Recently, I met Jesuit Brother Pat Douglas, a vocation promoter who could have been selected by central casting. Who better to command attention than a handsome 38-year-old record-holding powerlifter who loves ’80s music? You don’t get much better than that.
The Omaha, Neb., native is a member of the Society of Jesus — the Jesuits — of the Wisconsin province. He travels through mid-America promoting Jesuit vocations, made all the more appealing right now because of that famous Jesuit, Pope Francis.
Making a commitment today is tough for kids, Brother Pat said. No surprise there — anybody who’s hosted a party lately knows how hard it is to get those RSVPs for Friday night, never mind expecting someone to make a lifetime commitment.
“When people ask me about vocations, I ask them to pray that people will have courage,” said Brother Pat.
Those pursuing vocations are told to pray for clarity, he said, and even with clarity, the courage of commitment is hard to find.
Brother Pat’s vocation journey began in a Jesuit prep school and then while pursuing a sociology/social work degree at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn. After graduation, he worked in a corrections facility for youth, where he saw that the environment a person lives in impacts personal development.
“In my experience, about 98 percent of perpetrators are themselves victims of some kind of abuse and usually have either no male role model or a harmful one,” he said.
Brother Pat left a fun-loving, bachelor lifestyle behind in 2004. He entered the Jesuits with the desire to be a brother (not a priest). He was the first man in 30 years to take vows as a Jesuit brother in the Wisconsin province.
What’s the difference between a brother and a priest?
“Think of me as a bald, muscular nun,” said Brother Pat.
Like religious sisters, brothers do not participate in sacramental ministry. Brothers use their talents to work with the poor or in any of the vital ministries of an order. Brother Pat is not on the road to ordination.
In the old days, people might see Jesuit brothers cooking or doing maintenance. As a modern-day brother, Brother Pat has earned master’s degrees in counseling and in spirituality.
And there seem to be others in his province preparing to be brothers rather than priests.
The vocation suits Brother Pat well. Assigned to an American Indian reservation, he worked with juvenile offenders and in a methamphetamine rehabilitation facility. He launched a radio program featuring 1980s music called “’80s Attack with Brother Pat.” All over the reservation, people would stop him with musical requests.
It was a great way, he said, to be available to people wanting to talk about deeper issues of faith and God.
He’s now stationed back home in Omaha where he lives in a dorm at Creighton University. He assists the coach at his old prep school in their state championship powerlifting program and travels to promote vocations.
All of this, he says, is done with “the Jesuit way of proceeding,” which is another way of expressing the deeply held Jesuit belief of “finding God in all things.”
“You enter people’s lives through their door,” he explains, “and you can bring them out through your door.”
That means meeting them in the locker room or on the radio — you meet people where they are, where they feel comfortable revealing their search for truth.