An American in Beirut – A personal testimony by Michael Petro, SJ

Michael Petro is a Jesuit scholastic from the Eastern Province of the United States (USA East). He is 28 years old. Born in Boston, he attended university in Rhode Island before joining the Society of Jesus. He tells us about his journey, in which he identifies the Lord’s call to commit himself to the apostolate with migrants.


Michael Petro, SJ.

By Michael Petro, SJ

Last fall, after months of discernment with my superiors, I received a surprising email. I was waiting for my regency assignment - a period of active ministry in the middle of our Jesuit formation - and here was my Provincial’s letter! I would be headed to Beirut, Lebanon, working with the Jesuit Refugee Service to develop a center for migrant workers coming to Lebanon from around the world.

Looking back over the steps that brought me to this unexpected regency, I can see God’s Providence at work, nurturing the skills, desires, and dispositions that I hope will make me a good fit in Beirut.

My Jesuit journey began in small ways from many parts of my life. In my parents’ library, I fell in love with the stories of Jesuit saints and felt God stirring me through books on Ignatian spirituality. My studies focused on the Church’s responses to migration, and my travels linked with my university studies connected me with Jesuits from Havana to Washington to Berlin. When I entered the Society in 2018, I hoped that I would serve in JRS someday.


My time in the novitiate and in First Studies invited me hold that desire while deepening my sense of Jesuit vocation and exposing me to other ministries. From time spent with the elderly to accompanying those released from prison, my apostolates introduced me to the face of God in places I did not expect. Yet, I kept feeling a tug to work with migrants and refugees. I fell in love with the Spanish-speaking community Sagrado Corazón parish in Richmond, Virginia, taught classes to refugees in Syracuse, NY, and worked on the US-Mexico border at the Kino Border Initiative. My journey led me to Beirut last fall, where I worked on Arabic and French as part of my First Studies.

There, I volunteered with a community of migrant workers from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, South Sudan, and many other parts of Africa and South Asia that call our parish home. They come to Lebanon for different reasons -as domestic workers, as refugees, and others on the way to somewhere else. Many face great hardships -difficult working conditions, racism, and even serious abuses. Through the African Asian Migrant Center, our church welcomes migrants for meals and mass, provides spaces for community and celebration, and helps with basic needs. Although I volunteered there last fall, my regency will have me in a different role. With community leaders, I will help to envision new programs, linking the resources of the Jesuit network with the migrant community and advocating for migrant workers in the region. We will begin by listening; bringing the community together to find the points of greatest grace and deepest suffering, hoping to discern the voice of Spirit.


For me, working with migrants is a source of joy and a chance to use many of my gifts, including my language skills. From working across languages and cultures to my background in social science, work with migrants and refugees allows me to bring my whole self to a challenging, but also graced human reality. For Jesuits, there is something almost natural about accompanying migrants. Under the patronage of Our Lady of the Way, we often find ourselves on the move, asking for the grace of being at home wherever we are.

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: