Theodora Hawksley

I was born in London in 1985 and raised in Hertfordshire. University studies took me north, first to Durham University, where I studied theology, and then to Edinburgh, where I did a doctorate in theology, specialising in ecclesiology and ethnography, before staying on for a three year postdoctoral position working on peacebuilding. During my time in Edinburgh, I became part of a vibrant and happy Catholic parish run by the Jesuits, and soon got involved in the musical and social side of parish life. A friendship with a Canadian Jesuit who was doing his doctorate alongside me led me to sign up to an 8 day retreat at St Beuno’s and, through this experience and subsequent spiritual direction, I encountered a God who was insistently drawing me towards a greater courageousness and generosity in my self-gift to God and to the world.

This journey eventually led me to the Congregation of Jesus, an Ignatian congregation for women founded by Mary Ward in 1609. We share the same Constitutions as the Jesuits, and Ignatian spirituality, as well as a certain spirit of adventure – Mary Ward’s activities in the Catholic underground of 1600s London led to her being described by the then-Archbishop of Canterbury as ‘doing more damage than six Jesuits’! I entered the Congregation of Jesus in January 2015. Alongside the Spiritual Exercises, perhaps the most life-changing months of my formation were spent working alongside Jesuits and Ursuline sisters with indigenous peoples in the interior of Guyana. After I made first vows in September 2017, I immediately went back out to Guyana for another 3 month stretch, this time helping a team drawn from the Wapichan communities of the South Rupununi to develop bilingual education for nursery school children.

I now live and work in London, helping with the development of social and environmental programming at the London Jesuit Centre, as well as doing some spiritual direction, writing and speaking.