Joe Neidhard: Why Ignite?

I’m out of college. I’m unemployed. I’m unhappy.

That was the position I was in March of 2017. Less than a year out of college, I was no longer working my job as a bank teller, a position I worked not out of any interest in finance or the business world but because it was something that could help me pay my student loans. I had graduated the previous spring with an English degree with honors, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with it. My early interest in becoming a college professor had long waned, and no other career options struck me as worthwhile. So, I spent eight months as an unhappy teller at a credit union.

I think we all have an inherent desire to feel certain about ourselves. I don’t mean just having an outgoing confidence, but a deeper, more rooted sense that you are doing something with your life that is impactful and affects others—what the Church calls “vocation”. For much of my first year out of college, I was without a vocation. It made me unhappy. It made me unconfident. I was not doing anything that I felt influenced anyone but myself and I didn’t know how to change that.

Then one afternoon, my sister sent me a link she had found on the Archdiocese’s job listings. It was for the Ignite Internship at the Jesuit Spiritual Center. I read the description and started to feel some self-assurance.

Well, I went to Milford a few times on college Kairos retreats. It was pretty nice. And the only fulfilling thing I’ve done since I graduated has been volunteering for parish’s youth group. Sure, I’ll check this out.

So I applied and got an interview.

While I went into the interview knowing I wanted to do the internship, it was shocking just how well the program fit my needs. The internship was based in Ignatian discernment. While I would be learning about youth ministry and how to handle its many challenges, I also would have a support group that wanted to help me better understand what I want out of my life. This program embraced the uncertainty we face on our journey instead of just giving me a certificate to show to prospective employers when I’m done.

Through this internship, I feel I have found a vocation in youth ministry. This is not the case for everyone who goes through the program. I’ve seen people use the Ignite internship as a springboard for careers in adult ministry, campus ministry, education, and religious life. In Milford you’re afforded a place for indifference—that Ignatian freedom of choice that is so hard to find.

If you or anyone you know may be interested in our Ignite Internship, you can find the application here