“Praying for the Church and the Society”… and its “action component”

James F. Joyce, SJ - United States East Province
[From “Jesuits 2022 - The Society of Jesus in the world”]

A Jesuit infirmary that has found many ways of “walking with the excluded”.

The Society of Jesus nowadays brings forth four Universal Apostolic Preferences. Though we feel at the Murray-Weigel/Kohlmann Hall Jesuit Community in the Bronx, New York, that we do have a part in all of these, here are some of our experiences in “walking with the excluded.” Maybe it is not the first image that you would have of a community that includes six Jesuit brothers and fifty-five priests who, for the large majority, have as their primary assignment to pray for the Church and the Society.

This phrase has been used forever in the catalogues of the Society for men living in infirmaries or whose health situation prevents them from usual ministries. And so we do, in our community: We pray for so many intentions recommended to us. Prayer for the Church is, of course, universal, for all the people of God. Prayer for the Society is specifically for our Order’s intentions. And in its broadest vision, St. Ignatius sent us to spread faith in Jesus among all, no matter their state or condition.


To keep our prayer alive, we stay up-to-date with matters of marginalized folks in the neighbourhood, the city, the country, and the world. In fact, we have an enormous amount of international experience among us. We pray… and as far as we may be able, many of us seek for our contemplation to have an action component. Prayer and action open our eyes so that we can see further, deeper, more humanly all that surrounds us, with the eyes and hands of Christ.

Prior to COVID, we felt highly connected to our city’s Nativity model schools. Eighth graders from Brooklyn Jesuit Prep and from St. Ignatius School in Hunt’s Point, South Bronx, would come for Mass and lunch and then talk about their high-school projects with us.

And so, we have assisted in having the children of our health care workers and staff apply to St. Ignatius. One of these young women, a Ghanaian, received the magis award, top student for her grade in the first semester. Bro. Jerry Menkhaus also tutors the students there by zoom. Helping with disadvantaged students has also been a part of the work of Dan Fitzpatrick and the Brooklyn Prep alumni who fund “HAP Scholarships” for needy students at our area Jesuit high schools. We would also regularly empty our pockets of change and dedicate it to tuition assistance at the school. We invite our visitors to donate as well, and we collected $5,000 in ten months!


Many of the men celebrate weekend Mass calls at various parishes, many of which had a significant population of marginalized folks. A few examples: George Quickley to Harlem and Jack Podsiado with Garifuna people in Brooklyn and the Bronx. At home, Fr. Brendan Scott teaches English as a Second Language to our workers, most of whom are from the Caribbean or Africa, and he helps prepare them for their citizenship tests as well.

Our men correspond with imprisoned people, including fellow Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly, who is doing time in jail for activities opposed to weapons of mass destruction. In conjunction with a group of disabled advocates, and at the request of the state Catholic Conference respect for life coordinator, we made our voices heard to point out that doctors have enough resources to care for the dying without legalizing physician assisted suicide. Our state senator agreed that, if the bill were to reach committee, she would bring forth the testimony of Fr. Myles Sheehan, M.D., who has been a (voting) resident here.


For very practical local assistance, Bro. Marco Rodriguez brings no longer needed clothes and other useful articles to Part of the Solution (P.O.T.S.), a multi-service program around the corner that was founded by Fr. Ned Murphy. Currently they serve mostly immigrant folks. Some of our men have served as sponsors working their 12th step for Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, and some are available for Al-anon members, too.

We certainly have enough to occupy us in the Universal Preference of “walking with the excluded.” Faithfulness to our mission certainly provides opportunities that continually renew our community. We feel that we are very much in the spirit of John Courtney Murray, Gustave Weigel, and Anthony Kohlmann, the three Jesuits for whom our community is named. Murray was a major influence on the Vatican II documents, particularly on religious freedom; Weigel was a pioneer in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue; Kohlmann helped establish the inviolability of the seal of confession in law.

Share this Post:
Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles media relations.

Related Posts: