Joel Thompson SJ
At 24, I’m one of the youngest members of the province. Whenever I meet people and begin to explain that I’m from Guyana, there is always a brief pause as they try to remember its geographical location. It’s the only English speaking country in South America and is one of the two regions attached to the British Province. I spent most of my life in Guyana until I entered the novitiate in 2011 in Birmingham.
I completed the novitiate and took vows in 2013. I’ve since started a BA in Philosophy and Theology at Heythrop College. The studies are very interesting and are helping me to understand and work through some of the questions about life and God which were instrumental in guiding me towards the Society. In addition to studies, I volunteer at the local youth centre in Wapping. This gives me a chance to interact with young people from various religious backgrounds. One of my hobbies is playing the piano, so I also occasionally assist with music ministry in the local parish and have started organ lessons in order to be better able to participate in music ministry.
I was never one of those who considered a vocation from an early age; it just sort of crept up on me. Some people may be able to pinpoint an incident which put them on this path. For me, it is more of a collection of events, people, places and experiences. Some have been significant and others insignificant, but one way or another, they have moulded me into the person I am today.
It was after completing University in 2010, that the idea of vocation grew stronger and I discovered an attraction to the Jesuit commitment to social justice and Ignatian Spirituality. I knew that I wanted to live a life in service to others but wasn’t sure what the best way to do it was. Always an idealist, a vision of working for a better world and following Jesus’ footsteps in bringing abundant life to all (cf. John 10:10) have been my inspiration.
On approaching the vocation path, and ultimately God, there is always the panic and the little voice of fear that says: ‘Why me? I’m not worthy, I’m nobody’. I certainly didn’t and still don’t feel particularly holy. However, that old cliché that says ‘God qualifies the called not calls the qualified’ always consoles me. I think it’s the fear of being judged by others and being seen as unworthy which may scare some off, but my humble advice is: persist!
I’ve found that because Jesuit life is counter-cultural, it will automatically be viewed suspiciously. It can be lonely and frustrating to try to swim against the tide alone. This makes the communal aspect of Jesuit life important. In a world that’s increasingly becoming individualistic, I think an unselfish way of living can be a great witness.
Every path is different, but all I can honestly say about this one so far, is that it feels right!