My name is Urban Gartner. I am from Rudno in the Selška Valley. I attended the Škofijska klasična gimnazija high school in Ljubljana. Then I continued my chemical engineering studies at the Faculty of Chemistry and Chemical Technology at the University of Ljubljana, which I also completed. As a child, my faith meant a lot to me, but my relationship with God started to deepen during my student years, especially with the help of the MFC Singles community. A personal crisis andthe search for my life path led me to the Jesuits at St. Joseph’s. After graduation, I spent a year at the Jesuit College in Ljubljana, where I attended the meetings of the Discerners group.
My Jesuit journey began in 2018 in Genoa, Italy, in the Jesuit novitiate, where our Province sends its novices. Currently, two Slovenes are there. It was a beautiful period, full of challenges, difficulties and surprises. You can read more about the novitiate on our website or in English on Jesuits global.
The most important thing I gained from this period is the experience of the Lord and people who accepted me as best as they could for who I am and encouraged me to be the best version of myself. It was also important that I felt His invitation to make my first vows and continue with the experience because there were also doubts.
It is important to experience situations where we have to help others.
In the autumn of 2020, I entered the Philosophate: a community of young Jesuits at the same stage of their Jesuit life who live and study philosophy together under the guidance of other Jesuits that accompany them. I was in Rome for two years with other young men from nine different countries.
Philosophate gave me a taste and way of thinking present in philosophy and an expanded view of the human process of perceiving the world. In addition, this period confronted me with my inner self and some weaknesses I worked on. During this time, I have learned to accept myself and use my talents without worrying about what others think or always being perfect. I also got to know the Scouts and people from all over the world at the Pontifical Gregorian University, which enriched me further.
One of the burning questions I asked myself was how to communicate religious content to non-believers – as it can only give them the chills. One of the best ways I found is that I have tried to be their friend and an example as much as possible.
It’s the first time that I work in a ministry of service… It is a great joy.
Afterwards, I returned home to Slovenia to (more or less) local people. I came to the Community of St. Joseph in Ljubljana. Here, I live among experienced and senior Jesuits. I work at the Jesuit College as the director of the Bernik Student Residence, I contribute to the College’s podcast, Tangenta, I am the spiritual assistant to the Living Stones group, and I am also involved in the English Mass in Ljubljana (EML). I’ve only been here for four months, yet a lot has happened.
It’s the first time that I work in a ministry of service with a Jesuit, Fr Damjan Ristić, the Rector of the Jesuit College. It is a great joy. We share the College project and discuss its challenges, plans and joys. By working here, I have discovered teamwork is not as easy as I first thought, and I still have to work on it. Someone might quickly forget to do something, or they can do something on their own without the team’s approval. I learn that it is necessary to cultivate both relationships and cooperation.
It is also interesting to be with students. I spent many years at the Vincentian dormitory (Vincencijev dom), and for a year, I was also a student-resident of the Jesuit college. It is fun to switch roles and sometimes even ironic because now I understand the challenges of being the principal of a Catholic student house. Nevertheless, I do not have to take as much responsibility as other principals because I have the support of the Rector and other colleagues, but it is still my responsibility.
It is very nice to see the creativity and hard work of the students, which I have experienced very strongly on St Nicholas Day, Volunteering Day and at the welcome event of new students. It is also pleasant to spend time with them over coffee and chat.
It is important to experience situations where we have to help others. It is a big part of the “training” as it gives us the desire, creativity and opportunity to build relationships. At the same time, it confronts us with our weaknesses and shortcomings, which we need to accept and work on.
As I get to know the students personally, I also become more aware of their needs and the world we all live in. Facing challenges is a complex task for individuals, and facing them with people you also care for brings us a desire and motivation to build on it. At this stage, it is an opportunity for me to learn and evolve as a human being, and I am grateful for it and the people I have been given. And I am also grateful to God for calling me to this path, this place and this time.