Mission and Ministry
Alumni Living the Mission

Catherine and West Livaudais

  • Catherine Livaudais

    YES! When I think of how life has unfolded for my "wombmate" and I, this word comes to me.  YES! Let me fill my days with moments of you, the divine. It is the little things, the simple words, a crooked smile from the heart, a warm hand, a deep wisdom and sweet homemade granola.  You see, living the faith, being ruined for life, letting the universe unfold, awakening to the divinity within us, all these phrases speak a 1,000 words and nothing at all.  Jesuit tradition to me, magis, is the space that has allowed me to discover myself, to create my faith in the divine and to believe that I am a goddess, alive and informed by the simple freedom and nature of becoming me.

    I grew up in a devout Catholic family, educated at Gonzaga University and began my transformation as a Jesuit Volunteer in Alaska.  I encountered my fair share of challenges in life but stayed firmly rooted with my twin brother and our sisters, Brigette and Jude, to the Jesuit values.  Today West is in the heart of Guatemala, working with indigenous women and children. My daily work brings me to the table with women, survivors of prostitution and abuse, and men also, all struggling with mental illness, homelessness and addiction. On the side, I’m growing my own food, enmeshed with the endless falling rain, rising early to volunteer, staying up late to welcome the sun, giggling with nieces, and making homemade granola. Sometimes I am missing Mass to hold a friend in their brokenness or joy, reciting words of affirmation out loud, creating, and embracing my own vulnerability.

    I have learned to trust in my raw wounded edges, because one day I will see them as glittery, sparkling threads of resilience, grace, humility and wildness all stitched together and cloaking me in the love of my communities of dear friends, my communities of radical miracles, of moments of being in awe of the world around me. It’s this saying YES! that grounds me in the magis, and alerts me to the divine in all of my connections.

     West Livaudais

    What is the magis? ‘to be better’, ‘to do more’? I don’t know.  I don’t think so.  That’s too much like a rule. I know it’s a Jesuit word, derived from ‘ad majorem dei gloriem’ – for the greater Glory of God -  and it’s rooted in discernment.  It’s been explained to me by Jesuits that most people in their everyday lives don’t have to make choices between pure evil and pure good.  Most of us find ourselves deciding between two goods, and the question Ignatius asks is, ‘which of these two goods brings greater glory to God and ushers in the Kingdom?’

    My mom had twins and it was a total surprise. I came out first, followed by my sister, Catherine, together tipping the scales at just over 9lbs. My southern father referred to Catherine as lagniappe, which according to the Dictionary of Cajun French means, "something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of good measure."  My parents had been blessed with ‘a little extra gift’…by surprise.  Together we were two goods, given all at once – a magis of sorts.

    It will take me all of my life to comprehend the smallest degree of this blessing – being made as a pair and never knowing loneliness.  I was formed with another, and woven through me is the presence of Catherine. Why was I chosen to be given such a tremendous blessing?!  This treasure I hold in a broken vessel (2 Cor 4:7). Because I’ve been given this good measure, packed down, shaken together, and running over (Lk 6:8) I can try to live the magis.  It’s not an accomplishment; it’s a natural response to discovered treasure, to having the pearl of great price (Mt 13:46).

    Catherine is an advocate and case manager for women and men who are victims of sexual violence, prostitution, addictions, and who are homeless, who struggle with mental illness and have fallen way down through the cracks. She is a lifeline. She, as Fr. Gary Smith, SJ once said in a homily in the novitiate, “is a lightning rod between the divine and the mire, bringing hope and a sense of peace and security to darkest depths of the cracks in our society.”  She was a Jesuit Volunteer in Alaska, which set her free from the tame and safe, and gave her courage and divine fire to bring light to dark places.

    I am a program coordinator for a maternal and child health program in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala. My joy is to learn the simple, unplugged ways of life from my Guatemalan coworkers and the indigenous women and children we serve.  The program aims to reduce the barriers to health services by educating mothers and community leaders on how to prevent chronic malnutrition, acute respiratory infections, and diarrheal illnesses in children under 2, as well as improve maternal health.

    Catherine and I were educated, formally, by the Jesuits at Gonzaga University, which was such a happy and challenging experience.  But I had no idea the kind of seeds that were being planted in me, nor how their roots and shoots would form and stretch me far beyond my comfort zone to try to strive to live the magis and usher in the Kingdom.
  • Catherine Livaudais (Gonzaga '00, JVCNW)
    West Livaudais (Gonzaga '00)