Rev. Cesare Campagnoli, SJ
Fr. Cesare was ordained to the priesthood on June 9, 2012 at Fordham University Chapel by His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan, Archbishop Emeritus of New York.
Since I entered the Society of Jesus at the age of 38 it may be reasonable for some to say and to admit that in my life I have had two vocations: one secular and the other religious. The first vocation was a call to be a medical scientist, while the second one was the call to be a Jesuit priest. Though at first glance this analysis seems to be correct and objective, I have come to the conclusion that this evaluation is quite superficial. In fact, I’m inclined to consider human life as a single trajectory in which one can distinguish different phases leading to the progressive realization of God’s will.
During the first phase of my life project I responded to a particular aspect of my life vocation, namely that of attending to the others’ physical needs, while in the second phase I have been responding to another aspect of the same vocation, namely that of helping people satisfying their aspirations to enter in relationship with God, the source of the wellbeing for the whole person. In addition, these two aspects of my life vocation correspond to different levels of commitment to God as well as to different degrees of satisfaction of my desires. Responding to my deepest desires, though, required a process of discernment which extended over a longer period of time, especially because it demanded a countercultural response. Despite the different character of the two phases of my life vocation, they both were authored by God who called me to dedicate part of my life to the care of sick and to the search for new medical treatments for alleviating human suffering, and then to attend to the more spiritual needs of people.
Once I became aware of the double dimension of my life vocation, the knowledge of Ignatian spirituality and the Jesuit way of proceeding provided me with the tools for responding to such a call. In particular, the Ignatian appeal to search and find God in all things and the primary apostolic commitment of the Society of Jesus helped me discern the most appropriate response. Therefore, with the support of Jesuits involved in vocation promotion, I decided to enter the Society of Jesus in the Maryland Province. And this constitutes an important aspect of my vocation to religious life.
In fact, in the process of prayerfully discerning whether I should enter the Society of Jesus in Italy, my home country, or in the United States, especially in the area of Philadelphia where I became fully aware of my vocation to religious life, I discovered my deep desire to serve the cross-cultural mission of the Society of Jesus which reflects the universal mission of the Catholic Church. Since my novitiate, I have been particularly sensitive to the Society’s commitment to build bridges among cultures, especially between the Chinese and the Western civilizations, which ultimately facilitate the proclamation of the Gospel. I have also realized that building cultural bridges is not simply a matter of knowing different cultures and acquiring cultural competence, but it essentially demands efforts for identifying what human beings share in common, though embedded in different cultural milieu, as well as their deepest aspirations.
During my formation the opportunity to become familiar with the Spiritual Exercises, both by making them, as well as by accompanying retreatants, have nurtured and deepened my personal relationship with Jesus. In fact, I regard my Jesuit life as a way of bearing witness to my love for Jesus and my commitment to cooperate with the mission He received from the Father of bringing the Kingdom of God in this world through the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, under the guidance of Jesuit directors, I have been devoting my efforts to improve the quality of my prayer life. I long to more clearly discern God’s will for my mission and the way in which I could help others to develop their heartfelt knowledge of Jesus Christ. The combination of a regular practice of prayer and an intellectual engagement in theological studies has helped me develop a specific inclination for “moral discernment.” I hope this can be instrumental and beneficial to my future priestly ministry. I believe that a reflective and prayerful interaction among the Word of God revealed in Scripture, the Christian tradition, the teaching of the Church, the complexity of human experience, and common rational resources may ultimately help people discern God’s presence in their lives. All of this aids in God’s plan of salvation for humanity. In addition, moral discernment brings the faithful an awareness of responsibility – both personal and collective, for establishing a more just social order that eliminates structural injustices and liberates the poor, the vulnerable from oppressive patterns of behaviors. Developing a social conscience of the current global disparities may be one of the goals of the new evangelization. Preaching a message of love and respect for the dignity of every human person contributes to the promotion of the integral human development.
As a Jesuit priest I desire to find a balance between the intellectual engagement of addressing the current ethical medical issues, and the pastoral activity of bringing reconciliation and serving the spiritual needs of the people of God.