Vocation Stories: Fr. Patrick Fairbanks, SJ
Vocation Stories: Fr. Patrick Fairbanks, SJ
January 11th, 2012 by vocations

Today’s Vocation Story comest from Fr. Patrick Fairbanks, S.J., Provincial Assistant for Vocations for the Chicago-Detroit Province of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Fr. Fairbanks is a son of St. Peter in Chains parish in Hamilton, OH.

A religious vocation sometimes comes to a person after a period of searching, wandering, or just being plain lost.  Or maybe that’s when a person most humbly acknowledges that need for Christ as a light.  Either way, my call to religious life found clear light in 1984 when I had just turned thirty.  I felt ready to make a major step in life, after a series of smaller subtle steps toward God. 

I was raised in a large Catholic family in Hamilton, OH and attended St. Peter in Chains grade school then Badin High.  After finding a fervent spiritual grounding at St. Mary’s Newman Center, while an undergrad at Miami University, I felt called to teach in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese.  Having taught junior high English and religion for eight years in three Cincinnati area schools, I took a new job as a full-time professional Catholic “youth minister” in Mt. Washington.  It was not an easy transition from the predictable pace of classroom teaching, into the nebulous world of youth retreats, rap sessions, and parish politics.  I needed the help of a spiritual director to keep my sanity – personally and professionally. 

I took out an old list of spiritual directors and noticed the name of Fr. Jack Kramer, S.J. who was working at the Cincinnati Catholic school office.  He also helped out with weekday Masses on campus at Xavier.  I remembered Jack from 1976 when he came to do an in-service for us during my first year of teaching.  He was witty, amiable, and wise.  He spoke from an experience of education and Ignatian spirituality.  He always began his presentations with the prayer, “Lord, teach me to be generous … ,”  and he would tell tales of “the days when I was teaching high school religion at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.”  His words and his personality attracted me.  I wanted to do what Jack had done.  I wanted to go where he had been and learn what he had learned.  As my spiritual director, he met me after Mass at Bellarmine to chat and help me figure things out.  Seeds were being planted.

“Out of the depths” of my thirty-something anxiety, I called to the Lord and He responded by showing me a really great way to shape myself and my future into His way.  Jack’s spiritual direction and hospitality-in-community bore fruit three years later.  I was reading in bed one night and received the instruction, quite clearly, to go find an application form for the Jesuits.  The next day, November 17, 1987, I drove to Bellarmine Chapel where I thought I had seen a pamphlet in the back of church.  None left.  I then drove downtown to St. Francis Xavier Church and grabbed the last vocation brochure from the rack.  It was entitled “The Jesuits” and told me all I needed to know about the Society of Jesus, their works, their schools, and how to enter.  Sitting in the back of the empty church, I read the whole brochure and thought, “Yes, Lord, I could follow you this way.”  Through more intense direction with Jesuits like Fr. Ed Pigott, Fr. Bill Verbryke, and Fr. William O’Malley, I grew to know and love the Jesuits as the right way for me to follow the Lord and serve the Church.

In 1989, I entered the Society of Jesus with ten other men from the Midwest.  After two years of novitiate training in Detroit, we took vows and moved on to earn philosophy degrees at Loyola Chicago while immersing ourselves into first hand ministry with the poor.  We travelled overseas, acquired new languages, and learned to depend solely on Christ – all for the greater glory of God.  After teaching English at St X High for three years, I moved to theology studies in Boston and was ordained a Jesuit priest in 2000.  My first assignment was to teach theology at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago.  Later, my Provincial missioned me to serve as the Vocation Director for the Midwest Jesuits.  Having pronounced final vows in 2009, I now serve as the Superior of the Jesuit community in downtown Chicago.  With each passing year, the Lord has strengthened and confirmed my own vocation as a Jesuit priest.  I am grateful to have been called as a son of St. Ignatius in this way, and I hope to continue, with the Lord’s grace, in this vital mission of His body.

How has the spirituality of a particular saint influenced your prayer life? Have their been any particular moments in your life when the life of a saint has inspired you to keep your Faith?

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Posted in Priesthood, Religious, Vocation Stories | 1 Comment »
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One Response to Vocation Stories: Fr. Patrick Fairbanks, SJ

  1. Jonathan PhillipsNo Gravatar says:

    I am THRILLED that Fr. Pat is the new Pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Cincinnati effective 7/1/2013. StX is getting a Pastor who will truly love the people entrusted to his care. AMDG.

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