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Office of Ignatian Spirituality: at the heart of all things Jesuit

By Mike Gabriele

Ignatian spirituality. Could two words ever fit so well together? Like Maryland crabs, Boston chowder or Philadelphia cheesesteaks, when you think of one, the other rolls off the tongue along with it.

Ignatian spirituality is at the heart of all things Jesuit. St. Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises are the basis for how Jesuits and so many others find a deeper relationship with God. Yes, the Jesuits are indeed extraordinary, world-renowned educators. They are celebrated for mission work in some of the poorest communities on earth. Their tireless work for social justice spans the globe. But what is the common thread in all these Jesuit efforts? Spirituality—a way of both “looking at” and “being present in” the world that is founded on a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus and the Church. This is what St. Ignatius wanted not only for the priests and brothers of his order, but for everyone.

Late last year, the Jesuit Collaborative, an independent organization known for directing spiritual programs for Jesuit colleagues, young professionals and Hispanics, came under the direct supervision of the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces with a wider mandate.

Tasked with building a more comprehensive spiritual network and fortified with a new name, the Office of Ignatian Spirituality moved to the Maryland Province headquarters in Baltimore. Its broader, updated mission is to help increase communication among the spiritual ministries at our Jesuit schools, parishes, retreat houses and volunteer organizations. These apostolates have so much to offer and yet too often exist as silos in their respective communities. This initiative hopes to bring together the very best of these programs, connect more people to them, and cultivate spiritual directors to meet the ever increasing demand.

   

The Office of Ignatian Spirituality will help connect people with ministries and spiritual directors at their local Jesuit churches, schools, retreat centers and other apostolates.
When you step back and consider the sheer number of Jesuit schools and universities, parishes, retreat centers and volunteer organizations in our two East Coast provinces alone, you begin to realize the need for an organized bridge between these spirituality ministries so that development opportunities don’t fall through the cracks. More than 42,000 families are currently served by Jesuit parishes in the Maryland and USA Northeast Provinces. Add in our countless retreat participants, volunteers, students and alumni, and the potential number of people to be served becomes a bit daunting. The need to facilitate a cooperative link between the ministries themselves and with individuals committed to Ignatian spirituality has never been greater.

Fr. George Witt, SJ, provincial assistant for spirituality ministries, heads up the new Office of Ignatian Spirituality. “One successful ‘partnership’ has been the 19th Annotation Retreat programs in Boston and in Baltimore, where we share resources across Jesuit works to provide the Spiritual Exercises to a larger group of people than would be possible through any individual institution,” said Fr. Witt. “We want to connect those who are looking for spiritual programs or personal spiritual direction with ministries and spiritual directors at nearby churches, schools, retreat centers or other Jesuit apostolates.”

Opening communication channels between Jesuit ministries and providing a more robust database for those pursuing spiritual guidance is one of several goals for the Office of Ignatian Spirituality. Another objective is to offer enrichment opportunities for those already engaged as Ignatian spiritual directors and to train new ones for the future. Fr. Witt reviewed the fundamental questions, “Are we providing both Jesuit and lay directors proper formation for their ongoing growth? Are we grooming new directors and retreat presenters to carry the torch and to help ‘set the world on fire’? These are calls we hope to address.” Popular programs that the Jesuit Collaborative has been known for will certainly continue through the Office of Ignatian Spirituality— Contemplative Leaders in Action, the Magis program, and Hispanic Ignatian ministries, just to name a few. But as an integral part of our Jesuit provinces, the office will also serve as a networking catalyst for all spirituality ministries and for those who seek their guidance.

Ignatian spirituality. The words have always belonged together. We will continue to update you on how the Office of Ignatian Spirituality is working to keep them at the forefront of all things Jesuit. Please visit www.JesuitsEastOIS.org.





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Situated on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River, Loyola Retreat House is located 35 miles south of Washington, D.C., in southern Maryland.