Personal Introduction

Welcome! My name is John Roselle, SJ, and I took lifelong ("perpetual") vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Jesuit on August 13th, 2011 after a two-year novitiate. I am now a Jesuit Scholastic for the Wisconsin Province of the Society of Jesus. I will study philosophy and theology for the next three years at Loyola University in Chicago. At the same time, I will do part-time ministry in some capacity with the poor. After that, I will likely teach for three years before finishing three more years of theology. Then, God willing, I will be ordained a Roman Catholic Jesuit priest! It's a long road, but a blessed, fun, and enriching one. This blog exists as a resource for friends, family, and others who are interested in my progress through the Jesuit process of formation. Every day is its own adventure, and I am happy to have you along with me to share in this. This blog contains my own personal thoughts and should not be taken to speak for the entire Society of Jesus. Feel free to contact me. God bless you!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Procreation and the Priesthood

One of my friends from high school emailed the following question to me yesterday:

"During your internal monologue of self-discovery, did you find it difficult to decouple (pardon the pun) the hardwired desires to procreate versus your stronger desire to serve the church? Obviously I lack a frame of reference (clearly I have never been a priest-in-training), but that would certainly be one of the principle issues that would need resolving."

I appreciate the question, and I thought I'd share some thoughts on it. Please let me know if you have more questions or comments on this or any other topic. Here is what I said:

Procreation is meant to be a profoundly holy thing. In his "Theology of the Body," Pope John Paul II actually said that the mutual, self-giving love of husband and wife in intercourse is an icon of the Holy Trinity, which is the endless and intimate (although not bodily and therefore not sexual) mutual self-giving of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is in fact a "family of Love." God is not a monad; He is an eternal community. Therefore, before God made the world, He was not lonely. He was filled with joy and love within Himself, and that Love overflowed into His creation. In the same way, a husband and wife is meant to love one another so much that they want to have children with whom they can share that love.

In addition to the holiness of married intercourse, there is the holiness of participating with God in the creation of a person, to whom He gives a soul from the moment of conception. How wonderful it would be to be married and to raise a family. In many ways, I think it would be good for my soul and for my human development. Of course, it would also be the hardest thing I would ever do, and a lifelong sacrifice. Marriage may seem idyllic, but I think most married people who truly enter into it admit that it can be a true Cross. It needs to be in order to have the kind of redemptive power to represent the love of Christ for His Church.

I am in the novitiate with a 50 year -old medical doctor. He is a dear friend, and a great man. He was never married, but he says that the same skill-sets to be a good husband and father are needed to be a good priest. So, it is promising to have a sense of my desire and aptitude to be married. In fact, as a priest (if I am called to that), I will live a spousal reality of being married to the Church, who is the Bride of Christ. In order to do this as fully as possible, I will commit to non-exclusive relationships so that I can be equally available to help the souls of whoever is in front of me, so that they know that I have no ulterior motive. For example, a single, attractive young woman can feel much safer sharing her inner life with me for spiritual direction if I am a vowed man and a priest than if I were a "free agent," or perhaps even a married man.

In truth, I expect (and already have experienced to some extent) having a certain spiritual intimacy--though non-sexual--with countless more women (and of course men too) and having more spiritual children (and by this I mean people who I help bring home to God) than if I were married. The two states of life are not in competition, they are in-tandem. The one serves and blesses the other. The vocations need each other. If I genuinely found that my deepest desire were to be married, then that would be good, holy, and a great gift to me and to the Church.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Young Women Becoming Nuns on Oprah

I will be tuning into Oprah tomorrow if I can, since she will feature a second episode exploring the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who are bursting at the seams with young vocations.

Here is a link to their congregation.

And here is a link explaining the Oprah show's coverage:

If you go to either of the links, you can watch an excerpt from the previous Oprah show which has introduced so many to this order that has over 100 sisters whose average age is 28. I have heard first-hand from people who know them that they are deeply joyful women.

