Today is the 26th anniversary of my ordination. I don't think it was a coincidence that I was ordained on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. For almost six years I have been serving Him as the U.S. director of the Apostleship of Prayer--the primary way in which Jesuits promote the spirituality of the Heart of Jesus.
Sometimes people ask me if I always wanted to be a priest. I grew up in a fairly religious family where we went to Mass every week and to confession once a month. My parents emphasized education and encouraged me to go to Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, a school which they thought was the best Catholic school for boys in the area. It was there that I met Jesuits for the first time. One of them had a particularly good influence on me at a time when I was struggling and a seed was planted: why not do for other young men, what he had done for me? Why not become a Jesuit? Becoming a priest was just part of the package. After one year of college I entered the Jesuit novitiate with the intention of someday working in an urban Jesuit high school. In the thirty-seven years since, I've never taught in an urban Jesuit high school. God had other plans.
Since I entered religious life primarily to be a Jesuit, I had to consider whether God was calling me to be a Jesuit brother or a priest. I followed the usual course of studies and formation and basically didn't see a call to be a brother so I stayed with the plan with which I entered. When the time came to write a letter asking for permission to begin the process of discernment and approval for ordination, I told my provincial superior that I wanted to be a priest in order to be a conduit or channel for God's grace. I praise and thank God that this desire has been fulfilled beyond my expectations.
I also thank God for all the people who have prayed for me and my vocation. I am convinced that I would not be a Jesuit priest today without the prayer support of many people--known and unknown--over the years. I look forward to meeting them all some day, God willing, in heaven where one of the great joys we will share is seeing how our prayers and sacrifices and daily offerings played a role in one another's lives and vocations.