Fr. Tom Simisky, SJ

Fr. Tom Simisky, SJ, is president of Fairfield Prep and has been at the Prep for a year and a half, but this is his first school year in this role. Fr. Simisky was sent to the Prep in 2014, following his priestly ordination, where he initially taught three sections of Spanish 3 and assisted the principal. Once named president-elect, he then spent a semester shadowing then President Fr. Jack Hanwell, SJ, and visiting with the leadership teams of different Jesuit schools in preparation for his current position. In this month’s Reflections of Ignatius, Fr. Simisky describes how Fairfield Prep students continue to be inspired by St. Ignatius, and he articulates some of the challenging formation experiences that shaped him as a Jesuit priest. 

How would a visitor identify Fairfield Prep as a Jesuit school?

Beyond just the Jesuit visuals seen around the hallways, when you speak with students, faculty and parents, people consistently talk about the Fairfield Prep brotherhood and the strong sense of community. I went to an all-boys school myself, but the Prep brotherhood is unique. It starts with our spirituality. By encountering God in other people and seeing their talents, we grow in respect for one another. Ignatian Spirituality is optimistic and positive, believing in the goodness of creation.  All action flows from gratitude, which inspires a deep desire to reach out and serve others. This sense of community at Fairfield Prep is a result of our shared spirituality. 

How do you introduce young men and their families, who may not be familiar with the Society, to Jesuit ideals?

 
Jesuit schools are blessed with a charism that many people find attractive. Our Jesuit tradition tends to quickly engage young people, especially the life of St. Ignatius, our founder. Young people find his story compelling: a Spanish soldier who has a conversion, encounters God, and then discerns how he must respond. People can learn from this passionate man and adapt his history to their lives, the good and the bad, to see how they too might respond to God’s call. The spirituality of Ignatius is a great resource and makes it easy to work with people of different faith backgrounds. The Spiritual Exercises are accessible and through them, people can turn to God and be of greater service to their community. Seeing the good in students, discovering their talents to draw out and enhance, and then walking with them and their families over fours year is a blessing. In many ways, Fairfield Prep isn’t unique. It’s just another great school in the Jesuit Schools Network. The strength in this network is our shared mission in providing a comprehensive Ignatian education for future leaders. 

How do you personally want to advance the mission of Fairfield Prep as a leader?


 
One way is to be present. In a time of fewer Jesuits, an important part of my ministry is trying to be as present as possible. This can mean being in the cafeteria with students, writing letters, giving presentations, or being available to talk to students, teachers and alumni. Essentially, I see myself as the pastor of this community. I try to pastorally care for the institution and shepherd us forward. Our future will be marked by lay leadership and the commitment of our colleagues to Ignatian spirituality. To achieve this goal, we must find ways to empower our collaborators with Ignatian resources and make the Exercises even more assessable to students and parents. 

How has the Society helped you grow to be a better person?

 
The Society of Jesus has challenged me professionally and personally in many positive ways. I actually found the vow of obedience to be freeing, in the sense that it moves me beyond my self-imposed limitations. My superiors have enabled me to do more than I would left to my own devices. One example would be my First Studies in South America, when my provincial asked me to go to Chile for 3 years. I said I’d be happy to, but I really didn’t think that I could study philosophy in Spanish. Actually, everything worked out great and there was a richness in that experience beyond my expectations. In addition to studies there, I worked in the Hogar de Cristo network of homeless shelters, where I met people who proved vital to my Jesuit formation.

Then there was Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, a novitiate experiment – in other words, a Jesuit formational experience - that I initially did not want to do. It involved caring for people dying of cancer and I had reservations. It was a powerful experience to be with people who are dying. I learned how love is greater than any discomfort. That human interaction again put me in contact with good people I would not have otherwise met.

What is your favorite book about Ignatian Spirituality?

I would recommend He Leadeth Me by Jesuit Fr. Walter Ciszek. It’s a great book on Ignatian Spirituality with powerful stories about how he was afflicted by various evils during his Soviet imprisonment. He was wrongly accused of crimes, imprisoned with violent criminals, tortured, and yet he found the goodness of God and humanity. He exercised his priestly ministry in extreme situations, while sentenced to hard labor in Siberian prison camps. And in spite of the harshness of life there, he continually found the goodness of work, the goodness of the human body, and the goodness of God. If Fr. Ciszek experienced God’s caring presence under those conditions, I should be able to find God’s love and peace in my daily life. 



Fr. Mark Hallinan, SJ
Fr. Paul Sullivan, SJ

Fr. Tomas Frink, SJ
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Pat Gauvey











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