New religious community aims to bring encounters with Jesus to others
By Nissa LaPoint
Photo by Robert Linn/DCR
Sunday, Feb. 3 was World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life, a day established by Blessed John Paul II to honor men and women in consecrated life. Below is a story about a religious community for men whose only presence is in the Denver Archdiocese.
The Servants of Christ Jesus, a consecrated community of Catholic men, will bring their zeal for the new evangelization in new grace-filled ways across the Denver Archdiocese this year when Archbishop Samuel Aquila ordains some of their members to the priesthood.
Encountering Christ and deepening others’ relationships with him is the mission of the budding community living at Risen Christ Church’s former rectory in Denver.
“Our lives are consecrated to Jesus in poverty, chastity and obedience and our whole goal is that others would meet Jesus and deepen their relationship with Jesus,” said Brother John Ignatius Little, co-founder of the community. “That goal of ‘first encounter’ and deepening that relationship with Jesus is what our spirituality is for us but it’s also what our mission is.”
The three-member community—with an additional postulant and one in discernment—is the only one of its kind in Denver. Last month, Archbishop Samuel Aquila of the Denver Archdiocese announced he would ordain two of the brothers into the diocesan priesthood, first with a diaconate ordination March 16 and priestly ordination May 18.
The community has greatly anticipated ordination.
“It is a joyful surprise to be informed that we are going to be ordained,” Brother Little said.
It’s the first Servants of Christ Jesus community in the United States and was granted canonical status as a private association of Christian faithful in 2006. Both Brother Little, 44, and Brother Paul Kostka, 27, founded the community at the Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2004.
“We experienced Jesus in profound ways through the sacraments, through praise and worship, through spiritual direction and through retreats,” Brother Little said. “That’s where Jesus met us.”
After consecrating themselves to Christ through vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, the religious community began their work to spread the word of God.
While adhering to the spirituality of St. Ignatius Loyola, the religious men foster encounters with Christ through retreats, spiritual direction and instruction at schools, specifically Bishop Machebeuf High School in Denver.
After the founding members made a visit to Denver, former Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., invited the community to the archdiocese.
“Pope John Paul II said something about this being the center of new evangelization and the strong leadership of Archbishop Chaput and the very faithful foundation of the seminary of St. John Vianney is how we ended up here,” Brother Little said.
Brother Kostka became the director of campus ministry at Bishop Machebeuf and recently graduated from St. John Vianney Theological Seminary. Brother Little entered seminary in 2006 and graduated in 2009. He is now the campus minister at the University of Denver. The other member, Brother James Claver, teaches at Bishop Machebeuf. Brian Kelsch is a postulant also working at Bishop Machebeuf.
After the two ordinations, the community will continue to commit themselves to “a life of regular prayer, generous penance, eucharistic adoration, Marian devotion and charismatic worship.”
Catholic faithful may expect to see the men after ordination at parishes celebrating the sacraments. The religious brothers expect to continue their work with youth, at Machebuef High School and the University of Denver, though they have not received indication what assignments they will be given as deacons and priests.
“There’s a substantial Catholic community there,” Brother Little said about the university.
Life Teen summer camps are also a focus of the community, which also provides spiritual direction to their missionaries, as well as to Fraternus missionaries, a parish-based group that ministers to boys without fathers, and FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) campus ministry missionaries.
Brother Little also founded and directs the Patriarch Bible studies for married men in the archdiocese who are seeking to lead their wives and children to better serve Christ.
“My favorite thing is hearing from the voice of another their growing experience of God, whether that is conversion away from sin or applying the word of God more practically in their lives,” Brother Little said.