Tevfik Karatop, a Master of Divinity from the Montreal Diocesan Theological College and a Project Manager for the Jesuit Refugee Service since 2022, participated in the event Pilgrims Together last summer at Midland. After Fr. Lissaint Antoine, he shares his unique perspective of what he learned about the Jesuits of Canada and what he experienced from Ignatian spirituality.
“I want to tell people that this is my experience coming into the Jesuit world and observing it: be confident. Ignatian spirituality is a gift from God, and we can offer it to people. After seeing those who dedicated their whole life and those who are working very hard, I think there are a lot of reasons to be confident. I’ve seen the joy of those people.
And on a personal level, while Midland was a professional meeting, it was a spiritual meeting, too, and I have always cared about the spiritual dimension of my job. Seeing those people embracing their vocation either as a Jesuit or a layperson, it clicked with me. And I’m really grateful for those two days.”
What did you enjoy from the Jesuit gathering and from all those conversations that happened?
The Midland meeting, with Jesuits and laypeople who are searching for meaning in their own context, motivated me. I found peace, and I was really happy—smiling-all-the-time kind of happy—because I had those conversations with people. I’m a very different profile than most: a layperson, not a Catholic, working with refugees, a brown guy speaking with an accent. But I loved the curiosity of the people I met; it gave us room to have a conversation. It motivated me in my own work and somehow confirmed that I was called to be here with these people.
I also loved the sessions, especially the session when we discussed the Pope’s pilgrimage. The genuine conversation at Midland demonstrated for me the intention to have meaningful encounters with Indigenous people and to hear Indigenous people themselves. The outside mass was my first Christian worship service with Indigenous rituals; I really appreciated that part, too.
It motivated me in my own work and somehow confirmed that I was called to be here with these people.
What do you think is important to share with the rest of the province?
I learned about Ignatian and Jesuit spirituality in seminary, where a lot of my classmates were training to become priests. Many were aware of the necessity of having a spiritual life to serve their communities. I think being a priest is like inviting people to work with Jesus; accompanying them is like God accompanying us. God gave us something very precious, which is the Ignatian spiritual tradition. It’s not like five people getting together, but it is rather thousands of people, all over the world, using this gift. There is a lot to offer.
I also like the Jesuit, humble approach: “I want to accompany you, but I’m not going to solve your problem, like a 911-call kind of Christianity.”
I also like the Jesuit, humble approach: “I want to accompany you, but I’m not going to solve your problem, like a 911-call kind of Christianity.” It’s not like that. I have seen, including myself, many people who just need to be accompanied and listened to: we have huge questions. There is polarization as well, but I think God is opening up room for us to use Ignatian spirituality and Spiritual Exercises to go beyond those strong opinions.