A Jesuit's Journey:
Fr. Casey Bukala, SJ
January 16, 2019 — It was a homecoming fifty years in the making.
In 2016, Fr. Casey Bukala, SJ, moved to the Colombiere Center near Detroit, where elder Jesuits live in community, receive the healthcare they need, and pray for the Church and the Society.
It was not Fr. Bukala’s first time at Colombiere, however.
From 1959 until the 1990s, the Center served as a Jesuit training facility called Colombiere College, and it is where Fr. Bukala studied as a novice and was ordained.
Today, “Colombiere is a place to gather to support one another,” Fr. Bukala says. “It’s a community of love. While we may not be in the fields anymore, we still do what we can, and we share our common experiences.”
For Fr. Bukala, those experiences took place largely at John Carroll University (JCU) — where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and to which he returned in 1970 to teach philosophy, serve as chaplain to campus groups, and more. His homecoming to JCU began a journey that impacted generations of students and alumni — through learning as well as lifelong friendships.
While teaching, he says the best part about his job was “getting to meet and know students, who became alumni … I’ve taught sons and daughters of former students, celebrated many weddings, and baptized many of their children.”
Those students valued getting to meet and know Fr. Bukala as well. In a jovial, caring style, he challenged those in his classes to take what philosophers had to say and develop personal responses, learning about themselves in the process. He also encouraged them to learn from each other by sharing common experiences – much like he does today with his Jesuit brothers.
As such, he continues to live out his trademark phrase: “Who I am is related to who I am yet to become.”
Father Bukala is also known for his passion on the topic of forgiveness. He created an “Ethics of Forgiveness” class and the Bukala Forgiveness Initiative at JCU.edu. “As we live our lives, it’s necessary to let go of many things, especially the bad,” he explains. “We’re all pretty much the same in being vulnerable. And hurts can impact us in a way that changes our lives forever. Yet with understanding and support, we can also come to understand that we don’t have to let these hurts fester within us, that we can let them go.”
Emphasizing that forgiveness is a gift the forgiver offers to him or herself, at least as much as it is to the forgiven person, Fr. Bukala also believes that sharing one’s stories is instrumental in healing. “Hopefully, everyone can find comfort and relief from the negative baggage they carry in life by sharing their stories,” he says. “A part of us dies when we hurt someone or are hurt by someone, as well as when we don’t forgive ourselves or others. There is no future without forgiveness.”
S P I R I T U A L I T Y – Excerpts from Bukala Forgiveness Initiative
• Forgiveness is ultimately always for the forgiver. If we are interested in our own happiness, we forgive over and over again, as Jesus taught us, in all situations and circumstances.
• When we forgive, we begin to feel the love that Jesus feels when he forgives. “Love one another as I have loved you.” “Forgive one another as I have forgiven you.”
• Every human being is made in the image and likeness of God. Nonetheless, every human being is fallible; that is, every individual can and does make mistakes. A human being will always need to forgive and be forgiven.
• Our vocation in life is threefold: (1) continue the work of our own creation, with a little help from our friends; (2) help others to continue the work of their creation, as they also help us; and (3) work together to continue the creation of the world.
• Jesus, as a healer of broken hearts, is the model to follow. When asked how many times a person should forgive another, Jesus responded: “Not seven times, but seventy-times-seven times.”
• Forgiveness is connected to love, the love one has for him/herself, the love one has for others, the love one has for God. Love changes everything. Forgiveness makes everything new.
“Forgiving is certainly one of the greatest human capacities and perhaps the boldest of human actions insofar as it tries the seemingly impossible, to undo what has been done, and succeeds in making a new beginning where everything seemed to have come to an end.” – Hannah Arendt