The Jesuit Mission Band Returns

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." 

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8 years 4 months ago
It is a great idea...I read this article, published in 1908, in the Ecclesiastical Review entitled: We Should Have Missions For Children, Fr. Cornelius Shyne, S.J. last year. It will being you to tears as you encounter the ardor, and the lengths to which, this Jesuit went to teach the Faith to children. It can be found @

Stephen DeWitt
8 years 4 months ago
This sounds like a great idea for the Jesuits, I'm glad it got approved.  My province of the OFM's have been doing this kind of work for years, although it's now called the ministry of the word (  For us it has been a great way to share Franciscan spirituality beyond the ministries we are currently able to staff.  I hope it works as well for you.
Jim McCrea
8 years 4 months ago
I remember missions being preached in my small, rural Midwestern parish in the 1940s and 1950s.  They were preached by the Passionists (almost all of whom were Irish, if I can remember) and they were a show not to be missed!
Fundy prods and their tent meeting altar calls couldn't hold a candle to when an emotional Irish man in full communal garb got down to the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth!  I'm sure more than one miscreant in attendance has her/his "Come to Jesus" call during those missions.
They were a hoot for us kids, too!


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