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April 16, 2024 — Here’s the latest news from the Jesuits in Canada and the United States.

New Provincial for the Jesuits of Canada

Fr. Jeffrey S. Burwell, SJ, has been appointed as the next provincial of the Jesuits of Canada. Fr. Burwell will succeed Fr. Erik Oland, SJ, assuming his new responsibilities on July 31, 2024.

Fr. Burwell, 48, is an educational specialist whose doctoral research took him to the Holy Land, where he focused on Catholic schools in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. A lecturer in Catholic studies, first St. Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba and now Campion College at the University of Regina, he balances university work with pastoral service as a chaplain to police (RCMP) and to prisoners. He dedicates his university holidays to ministering in the Dene and Cree Indigenous communities of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Read more.

St. Jean de Brébeuf Relic Tour

A major relic, the skull of St. Jean de Brébeuf, made its way across the U.S. from February 9 through March 6, beginning in Colorado and ending in New York City. Father de Brébeuf, a Jesuit priest who evangelized the native Huron people in modern-day Ontario, was martyred by the Iroquois in 1649.

Fr. Michael Wegenka, SJ, a priest on part of the tour, said there was a “great response” from people who came to see the relic, with some driving more than an hour to pray before it. For his part, the journey deepened his connection with the “missionary spirit” of the Society.

Isaac Beck, the relic “guardian,” helps Fr. Michael Wegenka, SJ, move the reliquary.

“The Jesuits have a long history of being missionaries and traveling long distances together in order to spread the Gospel,” Fr. Wegenka said. “And so this is just one of the more unusual, but consoling, experiences of that kind of missionary spirit.”

Jesuit Honored by the City of Cincinnati

Fr. Al Bischoff, SJ, was honored by the City of Cincinnati on March 6 with a resolution commending his decades of dedication and service to the Xavier University community and for the positive impact he has had on students’ lives for decades. Though Fr. Bischoff could not attend in person, Matthew Zurcher, SJ, gave his account of what the Xavier legend means to the university and the city.

Left: The City of Cincinnati’s resolution; right: Fr. Eric Sundrup, SJ (left) and Fr. Walter Deye, SJ (right), visiting Fr. Bischoff.

“The Society of Jesus has been an integral part of Cincinnati history since 1840. In one form or another, Fr. B has played a role in more than half of that. His legendary career has modeled our Ministries of reconciliation, justice, and consolation all accompanied by a signature wit and charm.”

Fr. Bischoff recently retired from Xavier at age 97, after serving at Xavier University on and off for over 50 years.

Diaconate Ordination in Rome

American Jesuits Pierce Gibson, SJ, and Michael Mohr, SJ, were ordained to the diaconate on April 2 at the Church of the Gesù in Rome, along with 11 other Jesuits. Both are in theology studies at the Pontifical Gregorian University and will be ordained to the priesthood in June.

Jesuit Cardinal Awarded for Commitment to Human Rights

Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ, Prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, received the 2024 Klaus Hemmerle Award in Germany for his dedicated commitment to human dignity and rights.

The award, which is presented every two years by the Focolare Movement, a Catholic lay movement that works toward a more united world, recognizes individuals as bridge builders who promote dialogue among churches, religions and different worldviews.

In his acceptance speech Cardinal Czerny said, “We must shift our attention from profit to prosperity, from economic growth to sustainability and from materiality to human dignity,” and he stressed the importance of “rethinking the concept of progress and of restoring a sense of community,” a path that leads from the “I” to the “we.”

On His 90th Birthday, a Jesuit Retires

Fr. Bill Watters, SJ, celebrated his 90th birthday on March 1, which also marked his final day as founding president of the Loyola School in Baltimore, which does not charge tuition and is one of three schools he has founded.

The Baltimore Sun featured an article on Fr. Watters and his legacy to mark the milestone. “Watters began with a conviction that all children should have the opportunity to reach their God-given potential. He and those he inspires have been fulfilling that promise for kids and families who would otherwise have few options and face long odds.”

Jesuit Interviewed About the Border on EWTN

Fr. Rafael Garcia, SJ, appeared on “EWTN News Nightly” to discuss ministry with migrants at Sacred Heart Parish in El Paso, Texas, where he is pastor, after President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump visited the southern border on the same day in late February.

Fr. Garcia highlighted the human face of migrants to the U.S., the many causes of migration and Catholic social teaching on the right to migrate.

