Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"Jesuit Joe."

That's what some of my coworkers at Catholic Charities have decided to call me, continuing a tradition that began last year, when they dubbed my Short Experiment predecessor and fellow Loyola House novice John Shea "Jesuit John" (not to be confused with "Jesuit Jon," though I can't remember ever hearing that moniker applied to Jon Dawe outside the confines of his URL). Meanwhile, back at the ranch (properly known as Nobili Hall) one of my Jesuit confreres greeted me just after introducing himself by saying, "You're the novice from Detroit who's been sent to edify the community." The extent to which I am "from Detroit" and to which my presence is a source of edification for the Santa Clara Jesuits could both be debated, though I'm pleased to report that I've received nothing but positive feedback on the latter front. For my part, I can say that I'm enjoying the fellowship and hospitality provided by my brothers at Nobili Hall and look forward to spending the next ten or so weeks here.

My work at Catholic Charities has been interesting and enjoyable so far. Though I do some routine office work, most of my time is spent working directly with refugees. Most of the refugees coming into San Jose lately hail from East Africa; our recent arrivals come from Burundi, Congo, Eritrea, Somalia and Sudan. Right now I'm doing a lot of one-on-one language tutoring, which is a bit of challenge given that I've never taught ESL before. My linguistic background in French is helpful in working with the Burundians and the Congolese, giving me a medium to explain concepts that the refugees don't yet have the English vocabulary for. My coworkers are an open and friendly lot, and impressively diverse as well; notably, several of the staff in Refugee Resettlement are former refugees themselves. Though they come from various countries, cultures and religions, the Catholic Charities staff all seem to have a good sense of who I am as a Jesuit novice and why I'm spending a couple months in their office. I suppose it helps that I'm not the only religious in the office: my boss is a Sister of Mercy (and a terrific one at that) and there are also BVM and RSCJ sisters among my coworkers. Nonetheless, being the only Jesuit working at Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County makes me rather distinctive. Accepting that reality, I've embraced the "Jesuit Joe" moniker for the compliment it is. AMDG.


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