Reflections
Rev. Andrew N. Downing, SJ

Week 11 – February 9, 2015
Entered -- August 1995
Took Vows -- August 1997
Ordained -- June 2007
  
Fr. Downing is a new Professor of Systematic Theology at the Gregorian University in Rome, Italy. He recently completed his doctoral studies and defended his dissertation at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN.
  
Few things are lockstep in Jesuit formation today. Yet, early on one has a pretty clear idea of where he is going and what he is about: preparing for ministry in the Church and eventually receiving a mission that will help him put into effect the lessons he has learned over the course of formation. In my own case, this experience of "the course" was lengthened, as I was sent to do further studies in theology after ordination. Only after being a priest for six years and at an age that once considered a time for a midlife crisis, had I finished my studies and stood ready for a ministerial assignment in earnest.
 
Yet far from being a crisis, the process of receiving a mission and beginning apostolic work has been a great consolation for me and a lived lesson in the value of Jesuit obedience. With a degree in theology and a desire made known to my superiors to teach Jesuits, it seemed a pretty sure thing that I would be assigned to work at one of the US theology centers. That was until the Provincial asked me to think about the possibility of teaching in Rome, at the Gregorian University. The university has need of professors, it educates many Jesuit students and has been made one of the priorities for the Society as a whole, he said simply. Why not think about teaching there?
 
At the time I spoke with the Provincial, I was spending most of my days writing my dissertation in a windowless library room, so the idea of a sunny piazza in Rome had immediate appeal. As I reflected over the next months, though, I realized the Society was offering me something for which I had hoped and prayed over the entire course of formation: a mission that would allow me -- even make me -- live out my desire to serve Christ and the Church, an opportunity to respond to a real need and so to know in my heart that I am answering God's call. Of course, there are many ways this kind of opportunity comes to a Jesuit, and many Jesuits living out their vocations as a response to the calls they each received in and through the missions entrusted to them. For me, that call has led me to Rome to teach students coming from all over the world -- or at least a hundred and twenty countries at last count -- something about theology and something about what it means to follow the call of Christ. This is what makes me happy to be a Jesuit today.
Press contact information
Cheryl Wittenauer
cwittenauer@jesuits.org
314-361-7765


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