Blue Jay of the Month: Campus minister finds blessings in service
From The Blue Jay, Vol. 86, No. 2, November 2013
By senior Quinn Stiller, The Blue Jay Features Editor
Leaders among the student body at Jesuit can be readily seen in many capacities, ranging from athletic teams to Student Council. One of our school’s quieter leaders, however, exercises his leadership in a quieter way, focusing on the spirituality of the Blue Jay community.
As viceroy (the student leader) of Campus Ministry, John Guerra is involved in nearly every aspect of the spiritual formation of Jesuit students, from assisting at regular Masses to helping organize retreats and the various grade-level evenings of reflection. The devoted Blue Jay also is a member of the Blessed Bernardo de Hoyos Sodality. We caught up with him recently to learn more about him, and finding a genuine joy and sense of humor in living his faith.
The Blue Jay: What’s it like to be the leader of Campus Ministry?
John Guerra: As viceroy, I’ve been so blessed and honored to see all my best friends grow more in love with Christ and with all of their families in the Jesuit Community. I’ve been so blessed to see the entire student body learn to listen, to live, and to teach themselves throughout their growth.
I have been able to grow closer to students of all grades and background and to set a tone for their Jesuit career ahead with Christ.
I’ve also had the blessing of forming great friendships with faculty, staff, and student leaders of school organizations. I’ve grown very close to the Campus Ministry board and especially Mr. Jeremy Reuther, director of Campus Ministry, who teaches me more and more every day in his class and his office with his criticism, his patience, his advice, and his work.
TBJ: How have this year’s activities gone, so far, particularly the Nights of Reflection?
JG: Campus Ministry this year is awesome. Literally. What God has done with it fills me with awe. We’ve taught so well and seen so many men begin to live with Christ and take Mary as their mother.
The hard work and dedication of Mr. Reuther, the board, and all the ministers has paid off and is surely pleasing to God in that they have given so much time for the good of the Jesuit Family. The eighth- and ninth-grade Nights of Reflection both inspired me and led me back to Christ myself and allowed Christ to work through us and get to these young men in a new, personal, and intimate way. It’s amazing. The renewal of Faith at Jesuit is perpetually moving forward.
TBJ: What was your experience like at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro?
JG: World Youth Day reminded me of all the things I have that I don’t need, the presence of Christ everywhere, the beauty and love that comes from the sufferings of a poor life, the importance of brotherhood and legacy, the amazing and undeserved gift of the Society of Jesus, and the treasure that Jesuit New Orleans is in every way. That’s that in a nutshell. I can’t tell you the story in full, because then you’d have to add at least five more full pages to The Blue Jay!
TBJ: Who is your favorite saint?
JG: Mary, Mother of God. But, besides her, I don’t have one favorite saint. But I do have a few personal patrons: St. Therese of Lisieux, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, Bl. John Paul the Great, and St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, who is my Confirmation saint.
I like them the most because of their understanding of human dignity, a need for Christ in the world, their message that Christ is among us very much alive and active, and their having been so recently canonized or beatified. I feel they understand my world and my struggle and know how to purify my intentions so God hears them and is merciful towards them. And also because those names are just really cool sounding.
TBJ: Your favorite prayer?
JG: The Our Father. It reminds me to praise God, to try to know Him, search for Him, want what He wills, ask what we need to live that will, persevere through temptation, be forgiven and be fair by always forgiving and loving others, and telling the world that God is alive, awesome, most high and perfect, and triumphant against all Evil.
TBJ: What’s the most memorable thing to have happened to you at Jesuit?
JG: The night I went to the small chapel for adoration of the Eucharist and sat in the front pew to the left and asked my great friend Corey Ignatius James to be my Confirmation Sponsor. I loved that. That was good.
TBJ: Who’s been your favorite teacher or time in class?
JG: Beginning class one day, Mr. Powers did the Sign of the Cross (in Latin, of course), and began praying, “Dearest Lord, friend and brother, most merciful,” when he saw someone in the back of the class talking. He yelled out to him, “Get out in the hall!” The student asked in surprise, “But why, Mr. Powers. And he replied, “Because you’re being a jackass!”
He walked outside and Mr. Powers sat in the chair with his eyes closed and looked up for a few seconds in silence. We didn’t know what was going on since it was still the middle of the prayer. Then Mr. Powers slowly walked to the door, opens it and said to the student in a soft and slightly British voice, “Come back in here. I’m sorry, you know I love you.” He came in smiling and sat down and Mr. Powers asked where we were and we told him “Prayer.”
So he immediately told us to pray loudly and he began: “O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you.”
TBJ: what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
JG: I play piano, classical mostly because that is all my teacher teaches me. I love Pelicans games, Saints games, Mass with friends and family, and kayaking and hiking.
TBJ: Where are you considering going to college?
JG: The University of Dallas (Rome Campus), Franciscan University, Spring Hill, and Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
TBJ: What are you planning on majoring in?
JG: Theology, philosophy, and maybe music. I also want to study Latin and Spanish with the scripture, theology, and philosophy. I want to come back and teach theology at Jesuit High, and from there, I’d be happy to discern marriage, the priesthood, or even the “Reutherian” lifestyle.
TBJ: What advice would you like to leave with the Blue Jay community?
JG: I don’t think I’m the best to ask for advice, but I do have a quote that I suggest you reflect on and try to be inspired to live by. It’s from Father William Farge, S.J., who lives here at Jesuit and teaches Japanese language and history at Loyola University. He was raised in Houston, lived in Japan for 20 years, and was ordained in Tokyo.
He’s writing his second book now and told me this in confession once: “You don’t choose the saints, the saints choose you.” Never forget this, and don’t let them down, or Christ. They pray without ceasing for us in Heaven. Perhaps if we kept this in mind always we would live and act differently and try to help others to know this as well. Pray for your brothers. I’m praying for you.