“What took you so long?”

By Keith Maczkiewicz, SJ

As part of our continuing series about Jesuits sharing their vocation stories with others, Keith Maczkiewicz, SJ, a second-year Jesuit regent, describes the experience of telling his friends that he had applied to the Jesuits.

In the fall of 2007, I was working at the University of Scranton as a campus minister, and I was actively preparing my application to the Jesuits. I was also increasingly nervous about how I would begin to tell my friends about this major life choice.

I enjoyed the ministry I was doing with students, but I was feeling more and more deeply called to religious life. The example of the men I knew at the Jesuit community in Scranton inspired me, and the more I encountered and the more I read, the more I realized that life as a Jesuit was what I most wanted. Still, I worried about sharing this deepening desire with my friends, even my close friends. For weeks I agonized about how to tell them, just as I had agonized about telling my family earlier that semester. What exactly should I say? What will they think?

I shouldn’t have been worried. As I broke the news to various friends, their response was the same as the one that I had received from my family: What took you so long? Since I had been a campus minister, many were totally unsurprised; applying to and entering religious life was, to them, a natural extension of the ministry I was already doing. Of course you’d want to enter the Jesuits, they said. They seemed to see something that, along the way, even I wasn’t totally cognizant of: that God was making a claim on my life in a radical way.

Since I entered the Jesuits, this theme of claim has continued, albeit in ways I never expected. In person and through various digital avenues – The Jesuit Post, Facebook, Twitter, text messages – I’ve received several requests for weddings, baptisms and funerals from friends, students and family, and have had interactions with students who have come to me looking for forgiveness and reconciliation.

I’m flattered that others would seek me out, but I understand that, in asking, they are making a claim on me as a representative of the Church and of God. Though I am not yet able to offer any sacramental presence to these occasions, I am happy to do what I know best: to offer love and to turn and make my own claim on the God whom I have come to know well these past several years because He claimed me first.

During my visits home, my mother never fails to ask, “So what can you do now?” It’s an innocent question; her understanding of priesthood is, like many, sacramental: celebrating Mass, presiding at funerals, baptizing babies. But her question is also one of claim: What have God and God’s Church asked you to do now, to be now? It’s my sense that, right now, God wants me to give authentic witness to these acts of claim, this rich tradition that says we belong to each other, in community, coming to know the Reign of God, however long that takes.

As a special digital supplement to the Spring 2015 JESUITS magazine, Tim O'Brien, SJ, continues our series on Jesuits sharing their vocation stories with others. Recently, Tim spoke with our editors about some of the conceptions and misconceptions of priestly calling. 

Tim O' Brien, SJ

What is it you think most people don’t understand about a priestly vocation?

When I talk about my vocation, especially with my students, there’s often the sense that there’s something magical or mystical about discerning a call to the priesthood. Like maybe the call will be announced by an angel choir, a shaft of light from heaven or a burning bush. It doesn’t work that way; it didn’t for me anyway. A vocation is a call that comes through paying attention to the movements of our hearts, sometimes in exalted moments but more often in the mundane. It’s also a call that’s answered in freedom but especially in hope. In other words, with all respect to angel choirs, it’s a call answered without perfect certainty.

To read the rest of Tim's interview, click here.

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