A journey to the Jesuits

God calls people in many different ways.

Sometimes the hardest part is listening. BY PHILIP NAHLIK (BS ’15, MS ’17) AS TOLD TO MAURA SULLIVAN HILL

THE SUMMER BETWEEN my junior and senior year of college I was sitting in an airport, awaiting a flight home to St. Louis after leading a service trip in Denver. I’d missed my first flight and had a few hours to wait. About a half hour before my new flight was supposed to take off, I went to the service desk to ask if I needed a new boarding pass. When I told the attendant my name, she said, “Oh, we’ve been calling you.” The whole flight back, her words

went through my head over and over. They’d been calling me on the loud- speaker and I didn’t even hear. It made me wonder, if I am so caught up in what I want to do, how would I ever hear what God is calling me to do? I first started thinking about enter-

ing the Jesuits at St. Louis University High School, but felt I’d be missing out if I didn’t go to college first. I remember going to the chapel early one day and praying, asking God to let me wait. It was one of the most direct prayer answers I’ve ever gotten, because I immediately felt a sense of peace; I knew I should go to college first and push off making a decision about the Jesuits.

30 LOYOLA UNIVERSITY CHICAGO Fittingly, as a scientist and chemis-

try major, I wanted to rule out all the other options—like having a family or teaching high school science as a layperson—before making my deci- sion. Then, I’d know I was called to be a Jesuit. I got involved in an array of activities at Loyola, from being presi- dent of my residence hall to going on alternative break immersion trips to working as an admissions tour guide. I didn’t make my decision that day

at the airport, but the experience did shake me out of my process of ruling out options. I knew I enjoyed working on my master’s degree in chemistry, but a future in research didn’t seem to include the part of me that enjoyed accompanying people through their life experiences. So I went on a Jesuit discernment retreat in Louisiana. Being in that space, I felt the sense of peace and belonging that I was looking for, and imagining my life as a Jesuit enlivened the parts of myself that didn’t seem to fit other vocations. That was in December 2016; I entered the Jesuits the following August. Life as a Jesuit is radical in the

vows of poverty, chastity, and obe- dience. Embracing those vows gives

us the freedom to respond to God’s calls to live and work anywhere in the world. It is not about a career decision. I’m very much making a vocational decision about the rest of my life and how I want to live it. God called me to this novitiate.

And now, I’m listening for how God continues to call me each day—even without using a loudspeaker. L

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