A Heart on Fire:
Daniel Kennedy, SJ
We as a Church commemorate the moment Jesus went into the wilderness of the desert because the Spirit was leading him (Mk 1:12). I find the image of the Spirit leading Jesus powerful and true for all of us. When looking back on our lives, we can see God quietly conspiring for our benefit in decisions that drew on a wisdom beyond us, on the people who taught us to love, and on the experiences that challenged our faith to find a new depth. My vocation in the Society has been where I am able to see the Spirit leading me beyond my awareness in the moment.
The Spirit of God dwells both in the extraordinary and the ordinary moments of our lives. I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where I went to a parish grade school. I was fortunate that I had an excellent pastor that sparked my early imagination about being a priest. It led to an incessant amount of cheek squeezing by my aunts when I said I thought I could grow up to be a priest. It was the Spirit’s first movement in my vocational discernment that I look back on and think that either I was a weird kid or the Spirit had been tugging at my heart from a young age. I selfishly choose the latter option!
I first met the Society when I attended St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo. I remember sitting in freshman theology class when I first heard the story of St. Ignatius. His conversion from soldier and courtier to pilgrim and saint shows a transformation we can only attribute to the Spirit’s work. I could not shake Ignatius’s story from my memory. I also met wonderful Jesuits like Fr. Tom Pipp, SJ, and Fr. Frank Canfield, SJ, who served in the high school. They had a joyful air that they brought to their encounters with students that led me to think about a vocation to the Society. When I studied at Boston College, I met more Jesuits who were men of great faith, joy, and compassion. I credit the Holy Spirit’s guidance for the exemplary models of Jesuit life I was blessed to experience.
The Spirit eventually led me to enter the novitiate in Saint Paul, Minn., and has led me to different ministries in my Jesuit formation. I have been able to serve men and women facing homelessness, grade school students, callers on a suicide and crisis line, and now the students of Creighton Prep in Omaha, Neb., as the director of student activities. At each new place, I’ve been challenged to trust the Spirit that brought me there and to continue to let it guide me. I take comfort in the ways the Spirit has been generous to me in this vocation with the people that I have been able to encounter because I am a Jesuit. I pray to stay out of the Spirit’s way with my own plans so I can go where and to whom it leads me.
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