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by Thomas Bambrick, SJ
As Jesuits, we commit to go wherever we are sent to fulfill with joy and love the mission entrusted to us. During my two years in the novitiate in St. Paul, I learned over and over again to offer myself to God in prayer, in the words of Jesus, “Father, not my will but yours be done.” Since by myself I have a very limited perspective and foresight, I rely on my superiors to listen to how the Spirit is moving in my prayer, to take into account the bigger picture that I cannot see, and to help me discern how I can be formed and prepared most fully to live out my vocation. This process led to my being sent to New York City for First Studies.
I have to admit: as I was committing myself to this life and imagining all the wonderful things I want to do for God, I was certainly not dreaming about studying philosophy . . . far from it. I long to spend my life serving and loving others as a Jesuit and as a priest. So why am I studying philosophy?
Studying philosophy is not only a practical requirement for ordination to the priesthood; it also allows me to wrestle with the difficult questions about life, understanding, relationships, and God, with which all sorts of people struggle, especially in our contemporary world. I am gaining knowledge and tools that are helping me grow personally and that will help me serve others better in the future. And, thanks to generous donors who support my formation, I have this great opportunity. What an amazing gift!
As a Jesuit from the Midwest, I have a unique opportunity to spend three years in New York City studying philosophy (and a little theology), living in community with Jesuit scholastics from across the country, serving part-time as a chaplain at a hospital in the Bronx, and meeting wonderful and inspiring people. I can go from an afternoon philosophy class discussing how people in a postmodern world speak about and imagine God to Mass and dinner with my Jesuit community, to an evening of Bible study and conversations about peacemaking with Catholic Workers in the city. I come to God in prayer every day with gratitude for this vocation and for this time of formation. These years of First Studies are exposing me to various ideas, communities, and experiences, and they are forming me to be the person God is calling me to be as a Jesuit, ready to go anywhere to love and serve others.