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Fr. Bradley M. Schaeffer, SJFr. Bradley M. Schaeffer, SJ, former president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States, passed away on March 28, 2024, in Grand Blanc Township, Michigan, at age 74. May he rest in peace.

Fr. Schaeffer was born on July 21, 1949 in Chicago. Before entering the Society, he graduated from Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago (1967). He entered the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus in 1967, was ordained a priest in 1977 and pronounced final vows in 1984.

While in the Society, Fr. Schaeffer earned bachelors’ degrees in English and theology from the University of Detroit (1972), a master’s of education in counseling psychology from Boston College (1973), and a master’s of divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago (1979).

While he was in undergraduate studies, Fr. Schaeffer taught theology at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School (1971-1972). During regency, he taught English and was a student counselor at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago (1973-1975). After ordination and a year of pastoral service at Ascension Church in Oak Park, Illinois, Fr. Schaeffer returned to high school work where he found great joy working with students, parents, faculty, and staff. He first ministered at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati where he was: the academic assistant principal, a student counselor, and a teacher of English and theology (1978-1984). Fr. Schaeffer then returned to Chicago where he was principal of his alma mater, Saint Ignatius College Prep (1984-1989).

In 1989, Fr. Schaeffer’s ministerial energies were refocused to internal governance of the Society of Jesus where he remained for the rest of his life. He was assigned to the Chicago Province office where he was the provincial assistant for social ministry (1989-1990), pastoral ministries (1989-1991), and secondary education (1989-1991). In 1991, Father General appointed Brad the provincial of the Chicago Province (1991-1997).

While he was provincial, Fr. Schaeffer asked some Jesuits to help him “read the signs of the times” and investigate ministerial possibilities with Latinos in the Pilsen area of Chicago. These Jesuits reported that Latinos were asking for more access to the sacraments and to better education opportunities. To this end, the Chicago Province was able to take responsibility of St. Procopius Parish (in Pilsen) whose parishioners were primarily Spanish speaking. Fr. Schaeffer had a desire to bring aspects of the educational model used in Fe y Alegría schools in Perú to Chicago. This led to Fr. Schaeffer’s vision and founding of the first Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago (1996). Today, almost 40 schools across the USA use the “Cristo Rey” school model that he helped to create.

After a sabbatical, Fr. Schaeffer became the president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States(1998-2006) where he helped coordinate collaboration between the Jesuit provinces in the U.S. He then was missioned to be the rector of the Jesuit Community at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (2006-2012). During his time as rector, Fr. Schaeffer helped in the design of, building of, and move to the new Jesuit theologate residence in Brighton, Massachusetts.

In 2013, Fr. Schaeffer returned to the province office where he was the provincial assistant for senior Jesuits for the Chicago-Detroit Province (2013-2017), the Wisconsin Province (2013-2017), and the USA Midwest Province (2017-2021). In 2021, he was missioned to be the superior of the Colombiere Jesuit Community.

Fr. Schaeffer was a devoted priest and Jesuit who drew his strength from the Eucharist. His dedication to his prayer and God were clear.  Through homilies, conversations, and deeds, Fr. Schaeffer helped others encounter God’s love for them. He was caring, thoughtful, and a great supporter — some would say “cheerleader” — for everyone he engaged with: Jesuits, colleagues, students, families and friends.

Father Timothy Kesicki, SJ, Fr. Schaeffer’s former provincial, had this to say about him:

“As a Jesuit novice and scholastic, Brad Schaeffer was the kind of Jesuit that I wanted to become. It seemed that there was someone in every city who wanted to be remembered to him, an individual or family whose life was changed for the better by him. His love of the global Society and willingness to travel at a moment’s notice will be missed. I loved Brad Schaeffer whose life and legacy will live on in our hearts.”

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