Rev. Claudio M. Burgaleta, S.J. What Gives Me Life in Ministry?
At the conclusion of the Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius has the retreatant make the contemplation Ad Amorem. In the points he gives us to consider, the saint has us reflect on the many ways in which God is working in the world to bless me in particular, from the way God sustains creation to the personal gifts God has given each one of us, to the people, places, and circumstances that he puts in our path that help us to be more fully alive, appreciative of God’s generosity and desiring of sharing what God has given us with others. When I am at my best, and I readily admit that I am a sinner and that frequently I am not at my best, but when I am at my best, the Ad Amorem offers me a window through which to view and understand my ministry and relationship with God and others. For me, ministry comes most alive when in faith I can see God at work in the people and in the circumstances I come across; when those people and circumstances awaken in me a sense of being deeply blessed by God and spur me to return those blessings in a similarly generous response of love.
Let me try to be more specific. A great deal of my life involves teaching theology and Hispanic ministry at Fordham University to graduate students preparing for ministry. Much of that teaching for me these days happens in front of a computer screen, either teaching online courses or reviewing and commenting on students’ theses and dissertations. It can be a lonely work, yet for me it has been and continues to be a tremendous blessing because in reading what my students write and how they interact with each other online I am given a privileged window on how God is at work in their lives. I often find myself moved to tears of deep consolation after reading about their experiences, and the way that God is at work in their lives has a multiplier effect in my own life. Goose bumps creep up and down my arms and I am moved to stop reading and to thank God for allowing me to be a teacher, a priest, a Jesuit who witnesses so many little miracles in the lives of the people that I have been sent to serve. In turn, I am spurred to look around my world anew and discern how God has been at work in other aspects of my life. In short, I am moved to believe more deeply, more gratefully, more generously.
Another experience of ministry which makes me feel deeply grateful and alive each week is when I preside at the Spanish Sunday Eucharist in several parishes in the Bronx. It is the custom in these communities to sing the Our Father and for the congregation to join hands while doing so. As I gaze out over the congregation and hear their voices I am deeply touched as I am reminded at the many individual life stories from the congregation that I have been privileged to accompany: in the sacraments of reconciliation or anointing of the sick, in a counseling session, or just sharing a good laugh together. The faith of these people who call God father, people on the margins who struggle mightily to make ends meet, these people who are the Body of Christ, the Church, and whom I have the honor to serve as priest by sharing with them the Body of Christ in the Eucharist, usually brings me to soft tears of joy and gratitude, and never fails to give me goose bumps. These are some of the ways in which ministry as a Jesuit priest and teacher sustain me and bring me the fullness of life that Jesus promised and embodies for us.
Rev. Claudio Burgaleta, S.J., Ph.D.
Father Claudio M. Burgaleta, S.J. is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Latino Studies at the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education (GSRRE) of Fordham University. He was born in a suburb of Havana, Cuba in 1960, and grew up in Belleville and Nutley, N.J. In 1980 he entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) at Syracuse, N.Y., and was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1992 at the Fordham University Church.