Those of you with somewhat long memories might remember the "Jesuit mission bands," groups of Jesuits who would visit a parish for a few days to offer a "mission," a kind of preached retreat (usually in the evening) designed for the men and women of a particular parish. Busy lay men and lay women were able, through these bands, to engage in Ignatian spirituality and taste some of the fruits of the Spiritual Exercises. From what I'm told, they were extremely popular, and Jesuits (like other religious orders who ran the same kinds of programs) were quite in demand in dioceses and archdioceses across the country. (Here's an article from Company magazine on the mission bands in the late 1800s.)
Fast forward a few decades: about ten years ago, in a weekend meeting of younger Jesuits, we were thinking (and praying) about how the younger men might strike out with some new initiatives. What would be a different way to reach the People of God in light of our smaller numbers. "Mission bands!" someone suggested, and we enthusiastically batted the idea around for a while and then recommended it to the powers-that-be. For a number of reasons, though, the idea never seemed to take hold. Fast forward another few years: The Apostleship of Prayer, a Jesuit work that began in France in 1844, and whose mission is to help "Christians live out their desire to serve God with their whole lives and their whole selves," is very active in the United States. Recently, the AoP's new Youth and Young Adult Director, Phil Hurley, S.J., announced the return of the Jesuit mission bands in selected cities in the Midwest this summer. The program, directed by a team of young SJs, will be as follows:
- A day and a half of spiritual renewal for young adults
- Dynamic presentations from young Jesuit priests and scholastics (seminarians)
- An introduction to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the spirituality of the Apostleship of Prayer
- Insights on how the deepest desires of our hearts lead us to the Heart of Jesus Christ
- Practical ways to connect faith and daily life.
Frankly, it's a great idea. So if you're anywhere near Milwaukee, Iowa City, Chicago (that's the beautiful St. Clement's above, which is a worth a visit just to see the inside) or Des Moines, in June and July this summer, check it out. Here's the whole schedule and more information. Update: here's their Facebook page. And here's their cool poster, with the banner "Seek the Heat this Summer."