1770 Kearney Avenue, Barrio Logan
Membership: 1,300 families registered (3,000 attendance per weekend)
Pastor: John Auther, SJ
Born: Phoenix, AZ
Formation: Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles; Universidad Pontificia Comillas, Madrid, Spain; Jesuit School of Theology-Santa Clara University, Berkeley
Years Ordained: 27
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?
Father John Auther: The parish has a Bible study on the weekly readings. In preparing the Bible study, which takes me a couple hours, I share with the people for an hour. That’s my preparation for my sermon. My sermons generally have to do with life application. The Bible study always has some of the reflections of the Pope on the reading for the week.
SDR: What is your main concern as a member of the clergy?
FJ: I think it’s a constant challenge to integrate God into our lives, and I don’t think it’s happening as much as it should. There was a time when people’s bodies were engaged in activities and their minds were free to fly spiritually and prayerfully; now, our bodies seem to be less active, but our minds are always being stimulated by things that have nothing to do with God. Whether we’re on the computer, playing games or watching cable TV sports or something like that, whatever it is our minds are engaged in, there’s no spontaneous space for God in our lives. There’s no interior silence. It was so much a greater part of life than it is now. We’ve got what we looked for, which is to be entertained and not be bored. But I guess we’re getting bored with the entertainment things we have, so we have to create new things.
SDR: Why did you become a priest, and particularly a Jesuit?
FJ: I wanted to serve the Lord in a way that was a hundred percent. I was raised in a Jesuit parish and went to a Jesuit high school. But I decided that when I wanted to be a priest, it wasn’t as a Jesuit. When I got out of high school, I didn’t want to just go to college right away as I did not know what to do. So I went to Mexico and worked in an orphanage there and prayed, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” During Holy Week in Mexico it hit me when I was coming out of a church there: “Be a Jesuit.” And that was that.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
FJ: If I can make it to purgatory, I’ll be happy. Of course purgatory and hell are not places as such. Purgatory is the state where I will be purified of what’s clinging to me that’s not going to make me happy with God forever. It’s not a place; your soul and glorified body doesn’t require a place. But it is a state of some sort. You need the purification because you’re not going to be happy with God unless you’re 100 percent for God because heaven is 100 percent for God. The first stage then is the purification. Then, please God, the second stage is being with God forever in heaven. As for hell, if there’s no possibility for hell, then we’re just robots who have to love God. If we don’t have the freedom not to love God, and freedom to choose definitively away from God, we’re just walking around somehow programmed to love God eternally. Humanly speaking, that doesn’t seem part of our faith.