Julio Minsal-Ruiz celebrated his graduation from Xavier in May as any happy graduate would—surrounded by family and friends and eager to get on with the next phase of his life. In Ruiz’s case, that’s as a Jesuit. With his degrees in psychology and philosophy, Ruiz is fulfilling a dream he’s had since going on a retreat in the seventh grade at Belen Jesuit Preparatory School in Miami. But it wasn’t until he came to Xavier, where he joined a young adult Catholic group on campus and met Tom Kennealy, S.J., that he began taking formal steps toward Jesuit formation. Guided by Kennealy, he began interviewing with Jesuit provincial leaders in Miami in December.
Joining the Jesuits was practically preordained for Ruiz. So is his future in the Antilles Province, a focal point of Hispanic and Latino Catholic culture that encompasses Miami, Puerto Rico and Cuba. The Jesuit influence began with his grandmother in Puerto Rico, where Ruiz was born and where his father still lives. She was involved in the Jesuit parish near her home, and when the family moved to Miami when Ruiz was a baby, their Jesuit affiliation moved with them.
Now, having been accepted as a novice in the Antilles Province, Ruiz is following both his passions as he prepares to enter the Jesuit novitiate in Santiago, Dominican Republic—barely 300 miles west of his family’s home in San Juan.
“The Dominican Republic is one of the poorest countries in the Caribbean,” he says. “That’s one of the reasons I came back and applied through Miami because I feel the Hispanic culture is much more a part of the Jesuits in Miami, and I can identify with them. I feel more culturally at home with the Jesuits in Miami.”
The novitiate, of course, is just the start. Ruiz will study and work for 10-12 years before he is ordained. “The decision to be a Jesuit came with a lot of thought and prayer, but it’s not like I’ve never wanted to have a family,” he says. “It’s more like sacrificing that for a higher good.”