A Heart on Fire:
Dan Dixon, SJ
My single greatest hesitation in entering the Jesuit novitiate had nothing to do with vows of poverty, chastity, or obedience. It was all the moving around that got me. “Can you really form lasting and loving relationships while constantly on the road?” I wondered, as I debated whether to pick up the phone and call the vocation director.
Our Jesuit formation is characterized by transitions. Jesuit scholastics and brothers rarely, if ever, live in a particular place for longer than three years.
I’ve found over my eight years as a Jesuit that itinerant life has its perks. I have lived in many places: St. Paul, Cleveland, Mexico, Denver, Ann Arbor, Peru, New York, Detroit, and Cleveland again. As a young man in the latter half of my twenties and early thirties, this has appealed to my sense of adventure, filling me with with memories unique to those places.
I love sharing my stories with friends and family, most of whom live a much more stable and sedentary existence than I do. Adventures are exciting, and my loved ones delight in picturing me boldly venturing from one city to the next. But as I prepared for yet another transition this past summer, ending regency in Cleveland to begin theology studies in Berkeley, California, excitement seemed to be residing in a different zip code.
For the last three years, one of my roles at Saint Ignatius High School was to help start the Welsh Academy, a middle school serving families of modest economic means. This journey has been equal parts inspiring, humbling, thrilling, and terrifying. I didn’t want to leave the people who have made the Welsh Academy and Saint Ignatius High School so special and graced for me. The seeds that I and countless others have planted are just starting to bloom. Cleveland was starting to feel like home, and I wanted to stay.
And yet, as I acclimate to the very different routine and rhythm in theology studies, I am convinced more than ever that God is calling me to be a priest. The sadness I felt in leaving Cleveland and the people who made it special was oddly consoling. “This is working,” I thought. My students, my coworkers, and my Jesuit community members were calling my priesthood out of me with every “We’ll miss you, Mr. Dixon” or “Let’s catch up once you get settled in Berkeley.”
Our Jesuit formation takes us not only to many places, it also puts us in close proximity with God’s people, who time and time again have affirmed the value of our vocation, with every story they share and blessing they impart. As I make yet another transition this year, I am full of gratitude to God and everyone who is responsible for making this beautiful, itinerant life possible for my Jesuit brothers and me.
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