family was a significant blessing. My brother wanted to give me a party with the whole family, even though he was very frail battling cancer. It was wonderful to watch him at the celebration, going from table to table, greeting our family members. As I looked at him, I said to myself, this is not my celebration, but his farewell party with the family. He died exactly a week after. It was a moving experience for me and for everyone present.
Next year I will be 80 years of age. Fortunately, I am in good health and willing to be of service to others. I love the simple way Ignatius talks about our mission as helping our neighbor (“ayudar a las ánimas”). In reality, we do not save souls, only God can do that, but we do help others grow in centering their lives in that which is essential for communion with God and care for our neighbor.
Mario Alberto Torres, SJ
Spiritual director and coordinator of apostolic placements at Collegio Internazionale del Gesù
As a spiritual director, I see myself as a companion along the journey (compañero de camino) for the scholastics at the Collegio. This year I accompany 22 scholastics; there are informal times of conversation and guidance with others as well. As coordinator of apostolic life, I establish relationships with directors of a wide diversity of works here in the city. I work closely with the other spiritual director in the community and with the rector. A typical day involves office work in the mornings and time for spiritual direction in the afternoons and evenings. Personal prayer time and Mass are early in the morning, and we have a community prayer time at midday. I try to take a walk along the Tiber River most days.
Three major highlights to my mission are: every August, I join our first-year scholastics in their Arrupe Month in Loyola, Spain. It’s a beautiful opportunity to share about my life as a priest and to listen to their dreams and concerns. In September, I lead an eight-day retreat for the incoming first-year theologians. This is a grace-filled moment to get to know these scholastics as they transition from regency to theology studies. The third moment is the week before Holy Week, when I serve as one of the spiritual directors in the eight-day pre-ordination retreat for our third-year scholastics (ordination takes place the Tuesday after Easter). While there may be many things I could do for the glory of God, in these three moments I find the greater glory of God.
Thank you to Michael Mohr, SJ, a UCS theologian studying in Rome, who assisted with this story.