The following originally appeared as part of SLU's occasional series Get to Know the Jesuits of Saint Louis University. Fr. Collins serves on the Belize 2020 U.S. Core Team.
He's often found in DuBourg Hall or leading the campus community in prayer. Christopher Collins, S.J., assistant to the president of mission and identity grew up intimately familiar with the Jesuits, but never expected to become one himself.
After growing up in Phoenix, he moved to Dallas during high school. He attended Jesuit schools in both areas, but moving states during his junior year of high school left him lonely, which gave way to lots of time spent thinking about the bigger meaning of life.
After taking part in a service trip in El Salvador before his freshman year of college, Collins discovered a love for service, for community and for faith. He fostered that desire by taking philosophy and theology classes, understanding for the first time the intellectual elements of the Catholic faith. Though still not considering himself very spiritual, Collins was slowly laying the path for his journey to the priesthood.
One day, Collins noticed faculty and students entering the church on campus on a Tuesday. Because it was not a Sunday, Collins’s curiosity was piqued. Following them into the chapel, he discovered weekly Mass - a way to bridge the spiritual and intellectual elements of his faith with service, praying in quiet in a way that was previously unfamiliar.
Still not expecting to become a Jesuit, Collins said, “I didn’t think anybody did this anymore.”
In fact, Collins didn’t even consider that a young person like himself could be a priest until his cousin came to visit. While spending time together at a bowling alley, Collins’ cousin suggested, “Why don’t you become a Jesuit? You like those guys, and you want to do what they do.” Though not the first time Collins had heard a similar suggestion, this one hit him hard.
Collins remembered his initial reaction to the suggestion: “Oh, no, I have to do this now.”
After a brief stint panicking and discerning, Collins entered the novitiate. He studied at Bellarmine House in the 1990s and has worked in a variety of capacities in a variety of situations - from being pastor of a reservation to teaching theology.
Recognizing the shared history of the Native Americans and Jesuits in the United States, particularly at Saint Louis University, Collins recalled his time on a Native American reservation in South Dakota.
"Right after I was ordained, I worked in Pine Ridge, South Dakota as the pastor of a reservation down there with the Lakota people. Whenever we did a funeral, the Lakota people would have a giveaway at the end . The priest would usually get a blanket, typically a star quilt. They took pride in making different designs of their star quilts. I brought one back with me - it hit me as important because Jesuits originally came to the U.S. to minister to Native Americans, and we built SLU along the way. I tell this to new employees when I give talks we talk - about our mission all the time, and this is a part of our mission and who we are."
Story and photo by Molly Daily for University Marketing and Communications
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