What does this have to do with me? Well, as a Catholic some of my greatest heroes and inspirations are nuns or religious sisters. To me they are neither stereotypical, nor a dying race. They are real people who are strong, bold, faithful, compassionate, loving, and beautiful.

They are two religious sisters I witnessed laboring to bring God's love, day-in and day-out, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. They are a religious sister I know who lives full-time in a home of women with developmental disabilities. They are the young friend of my friend Charles, who has become a nun and taken a new name. They are Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who picked 40,000 dying "untouchables" off the street and helped them to die with dignity and love. They are St. Therese of Lisieux, "The Little Flower" who has touched millions of lives with her simple example.

As Christians, we are all playing on the same team (or at least we should be!). Each vocation, as a mother, a father, a single person, a husband, a wife, a priest, a deacon, a religious brother, or a religious sister is of inestimable value. At a time when the vocation to being a religious sister may not be as visible, I am heartened that Oprah is taking time to show its continued vitality. Check it out!

Thanks for your help!

Dear friends and readers of this blog,

It's been great to see that many of you have checked out this blog. In order to help keep "Going Forth" all the more lively of a blog, I invite you to do the following:
  • Become a "Follower" of this blog by going to the "Followers" section on the right-hand margin
  • Make comments to one or more of the posts
  • Post or email questions to me that you may wonder about
  • Share this blog with anyone you know who may be interested
  • Give me feedback on the blog. For example: what do you like? what don't you like? what would you like to see more of?
Thanks for your help!

The Past Week in Review

Where did the last week go? Somewhere, but unfortunately it didn't go to much blogging in all of the busy-ness. Well, here were a few highlights that come to mind:
  • My second-year class had a scheduled discussion about the meaning of chastity and how we live it as young Jesuits, who are living the vows and preparing to take vows
  • I went to a really nice fund-raising dinner for the Listening House (where I work with the homeless) at a beautiful hotel, getting to meet some of the supporters of this charity and hear testimonies of the great work it does
  • I had a total of 5 guests over during the week, which is always a pleasure since I enjoy hosting and hospitality at the house. One of my friends, Carl Knudson, even had to stay the night (although he lives a mile and a half away) because of severe freezing rain
  • I created a funny Christmas puppet show with two of my brothers that we are hoping to perform for kids in schools and parishes this Advent
  • I went to my usual classes of Advanced Spanish (twice a week), the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus (twice a week), and Catholic Social Thought (once a week)
  • I did my usual ministries of accompanying the homeless and teaching English as a second language, both of which are filled with rich connections with people I really care about
  • I caught up with some important people in my life, including a student from Red Cloud that graduated two years ago and is a joy to talk to

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sweet Comment from My Sister

I was talking with my sister Kristina this weekend, who was just at the Ignatian Family Teach-in in Washington, D.C. This is a gathering of students at Jesuit high schools and universities (she goes to Creighton in Omaha), as well as others associated with the Jesuit mission. It is a time to learn, to fellowship, and to pray as fellow partners in the mission of St. Ignatius. At the gathering, she ran into a couple far-flung Jesuits who know me (one was a friend from college who joined the Jesuits and another who was my novice director last year).

I remember telling two of my sisters, Kristina and Rebecca, who visited my house a month ago for a whole week, that they could be really comfortable around the house with the 23 other guys living with me because "they are your brothers too." I think that may have struck them as a little hokey, and who could blame them; they had never met the guys! Yet quickly they were getting along famously with them, filling the house with laughter, going on outings with some of them, and really getting to know my housemates. By the end of the week they had left a note on the community bulletin board, gushing with gratitude, signed, "Love, Becky and Kristina."

And what do you know? This weekend when one of Kristina's friends at the Teach-in remarked about the two Jesuits she randomly bumped into there, Kristina said "they are my brothers." How's that for the Ignatian family?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Jesuit Philosophy in One Paragraph

A friend recently asked me to "sum up the Jesuit philosophy in one paragraph." That's hard to do, but here's what I came up with.

