The Jesuit Life retreat, began many years ago at Ignatius by Fr. Ray Guiao SJ ’82, is for students who are interested in the Society of Jesus in any fashion, whether they are considering it as a possible future, or whether they are merely interested at better getting to know Jesuits and their ministries. The retreat left Sunday morning via Megabus to visit many of the Jesuit ministry sites in grand ole Chicago. My friends Pat Gilday SJ and Br. Ralph Cordero SJ were the leaders of the retreat, so I was happy to help out as a third adult chaperone.
After arriving in Chicago around 2:30 CT, we unloaded our bags at the Jesuit parish of St. Procopius in Pilsen, a formerly eastern European neighborhood turned Mexican. The seven boys making the retreat stayed in the parish center, formerly the rectory of the Church, while the adults enjoyed the plush interiors of the Bl. Miguel Pro Jesuit community house just a few doors down.
The site to see Sunday evening was Loyola University, on the north side of the city. We dined with the Gonzaga house community there, comprised of Jesuits ranging from first-year Scholastics to elderly professors, and everyone in between. It was a very diverse community, both in age and in race, and a good example of the international quality of the Jesuit mission. After dinner, a few scholastics gave talks on discernment, and one, Joshua Peters, led an extended 15 minute examen. If the boys’ Examen experience was anything like mine, it was surely a peace-giving, presence-filling exercise for all. The night ended with 9PM Eucharistic liturgy of Christ the King at the lovely Madonna della Strada chapel on the Loyola’s campus, the main Mass for the student body.
After a night’s rest in Pilsen, the boys got to experience a different kind of Jesuit school, the Cristo Rey (“Christ the King”) model located just five or so minutes away from St. Procopius. The group interacted with students in Mr. Chris Staab SJ ’95’s senior literature course, discussing in small groups an article written about the life of Pedro Arrupe and his promotion of education for justice. I was wowed at how open and conversational both the Ignatius boys and the Cristo Rey students (male and female) were with each other in the small groups. The spirit of Ignatius truly does reside at both schools. Our visit to Cristo Rey ended with a few talks by scholastics in the simple, beautiful school chapel.
Filled with some deep dish pizza for lunch and sights from the Hancock tower, the group ended the retreat at St. Ignatius College Prep, also located fairly to St. Procopius. All enjoyed the pre-dinner social time I’m lucky to partake in each Tuesday and Thursday at the SIHS CLE community, getting to know the SJs in attendance. Following dinner, the aforementioned Fr. Guiao extrapolated on the notion of a Jesuit’s identity being intimately tied with his mission – so much so that “a Jesuit would be nothing without his mission.” A period of discussion and questions followed, revealing the depth and healthy curiosity of the students in attendance. Finally, to end the day, Fr. Pat Fairbanks SJ gave the boys a tour of the Hogwarts-esque SICP main building. The tour culminated with an impromptu Mass said in the chapel on the 5th floor of the SICP building, overlooking a brilliant skyline of downtown Chicago. A perfect way to cap an excellent day.
Tuesday featured the simple packing of bags and travel back to Cleveland via the beloved Megabus. Things closed out with a ten-minute prayer session in St. Mary’s chapel, with each of the seven boys eagerly offering a grace of the retreat they were especially grateful for. It was edifying to hear not just the responses but the energetic and thoughtful way they were given. An excellent retreat, though certainly fast-paced and tiring. I hope and pray that the boys who experienced so much on the retreat take it all back to the Lord in prayer and ask Him what He wants of them in life, whatever it may be.