Michael Bugeja SJ
From Crowne Plaza executive to Jesuit
Five stars weren’t enough. So, as a young and brilliant manager of a large chain of luxury hotels, I set out again in search for true inner fulfillment.
When I was young, I didn’t think about religious life. I was a very ambitious guy. I was interested in the tourism sector. Malta is an island and work in this field is easy to find. At the age of 22 I already had a good job as marketing manager of a 5-star hotel. I traveled a lot and had contracts with many agencies. But when I reached my dream destination I realized that something was missing. I wasn’t really happy. Through a friend I began my spiritual journey in a group.
Rediscovering true freedom
A time of vocational discernment. I didn’t know exactly the path He was asking me to take. The only certain thing I experienced was that He wanted me for Him. I had a lot of work to do. I had to get rid of so many things: my job that had become my idol, because it gave me an identity, an apartment that I had bought with a future with a family in mind, the car and other things I had bought along the way. As He was giving me the courage to face this inner freedom necessary to embrace consecrated life, I began to wonder which door to knock on for the future religious life.
A heart on fire
I used to go to Mass at the Carmelites, but no one ever asked me if I was interested. I didn’t know how these paths worked, I really had to trust the Spirit’s guidance. I then went to talk to the Rector of the major Seminary, but seminary life was not appealing to me. That Jesuit father had advised me to read the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. At the end of the book, there was the first draft of the Constitutions Ignatius had presented to the Pope, to ask him to start a new religious order. Now that was the beginning of something deeper. I felt something in my heart, that I too was there, that with my character I could be of great help for the salvation of souls, by living out the call as a Jesuit. I remember well that it was written that “he was to teach the poor boys and be of help to them.”
In the Society
So I decide to begin the journey with them. I had talked to the Provincial and had experiences with communities. And so I met the living God, not the one described in a book or that I had been taught, but a God who knew me, who loved me.
The most powerful experience was in Italy, during a camp. I was meditating on a passage of Scripture in the midst of nature in July, looking at the trees and the leaves of various colors. That’s how I began to perceive that God existed, was real and told me “go and preach my Word”.
My father was delighted and wished it so much for me. My mom a little less so at first. She knew that I would have to leave home for formation and that there would be no guarantee that I could return to Malta.
The stages of formation
I entered the novitiate in Genoa in 1995. With 10 other companions we began to walk together. Two wonderful years full of many graces. A time that I will never forget. Then I returned to Malta in ’97, for a year, to follow a course at the University of Malta, in preparation for studying philosophy in Padua, from ’98 until the year 2000. Then back to Malta, for Regency, two years at St. Louis College, a blessing for me and a confirmation of my vocation. I got along very well with young people, and there I truly experienced the joy of serving with creativity.
Then, formation continued in England. Three years of Theology, where I studied and also saw many musicals at London West End. In 2005 after the Diaconate ordination, I was sent to Toronto to study Pastoral Counselling. In 2006 Ordination and in 2008 my first pastoral Ministry as a young priest, as Chaplain at the University of Malta. Nine years in which my faith grew, learning that the Lord provides for everything and everyone, establishing friendships that, even today, remain a source of courage for my choice of religious life.
I have 2 married sisters, a brother and 5 nieces and nephews. They too, now, with my parents, are happy with my path. My happiness proves to them that the choice is right.
At service of our brothers
Then, in 2017 I was assigned a new mission as Delegate for Malta, to which was added the mission of Romania at the beginning of 2018. A very different service from that of chaplain that gives me the opportunity to serve my brothers according to their needs and according to the various situations we encounter along the way. I always experience the need to ask the Lord “where are you taking us? What are you asking of us?” And, gradually, step out of our comfort zone to embrace important decisions for our future.