Jesuit Vocation Month Campaign Features Father Walter Ciszek

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November Initiative Highlights Vocation of Inspirational Jesuit

Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek, circa 1969

Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek, circa 1969

A life in service like Walter Ciszek's means commitment; it means something that's unknown; it means relinquishing control of your life to something that's bigger than you. What will you do when someone asks you to do something difficult, but worthwhile?

His life reads like a Hollywood script, and more than 25 years after his death, Jesuit Father Walter Ciszek is the inspiration for the Society of Jesus’s new Vocation Month Campaign, launching this month.

An idealistic young American-born Jesuit, Fr. Ciszek (1904-1984) was missioned to Russia in the days leading up to World War II. Although falsely accused of being a spy, imprisoned and detained for 23 years in Siberian labor camps and Soviet gulags, Fr. Ciszek still found ways to say Mass and furtively provide the sacraments to his fellow prisoners. After his family and the Society of Jesus presumed him dead for decades, Fr. Ciszek finally returned to the United States in a complicated prisoner exchange orchestrated by President John F. Kennedy just one month before the president’s tragic assassination. This past March, the Vatican gave its formal approval to begin the canonization process for Fr. Ciszek.

Jesuit Father Robert Ballecer, director of the Office of National Vocation Promotion for the Jesuits, says Fr. Ciszek is more relevant today than he ever was. "Walter Ciszek's work is a legacy of the frontier spirit of the Society of Jesus. It's the spirit of ‘Where is God calling me today?' Walter Ciszek answered the call by going to the Soviet Union. Today, Jesuits are working around the globe on the frontiers – from building schools in Malawi to aiding migrants at a small border town between the United States and Mexico. That's the spirit of the Society; that's the spirit of service."

Throughout the month of November, the Society of Jesus will highlight Fr. Walter Ciszek and his “Life in Service.” At http://www.jesuit.org/ciszek, resources are available for Jesuit high schools, colleges and parishes, including sample articles, a video and a photo gallery. In addition, the site features details of a photography contest, “Framing God in All Things,” which offers weekly prizes for those who best capture the spirit of Jesuit ideals in photo or video format.

According to Fr. Ballecer, November is traditionally the time for the Church to remember those men and women who have served the faith throughout history and an opportunity to reflect upon all who have laid down their lives, both literally and figuratively for the Church. “A life in service like Walter Ciszek's means commitment; it means something that's unknown; it means relinquishing control of your life to something that's bigger than you. What will you do when someone asks you to do something difficult, but worthwhile?"

About the Society of Jesus in the United States

Founded in 1540 by St. Ignatius Loyola, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) is the largest order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church.    The Jesuits operate 28 colleges and universities, 54 high schools and 67 parishes in the United States and engage in a variety of ministries. As religious, Jesuits commit themselves to observe vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in practicing a faith that promotes justice. For more information on the Society of Jesus in the United States, visit http://www.jesuit.org.

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Tracey Primrose
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