Jesuits are formed by the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which are a 30 day retreat in which the person intimately experiences themselves as loved sinners, as companions of Christ in His ministry, as partakers in the suffering of Christ, and as bearers of His redeemed and resurrected life. During this formative retreat for each Jesuit (and for laypersons who undergo it either in the 30 day form or over the course of months in real-life) a person will grow in the Jesuit charisms of "finding God in all things" and "seeking to help souls" and "to do everything for the greater glory of God." Jesuits then go forth for the sake of "the service of faith and the promotion of justice" in the world.

For those of you know the Jesuits, feel free to add in anything I might have missed. Also, if any of you happen to have more questions about the Jesuits, please email me, and I'll try to answer them. Thanks!

Holiness and A Man For All Seasons

I try to make Sunday a "day of rest" (as hard as that can be) and so today after going to Mass at St. Thomas More parish across the street, I finally decided to watch the movie about this parish's namesake, entitled A Man For All Seasons. Perhaps you have seen it. If not, I heartily recommend checking it out. This film won the Oscar in 1966 for Best Picture along with 5 other Oscars. It also won great admiration from me of St. Thomas More, along with a few musings.

In the film, we see St. Thomas More (the patron saint of lawyers) exercising legal roles as well as being a trusted counselor of King Henry VIII. He is a layman, a husband, and a father. It is neat to see a saint who goes about his business, loves his family, and tries to do honest work. Too often perhaps we think that holiness is "out of one's league." Yet Blessed Mother Teresa tells us that "holiness is not the luxury of the few. It is a simply duty for you and for me."

Indeed, St. Thomas More is a devout Catholic. As we know, he eventually must choose between either supporting King Henry in his defiance of the Pope (which would mean More defying his own conscience) or losing his own life by execution.

In the film, you are blessed to see a person who knows the utmost importance of maintaining his own integrity and fidelity to God. As much as he loves his family, his love is rightly ordered. What good is he as a husband and father if he has betrayed the core of who he is as a Catholic man of faith? He knows that above all, he is God's very own, and that love is enough for him. In the film, he goes to the chopping block with a lively confidence of eternal life with God, forgiving his executioners, and saying "I die the king's good servant, but God's first."

I think that this movie portrays a compelling Christian "witness," the very meaning of the word "martyr." For years, St. Thomas More had already been a holy man who lived out his faith in daily life. For example, he dared to teach his daughter Latin, he wrote powerful philosophical reflections, and he refused the sway of bribes in court cases which were common. In the daily cauldron was forged a courage that could stand firm in the face of a king, a country, and death itself.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why do I have a blog?

I can't say that the word "blogger" is something with which I identify. I hardly have ever read a blog. I am too busy dipping into all sorts of interesting books that I can never seem to finish! Plus, the word "blog" seems to conjure up a lot of angry, self-absorbed, or gossip-like filler on the Internet. So, why I am I now "blogging"? Well, I suppose because other people read blogs, and as Jesuits tend to do, I am "going to where the people are" in order to reach them.

I have thought about creating a blog for some time as a way of plugging more people into what I am doing. Even though I'm surrounded by a great, close-knit community, I am keenly aware that there are a lot of people in my life with whom I am not in communication. Although it would be better to speak one-on-one, if that doesn't work out, at least those who are curious can track me from a distance. I truly would prefer to talk over the phone, email, or letter, so please don't hesitate to email me at and we can set up a time to talk.

Another reason that I am blogging is as a way of sharing with a wider audience the experience of a single young person who feels called to religious life and the priesthood. I am fairly new to this way of life, but I have greatly benefited from it already. It is a true sacrifice and a gift of my life. It is also a great way to grow as a human being and to live for God and for others. I welcome anyone to contact me with any questions, thoughts, ideas, etc. about this vocation or anything else that this blog raises for them.

