Recently visiting Kate and Jeff Spencer's home was an enthusiastic group of Jesuit novitiates. Pictured in the Spencer's kitchen are Joe Koczera, of New Bedford, Mass.; Jim Shea, of Skokie, Ill.; John Petit, of Zionsville, Ohio; Tony Stevens, of Atlanta, Ga.; Michael Singhurse, of Terre Haute, Ind.; Jonathan Dawe, of Grand Rapids, Mich.; Jim McLenaghan, of Plymouth, Mich.; John Shea, of Cleveland, Ohio; Jake Martin, of Chicago, Ill.; Adam Deleon, of Euclid, Ohio; and Eric Styles, of Chicago, Ill.
Kate and Jeff Spencer's home was overflowing with spirit when a group of 11 novitiates learning to become Jesuit priests stopped by last week to spend the night. The group, including Kate's son, Michael Singhurse, was returning to their community home in a Berkely suburb near Detroit, Mich., from a study period at Regis University in Denver, Colo.
"They're such an interesting group of young men," Kate Spencer said. Her family treated the novitiates, along with several family members and friends, to a cookout. "It's fun having them here."
Kate reminisced about her oldest son, Michael.
"He was like any other teenager and young man," Kate said.
Michael's decision in 2004 to apply for the Jesuit program was a bit of a surprise. She was expecting grandchildren someday, but she supports Michael proudly.
"This journey he's on is so incredible. I'm so very proud of him, and grateful. I tell him all the time how much I'm learning about my own relationship with God because of him."
Michael Singhurse, 25, is a Purdue engineering graduate who lived a typical life before being called to pursue priesthood. The need to be a teacher and an educator for God was a perfect fit. He doesn't find committing his life to God and the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience a problem.
"My relationship with God has become much more personal through the spiritual exercises required by the novitiate," Singhurse said.
He credits his family's encouragement and emphasis on education during his childhood for guiding him to his decision.
"It's like God has become my friend. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the encouragement of my family."
St. Ignatius Loyola's order, the Society of Jesus, was sanctioned by Pope Paul III in 1540. Members of the society are either priests, brothers or scholastics who are studying to become priests. A man becomes a Jesuit after a two-year novitiate program at the end of which he pronounces perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The formation period to become a Jesuit priest can take another nine years, or longer, depending upon the educational background of the individual applicant.
According to the United State Jesuits Conference, there are a little more than 20,000 men on six continents and in 112 countries throughout the world with the goal of educating all levels of society while helping bring people to a closer relationship to God.
A call to do God's work, "to do the world a world of good," introduced Singhurse to the 10 unique men traveling with him. This common purpose, this passion unites the group into a brotherhood of friendship and family as they strive to reach the same goal in the coming years.
"This is a great bunch of guys to be around," Singhurse said. "I've learned so much from each of them."
The group ranges in age from 23-38 and have various interests and backgrounds. There is a recent college graduate, a couple of teachers and medical providers, a journalist, a lawyer and even a comedian.
Adam Deleon used his time as a high school teacher in Jamaica to make his decision about priesthood, one which his mother also supports.
"The order really welcomes the input of the parental involvement of novitiates during the entire process," Deleon said of his frequent visits with his mother. "She had hopes for grandchildren, too, but she says she can spoil my students. They will be her grandchildren. Every parent wants to see their child happy, if I'm happy, she's happy."
There's a lot of goodnatured ribbing among the group. They tease each other about their sports abilities, who hides items in the community closet they share and many other silly things. But when asked, who's the funniest, they all point to Jake Martin.
"They only say that because I was a comedian in Chicago before this life," Martin replied.
He said he was never very good at performing with Chicago's Second City comedy troupe and being a comedian wasn't all it was cracked up to be. He needed more in his life than the stage and nightclubs could deliver.
"If you ask me how a comedian becomes a Jesuit priest, I found out that I can do good things for people without being the center of attention. Trust me, I'm much funnier now, and a much better person."