Bookmark and Share

Vocation Stories


Leo M. Manglaviti, SJLeo M. Manglaviti, SJ

Professor of theology and director of the pre-theology program at Blessed John XXIII National Seminary

Each year when Advent comes, I take special note of the holy cards that I placed in my Bible in late 1988, when I first began my journey back to the Society of Jesus. One card reads from Psalm 37: 'Commit to the Lord your journey. Trust in him and he will act. Leave it to the Lord and wait for him.' I recall with gratitude each day that the Lord did indeed act abundantly in my waiting for Him.

As I wait for the Lord's coming again each year - in Advent, in my daily Mass, into my soul, preparing me for that coming at the end of my life and the last judgment - I pray with gratitude that he brought my journey to this place: at home in the Society. I am very happy as a Jesuit, simply put, and I cannot imagine being anything else. I am grateful that God rescued me from that other life - fulfilling in many ways but never really fulfilled at day's end.

Now when I go to bed, I look to the day passed and the one to come with thanks and hopeful expectation. The Lord will sustain this journey. It began as a turning back to the Lord, having fallen away during those years of teaching in a large state university, in the rat race of upward mobility, living a life away from the Church - the whole sad story of emptiness and anxiety and longing for something better. That came about through the urgings - I'm still not sure exactly when or how - that the Spirit was calling me back to a starting point long forgotten, for I had been a Jesuit novice briefly in the 1960s.

I was too young then, in every way, leaving before vows, but three decades of wandering led me to find God again and this time to answer his call with renewed commitment. My original province found me too old (in my forties) and suggested a seminary to study for diocesan priesthood. So, I entered Pope John XXIII Seminary for late vocations in Weston, Massachusetts. The longings for the Society continued, however, as I was providentially surrounded by Jesuit professors and spiritual guides. I also realized that I was more drawn toward the wide spectrum of special ministries the Jesuits offered, including parish work if I should feel drawn down that path again.

The short version of a long process, as it often happens, is that I was invited to apply to the New England Province. I was probably their oldest novice ever, nearing 50, but God had been keeping me young in spirit and close to his Son in desire for service, once I turned my life's journey back on his path. And here I am, ironically, teaching in the very seminary where I started. Following a "fast track" formation - given my age, advanced degrees in literature, and God's special grace or affirmation that it would work this time - I was ordained in 1999, having completed special studies to teach Scripture.

Although I am currently doing some of the original work of the Society, preparing good diocesan priests, the horizon of service is boundless. I may go on to more missionary activity, for I worked as a novice in the Middle East and have returned there for summer apostolates. Or I may be called to spiritual direction and retreat ministry, or active parish service, or many other possibilities.

The key is to remain totally open to God's will, to renew my commitment in gratitude each day, and to embrace fully what I prayed back when I began, to paraphrase the great prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola: "I give my journey to you, O Lord. Do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, to wait for you to show me each day how I can be of service to you, the Society of Jesus, and the Church. You have called me home, to fill me with your wondrous joy in my Jesuit family and in your loving care."

With you always

Connect with the Jesuits

FacebookTwitterYouTubeNew England Provice of Jesuits on LinkedInGoogle+Subcribe by RSS to Jesuits New England News