Stephen Patterson SJ
I was born in 1966, in Oldham. Entered the Society of Jesus in 1997 and was ordained priest in 2008.
Between September 2013 and May 2014 I completed a period of Jesuit formation known as Tertianship, so in one way I was between past and future missions as a Jesuit priest. However, just previous to beginning Tertianship I completed a Master’s degree in Theology at the Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley, US, and before that worked for two and a half years as a Parish Priest in Guyana, South America. I am currently Acting Parish Priest in Preston.
I entered the Society of Jesus in 1997 but first met the Jesuits, and was introduced to Ignatian Spirituality in 1995. Towards the end of 1996, and after having been inspired by the stories of early Jesuit missionaries, I then spent three months on what was the Jesuit Mission of Santa Rosa in the rainforest of Guyana. Also, during this time I was introduced, to a Jesuit document entitled Servants of Christ’s Mission, which identified the Jesuit mission as being located “at the very heart of the world’s experience”. The combination of my introduction to Ignatian Spirituality, the missionary nature of Servants of Christ’s Mission, and the experience of living for some time in Guyana proved to be a deep and powerful experience for me, and when I returned to Britain I formally applied to the Jesuits.
Since entering the Society of Jesus I have been able to deepen and expand on those initial experiences by way of studies in Philosophy, Theology, Art & Inculturation, Science & Religion. And, I have also had some further pastoral experiences in prison chaplaincy, giving the Spiritual Exercises, and as Parish Priest once again in Guyana. Like many Jesuits, I have lived and worked in both small and large communities in a variety of places such as Britain, Spain, South America and the USA. For me a Jesuit vocation is truly catholic in the deep sense of the word – universal. In many ways it is also enigmatic. Some of our works are visible and high profile, others can be as anonymous as writing in the sand.
In the 1990’s a poster published by the Irish Jesuits caught my attention as it stated “The World Is Our Parish”. In my experience there is certainly some truth in that. From the very beginning Jesuits have understood themselves as companions of Christ, which I understand as a call to share in Christ’s mission of reconciliation and love “at the very heart of the world’s experience” wherever that might be in the world. Right now, for me, that is Preston in Lancashire, close to my roots, where I am now serving as parish priest at St Wilfrid's parish.