Thomas Elitz '12: First Vows and the Road Ahead
Monday, October 3, 2016
by Patricia Allen '13 (M.A.)
Thomas Elitz ’12 of Cinnaminson, New Jersey, graduated from Saint Joseph’s with a degree in accounting and made his way to the corporate world, first as an associate financial analyst for Janssen and then as an internal auditor for Johnson & Johnson. He also began to work toward a CPA license.
While Elitz’s business career was promising, his stay in finance was brief: In 2014, he entered the novitiate as a member of the Maryland Province with the intention of becoming a Jesuit priest. This past August, his father Steve ’79, ’91 (MBA), his mother Jackie, his brother Daniel ’17, and extended family members and friends, witnessed Elitz make his first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience with eight other novices at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, New York.
“Taking first vows makes it official that you want to join the Society of Jesus — that you want to live your life as a Jesuit,” says Elitz, whose experience as a novice included teaching in Micronesia.
Now residing in the Bronx, New York, where he is studying for a master’s degree in philosophy at Fordham University, Elitz reflects on his first exposure to Jesuit spirituality as a freshman at Saint Joseph’s.
“I really responded to the emphasis on finding God in all things — finding God in the experiences of my life — and the way Jesuits engage scripture in prayer, which is known as Ignatian contemplation,” says Elitz. “I was attracted to the way that prayer influences how Jesuits live their lives.”
An alumnus of Holy Cross High School in Delran, New Jersey, and a parishioner of St. Charles Borromeo Church in Cinnaminson, Elitz has credited his theology courses and his participation in SJU Campus Ministry programs with helping him to discern his Jesuit vocation. On Hawk Hill, he was involved with the Appalachian Experience for three years; he participated in Weekly Service and Back on My Feet, an organization that combats homelessness through running and community support; he went on several retreats at the St. Raphaela Center in Haverford; and as a junior, he helped lead retreats for first-year students.
“Tom had a very credible presence with the students who participated in the freshman retreats,” says Brendan G. Lally, S.J., rector of the Saint Joseph’s Jesuit Community, who at the time was in charge of retreat programs for Campus Ministry. “He was able to relate well with the first-year students, sharing his faith in a manner that was understandable and authentic.”
Fr. Lally adds that Elitz’s ability “to connect with participants in a significant way before moving into spirituality” helped to deepen the engagement of the young retreatants with whom he worked.
It was also in his junior year that Elitz joined a vocation discernment group that met once a month and was led by Daniel Joyce, S.J. ’88, one of his theology professors and Executive Director of Saint Joseph’s Mission Programs.
“We had conversations about the things we were thinking about, the things we were feeling,” says Elitz. “It was nice to be a part of that — to share my own experience of faith, and my desire to join the Jesuits, and to know that the other guys in my group were experiencing the same emotions.”
Fr. Joyce says that Elitz participated in “all of the typical student activities at SJU,” but he also made it a point to engage in what Fr. Joyce calls the “value-added Ignatian experience.”
“Tom was a member of a Christian Life Community with a diverse group of his classmates for four years, and he allowed others to help him discern his talent, passion and calling in the world,” he says. “He was unafraid to look deep into his experience and come to understand how God’s grace was at work in him and his friends.”
For Elitz, the next couple of years as a scholastic at Fordham will be filled with study, prayer and ministry work in the Bronx. After he completes his master’s degree in philosophy, he’ll enter his regency, and will be assigned to work somewhere — possibly at a Jesuit high school, or in campus ministry at a university located in the Maryland Province. From there, he’ll go on to study for a Master of Divinity in theology.
Elitz says that at some point in the future, he’ll also continue his pursuit of a CPA license. His Jesuit superiors have encouraged him do so, though he isn’t sure how or when that skill might enter his life.
“I’m keeping myself open,” he says.
Ordination is eight or nine years down the road, “and I look forward to the journey ahead,” Elitz adds