For Pat Russell, one of the founding members of Ignatian Associates, living the life of a lay person in companionship with the Jesuits was a fire within his heart. Pat had attended and was teaching at a Jesuit high school in Omaha, Nebraska, and then a Jesuit university in Wisconsin while all along feeling the desolation of not really knowing Ignatian Spirituality. At the time, the Jesuits alone seemed to bear the charism for “their way of proceeding.” But Pat and his wife, Stephanie, had made a commitment to serving the Church through their support of the Jesuits and Jesuit ministries. Even with four children to raise, they longed not only to be formed in the practices that gave the Jesuits their undying faith, but for a community to support their own journey rather than just a job at a school. Then Provincial, Bert Thelen,S.J., responding to the call in GC 34 to “extend the missioning process of the Society to lay persons,” heard Pat and Stephanie’s desire and gathered a taskforce of 14 others to discern the idea of a lay Ignatian community. Pat recalls their dreaming about what their Ignatian community would be. “We were everywhere from a commune to a prayer group. We had no idea where we were being led. But what was most exciting was to see the call resonating with so many others who hungered for their way to proceed.”
Today, Pat is a scripture scholar at Sacred Heart School of Theology, a national seminary specializing in the training of older men for the priesthood. He sees the Ignatian Associates as continuing a long line of prophetic voices calling for new ways to live the faith. According to Pat, “Lay ecclesial groups and religious orders have always been the energy that moves the Church forward.” While his Ph.D. formed his mind, Pat would say it was his Ignatian Spirituality received and lived through the Ignatian Associates that formed his heart “so his hands can do the work of God.” Ignatian spirituality was a gift to him personally, to prepare him to serve the Church effectively and with confidence.
After almost 20 years of living as an Associate, Pat sees their Promise of Simplicity as not radically different from living a traditional middle class life, except with a constant awareness of the implications for their actions and choices, seeing themselves always as a part of a larger system. This Promise keeps him accountable to others in this world.
Pat is most surprised by his desire for the inspiration provided by other Associates, a community that truly refreshes his commitment to a sometimes-challenging Church. That is where his Promise of Fidelity is most clearly lived. “For me, the Ignatian Associates provide hope for where the Church is going and what it can be.”