By Ashley Festa
Fr. Jesus (Jesse) Rodriguez, S.J., ’83 BA will soon be organizing his new office at the Generalate of the Society of Jesus in Rome. He has accepted his appointment as Regional Secretary of the USA, which will begin in September.
After graduating from the University of the Incarnate Word- Incarnate Word College at the time – he decided to enter the Jesuit order, the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits are the largest religious order of men in the Catholic Church. In 1998, while finishing his doctorate studies in Spanish, he began teaching the language at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., where he has worked for the past 12 years.
His world took an interesting turn late last year when his provincial, or superior in the Jesuit order, approached him with the possibility of taking a position in Rome at the Jesuit headquarters, the Curia Generalizia. Bilingual skills in English and Spanish and the ability to quickly learn Italian were requirements of the job. His provincial, the Rev. Mark Lewis, S.J., submitted his name for the position, and soon his candidacy was presented in Rome. He received word of his appointment in December.
“This wasn’t even on my radar,” Fr. Jesse admitted. “I didn’t even know what the regional secretary was!” Although he loves his work teaching Spanish, when considering the opportunities between going to Rome or staying in Mobile, he said, “I think I’ll go to Rome!”
But he has nothing bad to say about Spring Hill College. On the contrary, he enjoys teaching there, especially because the school reminds him of his undergraduate days at Incarnate Word.
“It’s very much the same atmosphere, the same type of student and the same type of campus,” he said.
Fr. Jesse found much of his inspiration to pursue the priesthood during his time at Incarnate Word. He credits the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word as some of his greatest role models to become not only a priest but also a teacher. It was through the Sisters that he discovered the Jesuits and became interested in the order. Because education is an important focus of the Jesuits, joining the order was a good fit for him.
However, when Fr. Jesse arrives in Rome, he will be involved in very different work. The regional secretary’s office is responsible for receiving and replying to all official Jesuit correspondence from the United States to the Father General’s office. He will be one of six regional secretaries who tend to communications, including mail and e-mail, from around the world.
Upon receiving the appointment, “I felt very honored and very excited,” he said. “I will miss teaching, but this is an opportunity to serve the worldwide Society of Jesus. It takes me out of the box of my local ministry and puts me in the larger world of the Jesuits.”
To make the appointment, provincials from around the United States make nominations, which are then pooled together and evaluated. Of that pool, three names are chosen and submitted to Rome.
After growing up in San Antonio in a Mexican-American family, he feels that being bicultural is an important aspect he will bring to the position.
“The headquarters is a multicultural place, and multicultural sensitivities are important. I feel comfortable as a Hispanic in both communities.”