Spirited conversation filled the Saint John Paul II Pastoral Centre during the third annual Jesuit Scotch Tasting May 28.

About 80 people raised their glasses to community, to the Jesuits, and to a new book on faith, love, and mysticism, titled Spiritual Voices.

Special guest Michael Higgins, a professor of Catholic thought at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., said the idea for the book grew out of the concerns of some Christian business people about “a spiritual wasteland” in Toronto.

They pooled their efforts and created the Thomas Merton Centre, an organization “to speak to those in the corporate and business world who didn’t have an opportunity for any kind of spiritual or faith development.”

One of their projects was Spiritual Voices, a book featuring various authors including L’Arche founder Jean Vanier, former head of L’Arche International Sister Sue Mosteller, Governor General of Canada David Johnston, Oblate School of Theology president Father Ronald Rolheiser, Higgins himself, and several religious leaders including two rabbis and one imam. Several arrived in person for the Vancouver book launch.

“The point of the project is a simple one,” said Higgins. “There is a rich array in the spiritual landscape of voices and personalities. We just dropped one little pebble into a large ocean, or mosaic, of meaning.”

Each chapter is accompanied by an illustration of the chapter’s author, including trappist monk and well-known author and poet Thomas Merton. The illustrations were created by Brooke Anderson, a local artist who prior to this project had spent 10 years teaching art in federal prisons.

The eclectic crowd of scotch connoisseurs, artists, philanthropists, and friends of the Jesuits enjoyed live music along with sips of Balvenie’s 17-year-old Doublewood, Glenglassaugh’s Evolution, and Benriach’s Peated Quarter Cask.

“There is no spirituality of scotch, but there is a spirituality of enjoyment,” said Father Rolheiser. “Somebody once said that the greatest compliment you can give to the gift-giver is to enjoy the gift.”

Proceeds of the event were put toward local efforts of the Jesuits. There were three Jesuits in attendance: former provincial superior Father Peter Bisson, pastor of St. Mark’s Parish in Vancouver Father Rob Allore, and young Langley native and Jesuit-in-training Oliver Capko.

“We pray that our time together will help us grow strong in friendship and that we may also grow strong in service,” said Father Allore.

The fundraising event was hosted by City in Focus, St. Mark’s College, and the Archdiocese of Vancouver. It was thought to be the first event of its kind in B.C. when it launched in 2017 and has since been an annual occasion.

Artist Brooke Anderson.
Jesuit-in-training Oliver Capko (left) with supporters.
Father Ronald Rolheiser
Scotch specialist Joel Virginillo