Celebrating Six New Jesuit Priests

On June 9, 2018, the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces of the Society of Jesus ordained six Jesuit scholastics to the priesthood—the largest group in five years. They were among the 27 Jesuits in the United States, Canada and Haiti to be ordained this summer.

This year’s Ordination Mass for our East Coast Jesuits couldn’t have been more beautiful. A perfect sunny day set the bright atmosphere as friends and family gathered to celebrate this incredible milestone for our new Jesuit Fathers—Brian G. Konzman, SJ (Maryland Province); Keith A. Maczkiewicz, SJ (USA Northeast Province); Patrick C. Nolan, SJ (USA Northeast Province); Timothy W. O’Brien, SJ (Maryland Province); Henry J. Shea, SJ (Maryland Province); and Eric M. Studt, SJ (USA Northeast Province).

These young men from Scranton, Long Island, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Massachusetts stood before His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, and professed before God their vow to serve the Church as priests in the Society of Jesus. A decade of formation, comprising studies, ministry, prayer and discernment, culminated in their profound commitment to serve Jesus and His community. In the days following this momentous ceremony, these new Jesuit priests were asked to reflect on their journey to the Society and the significance of their paths to the priesthoods.

Fr. Brian G. Konzman, SJ

My regency at Gonzaga College High School blessed me tremendously. I took joy in teaching and coaching the students. The parents humbled me by entrusting their sons to us. My co-workers constantly floored me with their energy, creativity and deep care for the kids. I learned a lot, grew even more, and loved most of all.

The transition into the asceticism of theology studies was rough. Gone were the seemingly infinite outlets for affective energy, replaced with the library’s musty solitude. Even that experience, though, proved fertile ground for the work of the Holy Spirit as it drew me more deeply into contemplative prayer. Out of that prayer, I started to minister at the Newman Center for Cal Berkeley. That ministry proved very different from working at the high school—not simply due to the nature of the work, but especially due to its source: prayer. I began to learn in earnest what it means for Jesuits to be contemplatives in action.

It means, in part, that we make ourselves available to the Spirit, to serve as the vehicle through which grace works and from which people draw. Ordination day concretized that reality. My family was hosting a dinner down the street, and I was caught up at the post-Ordination reception by people wanting a new priest’s blessing. As I withdrew my hands, many people would snatch them, force them palms-up and kiss them. It drove home to me that this vocation is not my own, my priesthood is not my own, and my role is now to meet the needs of the people of God, by the Spirit’s work in me and by the Spirit’s work in them. That kenotic joy is exactly where I’ve been called to remain.

Fr. Keith A. Maczkiewicz, SJ

When I transferred to Fairfield University in 2001, I found on campus both a supportive faith community and a group of men who were fulfilled in their calling as Jesuit priests. I’ve often said that the shortest version of my vocation story is that I knew happy Jesuits. The longer version is that God has been leading me in a quietly obvious sort of way for a long time now.

After graduation, I served for two years in a Catholic high school’s campus ministry, where I had the opportunity to work with students and staff, coordinating services with a cadre of priests, many of whom I admired. Before long, I felt I was being drawn to work with older students who had deeper questions. And when I arrived at the University of Scranton to work in campus ministry in 2006, my boss was a Jesuit I knew from Fairfield, Fr. Terry Devino, SJ. When I was an undergraduate, Terry had offered an invitation that stuck with me for a long time: “You should think about this, the Jesuits,” he said. As my boss, his tone was different: “What are you waiting for?!” I appreciated his directness.

Once I entered the Society of Jesus, God’s “quiet obviousness” continued, and I felt easily led from place to place, from experiment to experiment (as we call them), always confident that I could say “yes” to the next thing because of my experience of God during the last. Saying “yes” was never really a struggle for me, but rather just the next obvious step in a long line of steps I have made with my generous God that has led me to ordination as a Jesuit priest in His service. Here’s to many more.

Fr. Patrick C. Nolan, SJ

I entered the Jesuits when I was 29, after a seven-year career in the sports marketing industry. I have six siblings and 13 nieces and nephews, and the possibility of missing family events was my biggest worry about entering the Jesuits. While I have missed some graduations and birthdays (especially when I was assigned to the Pacific islands of Micronesia), my Jesuit formation and now my priesthood have brought me even closer to my family than I could have imagined.

In the first year of the novitiate, I served as an orderly for cancer patients at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx—feeding, shaving and washing terminally ill patients and changing their bedsheets. It was a real “school of the heart” that has affected how I have prayed with the suffering Jesus during the Third Week of the Spiritual Exercises.

A few weeks before I was ordained, my own father’s health began to decline. When I arrived, my mom was laid up too because she had hurt her back trying to help my dad. My brothers and sisters and I worked together to care for our parents however we could, and I even taught them how to change the sheets with a person still in the bed, which I first learned at Calvary Hospital more than 10 years ago.