Weekends for the Homeless

I am an admitted "snow-day glutton." When I was a teacher at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, even if we had 3 snow days in a row, I would want a fourth. There is a certain excitement and refreshment to snow, isn't there?

However, now that I am working with the homeless population of St. Paul, snow takes on a different, harder meaning. I have been blessed to become good friends with a few people who are "experiencing homelessness" either as a temporary or near-permanent state of life. Either way, they often have to stand and walk around in the harsh elements of this city. On weekends, the Listening House (affectionately called "the living room of the homeless in downtown St. Paul") where I work is closed. Many are reduced to shuffling around the "Skyway" system, always moving so as not to be penalized for loitering. Not much of a weekend, huh?

Just yesterday before the snow came, I had three separate conversations outside with homeless men before and after I ate at the local Dorothy Day soup kitchen. These three are joys to talk with and we had some laughs but also talked through some rough realities in their lives. Although I spent some quality time with them, I couldn't help but notice that I was eager to get back indoors. Being able to hop in my car and drive home is a luxury that they don't have, perhaps will not have.

Another man I am friends with came up to me before I left. I commented about how his eyes looked, and he said that he couldn't get his psychiatric medication that helps him sleep. He was told he would have to wait until Monday. He was convinced that he wouldn't be able to sleep at all this weekend. I told him that I would pray for him. He is a strong Christian, and I reminded him that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert without food and water and that He would be suffering right along with him this weekend without sleep. He told me that those were "comforting words" and that it was like God just put them into me and they came out.

Needless to say, I woke up a little more grateful this morning as I curled up in my bed and the snow came down outside my window. My friends downtown had already been up since 5 in the morning and thrust into this constant snow. I'll be praying for them.

Re-Cap of the Past Year

  1. Entered the Jesuit Novitiate: on August 29, 2009 near Detroit, Michigan, with 12 other first-year novices
  2. Serving at a Jesuit infirmary: visiting with, being inspired by, and taking care of elderly Jesuits nearby who are "passing the torch" onto the next generation
  3. Serving at a nursing home: providing accompaniment to elders and befriending them
  4. Serving at a grade school: teaching the Bible to preschool and kindergarten students via fun skits and songs
  5. Community living: having a blast with my new brothers throughout the fall, breaking new ground with them through communal prayer, faith-sharing, playing sports, ministries, etc.
  6. Spiritual Exercises: making a 30 day silent retreat in Gloucester, Massachusetts by the Atlantic Ocean, praying my heart out and receiving much healing and inspiration
  7. Vocation promotion: traveling to Omaha for a week to speak with high school and college students about my vocation story, the joy of the Jesuit life, and what is in their own hearts for their own vocation, whatever it may be
  8. Living in a L'Arche community: five weeks of community-living with persons in Clinton, Iowa who have developmental disabilities and much to offer me in terms of genuineness, humility, and kindness
  9. Pilgrimage: $35 and a one-way bus ticket to Seattle, and I had to find my way home in a month--a chance to totally trust God and the goodness of others
  10. Peru: going to Lima for 5 weeks to learn Spanish and see the international face of the Society of Jesus, getting to live with young Peruvian Jesuits in formation
  11. Moving to St. Paul, MN: in early August we moved to the new novitiate for the Wisconsin, Detroit, and Chicago provinces of the Society of Jesus
  12. Welcoming a new crew: 10 new first-year Jesuit novices have come to join us, bringing a lot of life to the new house
  13. Serving at the Listening House: providing a listening ear and counsel at the "living room of the homeless" in downtown St. Paul
  14. Teaching ESL: working weekly with an immigrant from El Salvador as she struggles to learn English
  15. Discerning Long Experiment and Vows: from January through May of 2011, I will live and work at a yet-to-be-decided Jesuit ministry somewhere in the 13 states of our Tri-Province, where I will do full-time ministry and seek to receive confirmation from God as to whether I should profess lifelong vows in the Society of Jesus on August 13, 2011