In October 1999, after several meetings with her formation group, Elizabeth Martorell attended her first gathering of promised Ignatian Associates in Milwaukee. Sitting near the fireplace in the home of a total stranger who wasn’t even there, and hemmed in by people on all sides, she got a real taste of what it would mean to be an Associate. One person described his trip to Africa to engage in the plight of those suffering from AIDs. A couple recounted their experience in El Salvador to celebrate the anniversary of the deaths of six Jesuits murdered for their commitment to the poor. Halfway through, the absent hostess came running in with a quick apology for not being able to join the group as she had to pack for her trip to protest the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, GA the next day! And there sat Elizabeth, a desktop publishing professional in Milwaukee, married for 25 years, mother of four, thinking to herself, “This is out of my league. What kind of people are these? I’ve got to get out of here.” However, she was not only too polite to interrupt, but too embarrassed to climb over dozens of people who were obviously deeply engaged. And yet, all of her life, Elizabeth recalls being intrigued by the Jesuits for their constant willingness to “get their hands dirty.” Here she was being challenged by fellow lay men and women and Jesuits themselves to do the same. Needless to say, she remained for the meeting and for all the years since then.
Elizabeth struggled with faith issues during college and most of her adult life. She recalls forcing herself “to do the mental gymnastics necessary to accept some aspects of the Catholicism I had been raised with.” She desperately wanted her children to be guided by a sense of faith although she struggled to make sense of it herself—so much so that in the mid-90s she took a vacation from trying to answer the “big questions” and even engaging the world. “I gave up NPR and all social justice involvement,” she recalls. And yet she found herself drawn by an invitation from her son’s Jesuit high school teacher for parents to learn more about the Ignatian Spirituality that guided Jesuits. Ultimately, it was a post card for an Ignatian Associate information night that nagged at her to continue her pursuit of a meaningful faith. She found herself challenged by the passion of the Ignatian Associates and yet quickly gave up the idea of becoming a member when she learned that couples were asked to join together. To her surprise, her husband Paco suggested they give it a try.
All these years later, after completing the Spiritual Exercises, both Elizabeth and Paco feel they have been transformed by their call to the Associates. Elizabeth lives her promise of apostolic availability in several ways. She meets weekly with local Jesuit Volunteers, providing them a support system for their efforts to serve and advocate for the poor. She writes the paper version of the Marquette University Center for Peacemaking newsletter. And she offers herself as a body when a body is needed to march for justice or protest against structural violence. She finds the promise of simplicity a great challenge in this culture that is constantly finding ways to make life more complicated. She focuses on interior simplicity (more “being” than “doing”) as well as attempting a deliberate lifestyle of simplicity.
The greatest gift of the Ignatian Associates for Elizabeth has been faith sharing with other Associates and being a part of a group of Associates, Jesuits, and others exploring the New Cosmology. What started out as a conversation one day in 2006, became a conference of over 350 people in 2008. It raised thousands of dollars for an inner-city retreat center.
This study has forever changed her understanding of and relationship with God. Elizabeth summarizes her experience with Ignatian Associates like this: “When you are open to the Spirit, if something just keeps welling up in you and you go along with it, you enter into a co-creative relationship with the Divine and a life fruitful beyond your imagination.”