“Young Jesuits in formation, writing about faith and culture, in a way that’s accessible to our peers—that’s our elevator pitch,” said Rev. Sam Sawyer, S.J. and BC ’00, of the online startup which he co-founded, The Jesuit Post.
Sawyer and Rev. Michael Rossmann, S.J., assistant editor of The Jesuit Post, spoke to a crowded Hillside Cafe on Tuesday evening at this year’s first installment of the Agape Latte series. The discussion, hosted by the Church in the 21st Century Center and Campus Ministry, was a part of the annual Espresso Your Faith Week, a series of programs and events focusing on faith and spirituality.
The speakers discussed the inception of The Jesuit Post as a startup, and why, for them, this venture was a risk. They connected the process of curating this new medium to other areas in their personal experience of faith where risk-taking was necessary.
“We want to tell the story of The Jesuit Post as a startup—as a brand new thing that a group of Jesuits in formation decided to try in order to reach people in a new medium, and with new techniques,” Sawyer said. “We want to connect this to other places in our lives of faith and our vocations where we felt the possibility of a startup: a chance to take a risk, how we decided to take those risks, and how we found God through them.”
Sawyer, after completing his undergraduate degree at Boston College, worked as a software engineer before pursuing his Jesuit vocation and joining the Society of Jesuits in 2004. Sawyer was ordained this past summer, and he has since returned to BC to complete his doctoral thesis. His experience as a software engineer led to his realization that there was a large gap in the online market of religious—particularly, Jesuit—websites that were accessible to the younger generation.
“The Church missed the Internet revolution.” Sawyer said. “There is a whole generation—our generation—for whom the Internet, social media, is the primary way we communicate, and the Church was nowhere in any of it.”
Sawyer, with his two co-founders, Rev. Eric Sundrup, S.J. and Rev. Paddy Gilger, S.J., decided to take action in fixing this lack, after noticing prolonged inaction among the Jesuit community.
After consulting the support of their superiors, talking to other Jesuits, and recruiting a group of people who were interested in helping, the website was launched, he said.
“The Jesuit Post is a group of Jesuits in formation writing not primarily about faith and spirituality all the time, but writing about what the world looks like through the eyes of someone to whom faith and Ignatian spirituality is important,” Sawyer said.
In integrating matters of faith with pertinent cultural issues and a strong social media presence, The Jesuit Post seeks to keep the religious conversation relevant and engaging for the younger generation. “This site is about Jesus, politics, and pop-culture; it’s about the Catholic Church, sports, and Socrates; it’s about making the case for God (better: letting God make the case for Himself) in our secular age,” according to the website, www.jesuitpost.org.
After the inception of the website, Rossmann was one of the first to be contacted for involvement. Rossmann joined the Society of Jesus in 2007 after completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Notre Dame. He is currently studying theology at BC.
Rossmann spoke about the issue of risk that he first associated with this online endeavor when asked to take a position of leadership. “Now, I am stepping into this position where I am going to be a leader of this thing,” Rossmann said. “I am taking a risk in seeing if I might be able to continue the good work that others have started here.”
Both speakers put the issue of risk-taking within the greater context of faith and vocation, speaking about their decision to enter the Society of Jesus.
“When I had the thought that I might be interested in being a Jesuit, it terrified me,” Sawyer said. “That fear was holding me back from the much greater possibility—the possibility that I’m living in now, that it might work.”
Rossmann spoke about his undergraduate experience studying abroad in Uganda and his return to Eastern Africa, as a Jesuit, to teach for two years in Tanzania. “Just as I had tasted what mind and heart expansion was like when I was in college, I wanted more of it,” Rossmann said. “I felt a desire to go out of myself, and to receive more from the people I encountered.”
The conversation concluded with an exhortation for students to examine where they have felt called to take a risk for their faith, and where can they find God in that risk.
“My idea of taking a risk for God—taking a risk with God—is to take that step with faith, and in the process, we become something greater and deeper,” Rossmann said. “Our minds and hearts are expanded.”