By Tracey Primrose
August 2, 2021 — This past Saturday, on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, one of his sons, Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ, the new provincial of the Jesuits West Province, was welcomed at a Mass of Thanksgiving held at St. Ignatius Church in Portland.
The liturgy was opened by Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, who has served as provincial for the last seven years. He had a special message for Fr. Carroll:
“Arturo Sosa, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, sends greetings and wishes the peace of Christ to Fr. Sean O. Carroll. Confident in the Lord with regard to your integrity and prudence, I choose and name you provincial of USA West Province. In doing so, I confer on you all the authority, rights and privileges which belong to this office according to our Institute. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, I pray that the eternal Lord in his wisdom will guide and assist you in all things to his greater honor and glory Amen.”
The feast day of the Society’s founder typically marks the first day for a new provincial, and the liturgy had all the hallmarks of an Ignatian celebration. Both the opening hymn — Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam — which means For the Greater Glory of God in Latin, and the Communion song, Take, Lord, Receive, come from the writings of St. Ignatius. That history is even more meaningful this year as the Society of Jesus is recognizing the 500th anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius (May 20, 2021) and the 400th anniversary of the canonizations of St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier (March 12, 2022).
In his homily, Fr. Carroll talked about his own vocation story and his decision, 32 years ago, to follow Christ as a Jesuit. He recalled making the decision while sitting in his family’s home parish and hearing Jesus ask, “Do you trust me? Do you trust me?” What he did not realize at the time, he said, was that God was also asking, “Are you willing to have your heart broken? Are you willing to get so close to God’s people and to your brothers that you are willing to be broken open?”
For his entire vocation, Fr. Carroll has been close to God’s people, most recently serving for the last dozen years as the executive director of the Kino Border Initiative, a binational Catholic ministry serving migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. The KBI focuses on humanitarian assistance, education, research and social-pastoral outreach and was named in honor of Eusebio Kino, a 17th century Jesuit missionary who ministered in what is now Sonora, Mexico, and Arizona.
It has been an experience, Fr. Carroll said, of “ever deeper trust.” He recalled his first experience “of being broken open” when he was a novice visiting the House of the Poor in Tijuana and then remembered the years walking with people at the border who have left everything behind, “people who have been totally broken open so they might find new life and new hope.”
The sense of being broken open, Fr. Carroll says, is one we can all relate to, particularly in this unprecedented year when so many people have lost loved ones and are suffering because of the pandemic. “These experiences of being broken open, while hard and while painful and while difficult and challenging, through that whole experience God is bearing fruit … so that something new may grow.”
The something new, Fr. Carroll says, is the innovation that Jesuit parishes, retreat centers and schools have mustered in response to the many challenges brought about by Covid. That extends to families who have been “a sign of encouragement and hope even in the midst of the challenges that we face. We have carried our cross, and we are following Jesus.”
Fr. Carroll went on to thank outgoing provincial, Fr. Scott Santarosa, SJ, who entered the Jesuit Novitiate on the same day as Fr. Carroll in 1989. “Scott, you have been a wonderful leader and a great friend. You have shown us how to follow the Lord and to walk along this journey together. You have done it with grace. You have done it with great wisdom and deeply rooted in a love for God. So we are just really grateful for all you have done for us.”
He concluded his homily by taking out a letter that his grandmother had written to him 32 years ago when she learned that he was accepted to the Jesuits. Fr. Carroll read her heartfelt note, his voice choking on this passage:
“I can well conjure in my mind all the hardships you will be called on to bear. Sean, the Holy Spirit will guide you and guard you. All you have to do is listen. I love you dearly, and my daily prayers for you will take on a new light just like you, dear, when you take on a new life.”
With members of his family present, including some who traveled great distances, Fr. Carroll said that he thinks his grandmother has “something powerful to say to us as we begin this new path about listening to Him, and we’re going to do that together. And I really look forward to that.”