Creighton prepares 11 young Jesuits for their next big step
Four young men casually attired and looking every bit the graduate students they are, advanced west along the Creighton mall from Morrison Stadium to an appointment at 20th and Cass streets. They had agreed to represent a group of 11 Jesuit regents who spent a month at Creighton University while preparing to tackle the challenging task of teaching high school.
Their presence is a point of pride for Creighton, which has always welcomed the opportunity to serve young men nearing ordination as Jesuit priests. The participation this year of an unusually large class of 11 young men, drawn from three of the four U.S. provinces of the Society of Jesus, was particularly notable for the fact that none of them have teaching experience.
They were on campus from mid-June to mid-July to take the “Summer Teacher Preparation for Jesuit Regents” course, which is taught by experienced high school teachers who are also adjunct professors in Creighton’s Department of Education.
“The Department of Education, housed in the College of Arts and Sciences, has a strong reputation for preparing high school teachers in the Ignatian tradition,” says Colleen Chiacchere, MS’14, director of the Magis Catholic Teacher Corps at Creighton.
“Teacher preparation here at Creighton includes specialized training for those teaching in Catholic schools and for those teaching in schools with diverse learners and students from marginalized backgrounds. Welcoming the Jesuit regents here has been seamless, a wonderful fit and a great addition to our current group of graduate education students.”
The regents are appreciative, too.
“I already feel so much more confident about how to lesson plan, how to get a couple of weeks ahead so that when you do get thrown into the fire, especially in the first few weeks of school as everything is getting started up, you are not totally drowning,” says Phil Cooley, SJ. “I'm very grateful for the classes.”
As Jesuit regents, the students have completed the two- to four-year first studies period of their formation process and have entered the two- to three-year regency stage, where they leave their formation communities and live in a formal apostolic community while engaging in full-time ministry, which almost always involves teaching in a secondary school.
Cooley was joined during the interview by Travis Crowe, SJ, a native of Detroit; Travis Neuman, SJ, who grew up in Federal Way, Washington; and Justin Prom, SJ, of Cedarburg, Wisconsin. They are headed, respectively, to Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Milwaukee; Regis Jesuit High School in Denver; Brophy College Preparatory School in Phoenix; and Red Cloud High School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
The seven other members of the class, and their high school destinations, are Timothy Bishop, SJ (Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School in Houston); Joseph Nolla, SJ (Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola in San Juan, Puerto Rico); Reynaldo Belfort, SJ (Colegio San Ignacio de Loyola in San Juan, Puerto Rico); Emmanuel Arenas, SJ, (Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago); Alex Hale, SJ (St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati); Kevin Karam, SJ, (Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School, Indianapolis); and John Stein, SJ (St. Ignatius High School, Cleveland).
Given their lack of teaching experience, all four men expressed gratitude, even relief, at learning the secrets of high school instruction.
“The classes here have been immensely helpful,” says Neuman. “I had no idea what to expect, but the classes are just crammed full of information from young, very enthusiastic but also very experienced teachers.
“The first week of class dealt with the basic tools necessary to create a successful lesson plan. That is foundational to what teachers do so it has been incredibly useful.”
While all four walked various paths of faith before entering the Society of Jesus, perhaps none had more ground to cover than Crowe, who was born and raised within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and considered becoming a Lutheran pastor.
“I always thought I could be a good Lutheran pastor who likes Catholicism, and so I went on to a little bit of seminary training for the Lutheran Church but then decided to change course in response to some of the questions that were coming up in my life,” he says.
Prom, who was raised Catholic by his Catholic father, saw his mother and his maternal grandmother both adopt the faith. Indeed, he served as his grandmother’s confirmation sponsor, an occasion he described as “very moving.”
Small things called to him, he says, even as he tried to flee the call.
“I was walking home one night after studying in Engineering Hall (at Marquette University) and I walked past this man who was sitting on the street, which was clearly where he was going to stay that night.
“He was just coughing and coughing and coughing, and my heart went out and I said, ‘God take care of this man. He is dying, he is suffering.’ And I heard so clearly, ‘Justin, I have no hands but yours,’ and so that has kind of become the mantra of my vocation, Jesus saying, ‘Your hands are my hands.’”
As happy as Creighton was to host all 11 regents, the regents were happy to be on campus.
“The first thing that stood out to me was how strong the Catholic and Jesuit identity is here with all the different kinds of statues, and the branding, with IHS appearing on every building, a real sense of being a Jesuit school, which is very cool,” says Cooley.
“It is very evident. Not overbearing, but appropriate.”
Prom, too, says he is pleased to find the Jesuit charism so vigorous at Creighton.
“In the two weeks that we have been here it is so clear that the spirit of St. Ignatius, and the commitment to God and the church, runs so deep in the people here,” he says.
“The people who have been directly teaching us, also — the way they draw from their personal experience of prayer and of the Spiritual Exercises, people naming their kids after Jesuit saints, it is just so much a part of the culture here. I have been consoled and really motivated by that. It has been really wonderful.”