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Sharing Our Stories: Father James Martin

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Father James Martin, SJ shared for our newsletter why he supports aging religious… 

Father James Martin

Father James Martin, SJ

Why support aging religious men and women? Because they’re my heroes! And not just Jesuits…

Of course I can never repay the debt that I owe to all the Jesuit Priests and Brothers who trained me, who taught me, who were my spiritual directors, mentors, and counselors. Who, as we say in religious life, formed me. What I owe these men, many of whom are now infirm, ill, and even dying, is beyond measure.

But my other heroes are Catholic Sisters. Honestly, one of the greatest surprises in my life was how wrong I was about Catholic Sisters. After I entered the Jesuits at age 27, I realized that my old stereotypes of Sisters and Nuns — as somewhat out of touch, rather weak-willed, and perhaps even timid — was utterly wrong. Women religious in this country are some of the most vibrant, hard-working and, to use a good word, tough, women I’ve ever met. And this has been the case throughout American Catholic history. Often they’ve had to do their ministry in the face of opposition from (male) church leaders.

The contributions of women religious in my life are too numerous to mention. I think of Sister Janice Farnham, RJM, one of my teachers in graduate theology studies, who once took a four-hour train ride to see my father on his death bed. “She’s a great lady,” my dad always said. Or Sister Maddy Tiberiii, SSJ, who was not only an intrepid teacher in a tiny school in rural Tanzania, but a gifted spiritual director as well, and beloved at Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester, Mass. Or Sister Elizabeth Johnson, CSJ, a professor of theology at Fordham University, author of She Who Is, and my favorite living theologian.

It pains me that Catholic Sisters in general were historically so poorly paid and, therefore, have so little to support their elderly Sisters now. I think that one of the most important charities that a Catholic can give to is SOAR!. I pray that everyone might remember these heroes and help them. Just as they have helped you.

James Martin, SJ

Father James Martin, SJ, is a Jesuit Priest, author and editor at large at America, the national Catholic magazine. His most recent books are Seven Last Words, The Abbey and Jesus: A Pilgrimage. Father Martin will be honored at the SOAR! 30th Anniversary Dinner in New York on September 21.

At the SOAR! office, we are blessed to hear so many stories of how religious have made such a difference in the lives of our grateful donors and their families. If you would like to share a store about how religious have nurtured you, drop us a note. 

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