6 Questions for Mr. Joe O’Keefe, SJ
Joe O’Keefe, SJ was born in Boston and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from St. John Seminary College. Joe later worked in state and local government and politics and also earned a Master’s degree at Suffolk University. Joe entered the California Province of Society of Jesus in 2006 and took his first vows as a Jesuit in 2008. Joe put his experience to work and taught U.S. Government & Politics at Loyola High School in Los Angeles and is currently studying for his Master of Divinity degree at the Jesuit School of Theology (JST) of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, and a Master of Arts in Catholic Educational Leadership at the University of San Francisco. Joe expects to be ordained a deacon this October at Santa Clara University.
1. Where are you currently missioned and how’s it going?
I am currently missioned to theology studies at JST in Berkeley in preparation for ordination – where I have especially appreciated learning more about scripture, spirituality and ministerial preparation. I also have started working toward a degree in educational leadership at USF. So far so good!
2. When was the first time you thought about being a Jesuit?
Religious vocation was something I thought about while in high school and that led me to the diocesan seminary. God apparently wanted me to meet the Jesuits – and it was some years later before I finally met some at the Jesuit Urban Center at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Boston. It was there that the spark of vocation was reignited and had led me to consider the Society.
3. How have your friendships changed or stayed the same since you entered the novitiate?
Friendships do change – but that is not to say that change is not good. After I entered the novitiate my longtime friendships were certainly impacted by my change of lifestyle and geographic location – but these true friendships endure and the most essential aspects stay the same.
4. Is there a particular author, artist, saint, musician, etc. that has resonated with you during the transition to religious life?
When I first visited the novitiate – I came across a quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ – and the first line struck me – “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.” I thought God’s work in me has been slow! I first thought about religious life at age 17 and here I was at age 41 still searching. Was I crazy? This line became a prayer for me and continues to be one during my years of formation. Some honor the work Chardin did in the fields of philosophy, paleontology and geology. With all due respect to that work – I honor the guy who simply told me to “Above all, trust in the slow work of God.” Slow? Perhaps. Work of God? Yes.
5. What has been the biggest surprise for you thus far?
The biggest surprise for me has been the sheer number of experiences that I have had during my time of formation. I have visited places I never would have imagined seeing if you had asked me a few short years ago. Sometimes these have been beautiful and exciting and other times more challenging! Of course, along with seeing these places, I have had the chance to meet and develop relationships with so many different people. The Society of Jesus has opened me up to a world that I might never have known.
6. What would you tell a man who’s considering becoming a Jesuit?
You have to be in touch with your deepest desires – and when you are you will meet God. If you discern that the Jesuit life may be what God is calling you to – be generous in your response to that call. As a Jesuit your brothers and partners in ministry will love you more deeply than you might ever imagine. This has been my experience. Give of yourself freely and the life you find will be filled with this love.