There are dozens of reasons to be a part of the Ignite Internship: the holistic care of the staff; the opportunities to learn new things and express creativity; the development of professional, personal, and spiritual skills; and the supportive community living are just a few. As I reflect on the biggest takeaway I have from the internship experience, I am reminded of two stories that encapsulate the best of the internship.
The first story involves Jed, a good friend of mine who was an intern with us last year. Jed grew up near St. Louis, Missouri, where I grew up. We had a lot of common ground and interests, and as the year went on, Jed invited me to participate in a prayer journey. We were to do the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola in the 19th Annotation, which is to say a retreat of sorts that occurred over the course of 32 weeks. Jed and I embarked on the spiritual journey that brought us closer together and closer to God. Through the prayer and reflection, I learned a lot about myself as a minister, a friend, and a child of God. I came to encounter God and others in a deeper way than I had ever allowed myself to encounter.
This prayer is flexible, and even allows for some leeway for the ups and downs of life. It’s approachable and incredibly powerful. In the silent meditations on scripture, reflections of St. Ignatius, and the human condition, I found solace and support from God. It was the first time I had ever really encountered God consistently in prayer, and most of it required me to simply be in the presence of our Lord. Having the flexibility and support in this internship to allow for that kind of growth, prayer, and fellowship is rare, and I am so glad that I took full advantage of that time to deepen my faith and fellowship with my community.
Earlier this year, I had another experience of deep prayer that further deepened my appreciation for this internship. When I arrived at the center, I was a novice (and I use that term generously) pianist. I remember the first music practice I had with the team—we launched right into playing songs and it seemed like I was the only person in the room who had no idea what he was doing. I was flustered and could hardly hit the note I saw on the page, much less play a chord, and even less play with both hands at the same time! After some weeks, I was able to keep up with the songs using a very simplified technique. I remember one of our directors asking me if I knew that I could play with both hands and not just the one, and I tried to explain how deeply out of my element I felt.
As time went on, the access to the music and tools that the center has really pushed me to take my skills and develop them. I started to play chords, then what I like to call ‘filler notes’ which just add to the melody, and eventually quiet reflective music during our morning prayers on retreat. Pretty soon, I was playing piano at the masses that we have on the overnight retreats and on the weekends for the adult ministry. At the beginning of this year, I was asked to lead several sessions of praise and worship and adoration. I can hardly believe the improvement I’ve made in just over a year and a half.
The experience that really sealed it for me was a retreat we went out of town for. We were working on a new song, and I was going to be leading the instrumentation and vocals. As we went into the prayer service and began to play the song, I was struck at how God’s gifts were working through me, and that the music I was playing was having a deep effect on the people present. As the music swelled to the chorus, there was a student in the front row who began to cry. It was in that moment that I realized I had seen the gifts that God had given me, and I had put in time to develop and use them to minister to others. I was overwhelmed with emotion at the goodness of God and the incredible opportunity that this internship afforded me to experience such a gift.
I’ve cherished my time as an IGNITE intern because I was able to do things I never would’ve been able to do anywhere else. The internship gave me the freedom and the support to take huge leaps of faith and explore skills and interests I didn’t even realize I had. For those seeking a fulfilling, refreshing, challenging, faith-filled, skill-building, and community-oriented program, I cannot recommend the internship highly enough. I encourage you to take a leap of faith, as I did, and allow God’s gifts to help you in ministry. I pray that God will continue to bless you as abundantly as He has blessed myself and all of us here at the Jesuit Spiritual Center.
If you or anyone you know may be interested in our Ignite Internship, you can find the application here.