Back in early April, after our ministry team had fully settled into our new COVID work-from-home reality, I found myself with an abundance of something I often feel I lack: time. It was a strange experience, to pause during what is normally a very busy retreat season, but like many of life’s unexpected interruptions, God’s penchant for change brought a spiritual springtime.
There was one particular afternoon where I had a honest and challenging conversation with several of my companions about the nature of our work. Ministry after all is primarily about relationships. How can we do our work when being safe requires us to be “socially” distant? How do we care for the spiritual health of our young people when concerns for their physical physical health and that of their families takes precedent?
Out of this and other conversations led a realization that our work was as vital as ever, and perhaps even more necessary. Even more, we recognized that God was inviting each of us to grow: in our faith and trust in His plan, and in our own abilities and capabilities. We might long for a time when we could approach ministry in our normal, comfortable ways. But God was pushing us out into the frontier, to the edge of our own limits, asking us to truly seek the Magis – the more – for His great glory.
Years ago during my MBA, I had an opportunity to read a book called Heroic Leadership by Chris Lowney, a former Jesuit seminarian. In it, he discussed some of the remarkable ways in which Ignatius and his early Jesuit companions built a religious order capable of enduring over 450 years of rapid change: from the Reformation, to colonial expansion, to the industrial revolution and beyond. The Jesuits were missionaries, harnessing the power of their technology to travel across the seas to distant lands spreading the Gospel message.
Here we are, in the midst of our own sea of change, being invited to be digital missionaries, to utilize the technologies of our time to spread the Good News. It is a change we have all sensed coming, and some have already pioneered their way into that change. But it has always been those of us who seem to have the most means, the resources, those who are blessed with exceptional talent, who seem to lead the way. Now, Jesus is calling all of us ministers out of the boat, to be willing to walk across the water, to trust that we already have been given everything we need to succeed.
I am immensely humbled by the resilience and strength of my ministry companions who have risen to this challenge. They have breathed new life and creativity into their ministry. They have learned skills in videography, graphic design, video editing, and virtual discussion facilitation. They have researched, rehearsed, and realized a vision for retreat ministry that is thriving. To date we have led over 600 young people in our virtual retreats, and we are just getting started.