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A Heart on Fire:
Taylor Fulkerson, SJ

Tyler Fulkerson, SJ

Taylor Fulkerson, SJ, recently completed his regency at Chicago’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, where he taught religion and Latin American history. This fall, he will begin theology studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

In August of 2020, when the world was still far from imagining a return to normalcy, my regency at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School began with tense days of orientation for new faculty and students followed by many months of virtual classes. I had just moved back to the United States from Peru and spent two weeks in isolation. I barely knew my colleagues, or even my way around the school building, and suddenly I was welcoming freshmen into the Cristo Rey community.

It was surreal. It was confusing and disorienting. I felt like I was teaching into a void. I had to take a deep breath every time I prepared to plunge into another video call where I would attempt to share something new without seeing my audience’s reaction.

Yet it was also a graced time. Even in the midst of calamity, I felt my heart adapting to the reality before me.

I had spent my last semester in Peru in online classes, so I felt an immense compassion for my students. If it had been a challenge for an adult, what would it be for a teenager? How could the students possibly feel at ease with a camera facing them all day long? How could they possibly find new friends at a new school through a screen?

In the same way I wondered about my students, I wondered about myself. That first semester, I had no idea how I was doing. I had no idea whether I was teaching well or not, and I didn’t know my colleagues well enough to “talk shop.”

Taylor Fulkerson, SJ, pronounced first vows in 2017.
Taylor Fulkerson, SJ, pronounced first vows in 2017.

It occurred to me one day that I could find out whether I was teaching well or not only by asking myself whether I was loving as Jesus loves, as St. Paul outlines in his First Letter to the Corinthians. Would my students say Mr. Fulkerson is patient? Is Mr. Fulkerson kind? Does Mr. Fulkerson bear all things and endure all things?

I learned two lessons, each simple yet profound—we all have a need for compassion and a simple, yet demanding, standard of love.

I have seen in the course of my Jesuit formation that the Lord has taken me by the hand and led me, over and over. He prepared me to be the teacher I am today. He certainly prepared me as I studied Latin American history in Peru, and as I floundered through conversations in a Minnesota jail and a Bronx nursing home, and as I struggled to lead prayer in my second language in many places. And as I look back on the beginning of this stage of my formation, I see more clearly than ever that he guided my heart along the way.

As the prologue to St. John’s Gospel says, the darkness has not overcome the light. Better yet, the light feels so much brighter in the darkness.


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