6 Questions with Mr. Daniel Spotswood, SJ
I am currently missioned to Theology Studies in Bogotá, Colombia, and it´s proving to be a very rich experience. After Regency, I moved to Guatemala to study Spanish for five months in preparation for Theology in Colombia. I am still working to achieve fluency, but the classes are going well, and the other Jesuits in my community are particularly helpful and patient with me. As Bogotá is only one of three theologates in all of Central and South America, getting to know Jesuits from so many Latin American countries has been especially wonderful. I am also able to maintain my passion for rock climbing and mountain climbing here. During the semester break, I just climbed a 17,700 ft. mountain which has created a new love in me for tropical glaciers!
2) When was the first time you thought about being a Jesuit?
I thought about being a Jesuit for the first time when I was an undergraduate at a small Jesuit school called Spring Hill College, in Mobile, Alabama. Growing up in a Catholic family, the priesthood was something that I had entertained since I was very young, but I only knew the diocesan priesthood. I like to say that I actively resisted the thought of the priesthood throughout high school, but when I went to college and met Jesuits for the first time, I discovered a different way of being a priest that I found very attractive. After college, I worked for a year as a Jesuit Volunteer on a reservation in the Northwest which helped my discernment to enter the novitiate the next year.
3) How have your friendships changed or stayed the same since you entered the novitiate?
I feel that the greater self-knowledge and awareness that I have acquired in my formation as a Jesuit has allowed me to become a better friend to others and to make new friendships in more mature ways. As a Jesuit, I have also found much more freedom in my friendships that allows me to come and go from people´s lives in a way that is respected and cherished. This freedom of movement and radical inclusivity is one of the reasons why I embrace the vows as a positive and life-giving way of being. While sometimes it is difficult to come and go from people´s lives, my Jesuit brothers who share a similar style of life serve as a constant source of support.
4) Is there a particular author, artist, saint, musician, etc. that has resonated with you during the transition to religious life?
Thomas Merton was the single greatest influence on me in my introduction to religious life when I was in college, so much so that I seriously considered becoming a Trappist monk. Bob Dylan and his lyrics remain incredibly inspiring for me which is why I am often found singing his songs with my harmonica in the quiet of the church bell tower in Bogotá or impersonating him when I was in a band called The Dregs in Guatemala. Jean de Brebeuf is the model Jesuit saint for me in the way that he set an early example of inculturation among the Huron in 17th century Canada. And, finally, Clifford Geertz is one of my heroes in cultural anthropology.
5) What has been the biggest surprise for you thus far?
A few times in my Jesuit life there have been moments of pure grace where I have wondered, “How the hell did I get here?” Three moments in particular stand out which happen to have taken place while I was in motion. One time, I was riding on the back of a snowmobile in the middle of the night across the tundra in a remote part of Alaska on the way back home from a potlatch ceremony. Another time, I was riding in a beat-up pickup truck between villages in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico. And, just recently, the thought occurred to me while I was riding in a public bus in Bogotá while listening to an artist rap in Spanish for spare change. I can only credit these wonderfully surreal moments to the opportunities that life in the Society has given me.
6) What would you tell a man who’s considering becoming a Jesuit.
I´d tell him to get to know some Jesuits and hang out with them on occasion. Read about the Society´s history, mission, and spirituality. Imagine himself as a Jesuit and see how it feels when he puts himself in that position. And, after all the prayer and hesitation and thinking, don´t be too afraid to enter the novitiate and discern a little more radically the possibility of this life.
Jesuit Scholastic Daniel Spotswood was born in Mobile, Alabama and attended Spring Hill College where he earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Humanities. After college, he worked for a year on the Colville Reservation in Omak, Washington as a Jesuit Volunteer. He then entered the Oregon Province novitiate in Portland, studied philosophy in Toronto, and taught at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, WA for his Regency. After five months of Spanish study in Xela, Guatemala, he began Theology Studies in Bogotá, Colombia where he just completed his first semester. Some of Daniel´s passions include cultural anthropology, rock/mountain climbing, and playing the blues harmonica.