Three men begin life in the novitiate
Three men have started the two-year journey as novices in the Society of Jesus. Arriving at the Novitiate in Birmingham to start the process, is the next stage in what have already been incredible journeys for each one of them. Ian Jackson, who at 23, is the youngest of the three, trained in Engineering to Masters level and has just finished a very rich period volunteering in a Jesuit school in India for 6 months. His mother and father only became Christians when he was four years old. So his childhood was a journey with his family on a pilgrimage through the Church of Scotland, Church of England , Baptists to the Catholic church and he was finally confirmed in France at the age of 11.
Coming back to his faith at university, studying engineering at Warwick, he suddenly found himself reading the Gospels from cover to cover . After rediscovering Christ with adult eyes he was aware of the beginnings of a desire to be a priest, “I started to feel called out of the engineering world”. Exploring his options, being a priest in one diocese felt restrictive, then he saw a video by James Martin. “I was inspired by the Jesuit ideal of mission on all fronts.” He felt particularly drawn to the different types of frontiers, especially unbelief and atheism in Europe. He approached the Jesuits which began a process of discernment, of testing and deepening these feelings and his experience teaching outside of Kolkota really helped confirm that desire. The novitiate will now provide the framework and support to really test that.
Matthew Tumulty, who is 29 has risen through the ranks of rail operations in the West of Ireland for eight and half years. In entering the Novitiate his friends think he is a bit mad in giving up the security of a state job with a state pension which was guaranteed for life. However his family, including 8 brothers, three of whom are accountants, are fascinated by his decision. His older brothers are also a bit apprehensive because of the negative media around the church in Ireland. On reflection, he realises that this calling has been in his mind since he was eight, and after ignoring it and trying to put it off, eventually he tried out a vocation with the Diocese of Confort. That didn’t work, so researching his options he then approached the Jesuits through the internet. He was attracted by the variety of work that they were involved in all over the world. A good experience at a candidates’ weekend in Birmingham was very confirming, and his application to enter the Irish province was accepted.
The oldest man to enter is Paolo Beltrame who is 40 and recently has been teaching and doing research in astroparticle physics in Edinburgh. After previous experience with the Salesians, he then immersed himself in studying physics, which ended in a Ph.D. in Germany. Having spent over 15 years as an academic, and passing through some serious relationships his reconnection with a possible vocation came as a surprise. Out of the blue, the Jesuits in Edinburgh sent a general invitation to academics, to attend some talks about a recent encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si. Having never met any Jesuits, and having received an unsolicited invitation, Paolo went feeling curious but with low expectations. “I went to the talk and the effect surprised me, the credibility of the Jesuit speaking and his attempt to try and meet people where they were, was like pouring water on arid soil.” Thus, he started visiting Jim Crampsey SJ in Edinburgh and spiritual conversations slowly became a gentle type of spiritual direction.
Having this relationship supporting him, he was then able to interpret a key experience which affected him in a surprising and profound way. “I was doing some research in South Dakota, in a rural, remote area, in an old gold mine which provided the conditions we needed for our experiments. It was winter, and one day a deer searching for food came into my apartment.” Driven by hunger it was a chance encounter, but it triggered something in Paolo. “So getting in touch with Jim, he very gently suggested I make a retreat. So I did 8 days in Manresa, Spain. A bit like the deer I was searching for deeper understanding” and this surprising journey has led him to the Novitiate.