A Jesuit's Florida ministry - by former St Peter's altar server
A former altar server at St Peter’s Stonyhurst and an alumnus of Stonyhurst College has shared highlights of his past year at the Jesuit High School in Tampa, Florida, with parishioners, students and staff in Lancashire. Writing in the Christmas newsletter for St Peter’s, St Joseph’s, Hurst Green (where he was also a pupil) and the Stonyhurst Community, Fr J. Patrick Hough SJ, reflected on Jesuit education and service, pilgrimages and retreats.
The Jesuit High School in Tampa, where Fr Hough has been assigned for the past four years, has been serving the location Catholic communities of central Florida since 1899. Today the all-boys school has nearly 800 students and a Jesuit community of six men, with the President (a Jesuit) at the helm. “This model means that the Society of Jesus is well placed to ensure that the Catholic, Jesuit ethos of the school is well taken care of,” Fr Hough explains.
Since arriving at Jesuit in Tampa, Fr Hough has been the Head of the Theology department, a History teacher and has also overseen the retreat and formation programme of all faculty and students. “These are great tasks that require a good deal of prayer and patience to ensure that the Lord stays firmly in the centre amidst so much necessary work and preparation,” he writes. “It is good work and enjoyable.” He adds that the young men with whom he works are dedicated to growing in their Catholic faith. “I have found that our formational programmes for them support their desire for example to attend Mass on Sundays. In fact, my students are sometimes the ones encouraging their parents to fulfil this important weekly obligation.”
Joyful witnesses of God’s plan
Each young man at Jesuit High School is required to complete a certain number of service hours in the community. “These hours increase as the student progresses up the school,” Fr Hough tells the Stonyhurst community. “For the past several years I have taken groups of students to a Franciscan friary in the mountains of Nicaragua. Activities such as feeding the homeless children and the poor, providing bed sheets for the new mothers in hospital as well as going to give clothing to the families living at the rubbish dump all provokes much needed personal reflection as to how to combat such levels of poverty and to bring them Christ’s healing touch.”
Last year, Fr Hough accompanied a group of students on a pilgrimage to England in the footsteps of the Jesuit martyrs; and earlier this year, he helped to bring a group of students to World Youth Day in Poland. In addition to the 88 students, there were 13 alumni and 12 teachers on the pilgrimage that took them through Rome, Krakow and Vienna, “to help them in their lives of faith and to grow, to change and to bring back the Gospel message to their peers ... Such trips, pilgrimages and retreats take care of the souls of these young men that in turn make them great joyful witnesses of God’s plan for our lives,” according to Fr Hough.
In addition to being an altar server at St Peter’s and a pupil at both St Joseph’s and Stonyhurst, Fr Hough was also a student at St Augustine’s RC High School in Clitheroe and he still has family in the locality.
The Christmas ‘Parish Extra’ also includes a reflection from parish priest, Fr Peter Griffiths SJ, a review of the Year of Mercy at St Peter’s and news about the changes that have taken place at St Joseph’s Primary School during 2016. Copies are available from St Peter's Stonyhurst.