Jesuit Vocations at Boston College: Being Open to the Conversation
Kathleen Sullivan, Boston College Office of News & Public Affairs

During the 2013 Summit on Vocations to the Priesthood organized by Boston College (BC), BC President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. said that the key to tapping into potential vocations is to demonstrate how priests and religious live “in hope and with faith” and engage interpersonally with students. “There is nothing as powerful as happy, fulfilled priests and religious. That is contagious. That attracts,” said Fr. Leahy.

At Boston College, there are numerous examples of Jesuit priests who serve as models for a religious life that is joyful, fulfilled and meaningful. These Jesuits are always open to conversations, formal and informal, with those who may be discerning a call to the Jesuit order or other forms of consecrated life. 

Fr. Leahy and BC Vice President and University Secretary Rev. Terrence Devino, S.J. lead the Priesthood Discernment Group, where a small group of Jesuits meets monthly for prayer, conversation and pizza with BC students who are considering the priesthood.

“They share stories, questions and concerns and are very open to the possibility of a vocation in their own life or in the life of someone around them,” says Fr. Devino.

Fr. Devino also runs Manresa House, an on-campus resource for students to inquire, think and discern about the priesthood and other types of religious life for men and women. A group of students gathers at Manresa House every Wednesday evening for an Examen reflection. Sponsored by the Ignatian Society (a student group comprised of BC students who are graduates of Jesuit high schools), the Examen is open to all interested students.

“Manresa House is a remarkable place on our campus where students are welcome to enter into the conversation – conversation around hospitality,” says Fr. Devino. “Discernment is all about welcoming that which enters in and expands the heart in new directions. Being open, welcoming and reflecting is the goal and the mission of Manresa House.”

Mr. Daniel Kennedy, S.J., a 2012 graduate of Boston College, is now a Jesuit scholastic studying for his master’s degree at Saint Louis University.

He was a member of the Priesthood Discernment Group and made regular stops at Manresa House. He says, “It was nice knowing [that] there were others on campus who were also discerning. I had great encounters there with other students, staff, and Jesuits. What helped me in my discernment were the unofficial, personal observations and conversations [that] I had. It helped me imagine what my life as [a] Jesuit could look like.

“There are countless Jesuits I could mention, but the five Jesuits who had the greatest influence on me were Fr. Devino, BC Campus Minister Rev. Don MacMillan, S.J., St. Ignatius Parish Pastor Rev. Bob VerEecke, S.J., St. Ignatius Parish Associate Pastor Rev. J.A. Loftus, S.J., and the late BC Vice President Rev. Bill Neenan, S.J. Bill Neenan played a large role in my discernment. He was my spiritual director and companion through the process. All five offered me an opportunity where I could imagine what my place might be as a Jesuit. They all made me feel very comfortable whenever I visited their offices.”

Kennedy credits three things at BC that confirmed his vocational call:

PULSEPULSE is an interdisciplinary course at BC that combines studies in theology and philosophy with reflection and a 10-12 hour-a-week field placement at a social service agency. “PULSE was an important part of my intellectual and spiritual formation. It has made a lasting mark on me and has given a definitive shape to my ministry. It ignited a process of integration to understand the complex realities of society’s margins through an intellectual, psychological, and spiritual lens. It helped me [to] see [that] the margins of society are the frontiers of ministry where, as a Jesuit, I feel called to serve.”

Jesuits: “Through my service as a sacristan, I got to be around a lot of Jesuits. I got to see what joy there was in their lives. It was very consoling. What made me fall in love with the Society were my interactions with Jesuits on campus and through Campus Ministry.”

Campus Ministry: “The campus ministers watched me develop over four years through my time as a work study student, sacristan, and as a participant in the Arrupe International Immersion program. Some Jesuits are fond of saying [that] behind every good Jesuit is a good woman religious who taught them how to be a compassionate religious for the world today. I would expand that category for me. I learned how to be a Jesuit from the lay men and women, religious, and priests in Campus Ministry. My mentor in the department, Ellen Modica, encouraged me and asked me good questions during my application process.”

For more information on Boston College’s work with students who are discerning vocations, please click here.

Above: BC Vice President and University Secretary Rev. Terrence Devino, S.J at Manresa House. Photo by: Caitlin Cunningham