My dad was unable to make it to my ordination and first Mass, but thankfully, my mom was there for both liturgies. When I came home from my first Mass at my home parish, my sister and godmother, Fran, said to me, “Can you anoint daddy?” As soon as I started the prayers, my mom said, “Anoint me too!”

Just two weeks after my ordination, my father died. I was able to preside at his funeral. That was part of my father’s plan. Five years ago, my parents planned to move to a condo in Florida. My dad said, “No. We have to stay in our parish so Patrick can say his first Mass at St. Rose of Lima.”

It turns out that my biggest fear became my greatest consolation. I have been available to my family in an intimate way in my early days of priestly ministry. My family prepared me to be a good Jesuit and a priest, and the Jesuits prepared me to be a good son and a brother.

Fr. Timothy W. O’Brien, SJ

"Tim, what’s the matter? Are you alright?” they asked, nearly in unison. I was sitting in the Fordham University Church in June 2017 with my parents before the start of the ordination liturgy. They had come to New York for the celebration, knowing well some of my Jesuit friends who were to be ordained. I had just returned to the United States after my first year of theology studies in France. As the choir rehearsed, I was explaining various parts of the ordination rite to them. All of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, I started sobbing.

As my parents’ alarm suggests, random fits of weeping are not exactly my default emotional setting. But the joy I felt in that moment was intense, and it just knocked me over. When I eventually composed myself enough to speak, I blubbered out, “I’m just … so … happy.”

I have come back to this scene often. This moment crystallized something in me that had not yet found words: my gratitude for all the joy that God has brought into my life through the Society of Jesus.

I first felt called to share this as an undergraduate at the College of the Holy Cross, attracted by the ministry of the Jesuit community and their lay colleagues. It was following that joy that brought me to enter the Jesuits in 2008, and I have found that grateful joy throughout these 10 years in the Society of Jesus. It is the joy of a life lived for and with God. It is the joy of a life lived with brothers and friends in the Lord. It is the joy of a life lived in service to the Gospel—even when it is lived in spaces of suffering, pain, and loneliness.

And in light of that gratitude, what can I give except everything I have?

Fr. Henry J. Shea, SJ

I still vividly remember reading The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene for an AP English project as a senior in high school. The book chronicles the life of a priest on the run during an era of persecution in 1920s Mexico: he is a flawed figure in many ways, yet deeply devoted to the people he serves. The book stirred something in my heart. I felt called to this.

When I set out for college at Georgetown University, however, other ambitions had risen to the fore: I would be a lawyer, I thought, and then perhaps try my hand in politics. But God persisted. A spiritual experience of profound joy in God’s presence re-opened my horizons. Then, through the lives of the Jesuits I knew at Georgetown, I sensed I was being called in a similar way. A silent retreat in Wernersville, Pa., only confirmed this, and the summer after graduation, I entered the novitiate in Syracuse, N.Y.

That was nearly 11 years ago now. I am so grateful for all that Jesuit life has given me. It is hard to know where to begin in describing its blessings. It has certainly made me a better human being—expanding my mind and stretching my heart. The friendships we’re able to form with each other as Jesuits are unique and profound. The privilege of serving God’s people —whether in a parish and community center, in a high school classroom, or most recently through preaching and the sacraments—has brought me tremendous consolation. And the joy of God’s presence, especially in the Eucharist, continues to fill my heart with gratitude. To all this I can only say, “Thanks be to God.”

Fr. Eric M. Studt, SJ

My path to priesthood in the Society of Jesus has been part of a journey toward greater intimacy with Jesus—a journey that started in my childhood with my grandmother teaching me prayers and taking me to Mass. My quest to better know and love Jesus took on new contours when I did an abbreviated version of the Spiritual Exercises retreat as a senior at the College of the Holy Cross. On this retreat, I started thinking of Jesus not only in terms of His wise sayings and ethical teachings, but also as a person who wants to be close to me and, through me, to other people. As I talked with Jesuits at Holy Cross and elsewhere, I started to recognize that the Society of Jesus is a group of men that is drawn together by this basic principle, that Jesus wants to draw close to us in the concrete situations of our daily lives.

The nearly 12 years of formation that led to my ordination to the priesthood were a long lesson in finding Jesus in the most diverse of circumstances. My studies and work led me all over the world, from great universities in wealthy cities to seemingly hopeless situations both in developing countries and in the forgotten corners of America. In each new place, I search for the Jesus who wants to be close to us.

I see my ordination to the priesthood as part of this larger journey. As I preach the Word and celebrate the sacraments, I hope to encourage God’s people with the Good News that Jesus is always drawing close to us, just as surely when we are sick or feeling bad about some of the things we have done as when we are celebrating more joyful events such as the birth of a child or one of life’s transitions.

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