“I think that we as people of faith need to change the narrative. People that we see, any group is going to have problematic people, but these are families, just like our families here in the U.S. These people are trying to survive the threats in other countries. It’s a real crisis,” he said.

Parish Milestones

Jesuit Parish in Sacramento Celebrates 70th Anniversary

The Jesuits’ St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Sacramento marked its 70th anniversary with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Jaime Soto, of the Diocese of Sacramento, on March 8. Bishop Soto was joined by Fr. Tom Lucas, SJ, pastor of St. Ignatius, as well as some of the parish’s former pastors as concelebrants of the Mass.

Bishop Soto (third from left) celebrated the anniversary Mass and was joined by current pastor Fr. Tom Lucas, SJ (far left), as well as several former St. Ignatius Parish pastors.

During the anniversary Mass, Bishop Soto blessed a renovated shrine, designed by Fr. Lucas, of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The shrine’s wall is covered with blue Spanish tiles, and two hand-forged iron candle holders in the form of rose bushes flank a glass mosaic of the Mother of the Americas. Fr. Lucas, a stained glass artist, hand cut and set the mosaic image, comprised of almost 200 pieces of stained glass.

Fr. Lucas said his devotion to the image springs from summers of working with Mexican Franciscan Sisters at the Casa de los Pobres in Tijuana, Mexico. “She promised to enfold us all in her mantle and to be mother of all in need,” he said.

St. Xavier Church in Cincinnati Reopens after Renovation

The Jesuits’ St. Xavier Church in Cincinnati reopened recently after a major renovation that included painting and plastering of the church interior, restoration of the historic stained glass, and renovation of the sacristy. Built in 1861, the structure was rebuilt after being gutted by a fire in 1882.

The parish community raised $4.5 million to paint and plaster, restore stained glass and renovate the sacristy. In 1840, the Society of Jesus was invited to take over what would become Xavier University and St. Xavier High School, and the parish has been under the direction of the Jesuits since 1845.

“The incredible, overwhelming financial support of this project is a testament to the history of this iconic church,” said pastor Fr. Paul Lickteig, SJ. “The beauty here is not just in the restoration of a historic building in downtown Cincinnati, but in the revelation of this vibrant faith community’s ongoing commitment to serve.”

Jesuits Part of Santa Clara University Delegation to the Vatican

A delegation of leaders from Santa Clara University (SCU) and its Jesuit School of Theology (JST) visited Rome from March 17-19 to meet with various senior Vatican leaders and leaders of the Society of Jesus.

The delegation included: SCU President Julie Sullivan; JST Dean Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ; incoming rector of the JST-SCU Jesuit Community Fr. Thomas Smolich, SJ; and rector of the Santa Clara Jesuit Community Fr. Luis Calero, SJ, among others.

The delegation discussed with Vatican leaders topics that included the importance of the ethical and responsible use of AI; how to be a synodal Church in mission; and how SCU can serve as a strategic partner to help meet the needs of the changing face of the church.

The delegation also met with leaders of the Society of Jesus, including Father General Arturo Sosa, SJ, and Mark Ravizza, SJ, assistant to Fr. General for formation.

Jesuits on the Solar Eclipse

On April 8, the day of the solar eclipse, Fr. James Martin, SJ, editor at large of America Media, interviewed Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, director of the Vatican Observatory, and Christopher Graney, Vatican Observatory Adjunct Scholar. They discussed the science and significance of solar and lunar eclipses, their historical impact, and Jesuit connections to eclipses, including the early study of the sun by Jesuit Christoph Scheiner. Click here to watch the interview.

Jesuit Awarded for Pastoral Ministry

Fr. Richard Nichols, SJ, received the Rev. Gerald L. Brown Award for Excellence in Pastoral Ministry Supervision, presented “in thanksgiving for his ministry to the church and the pastoral formation of seminarians, especially in hospital ministry.”

Fr. Nichols received the award for supervising seminarians from the Theological College at the Catholic University of America at Georgetown University Hospital, where he is chaplain. Pictured with him is seminary vice rector, Fr. Chris Arockiaraj, P.S.S. (left), and seminary rector, Fr. Gladstone Stevens, P.S.S. (right).

Final Vows

Fr. Chu Ngo, SJ, pronounced final vows in the Society of Jesus at the Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos in California on February 21. Fr. Ngo is a retreat director at the retreat center.

Fr. Isidro Lépez, SJ, pronounced final vows in the Society of Jesus at St. Aloysius Parish in Toppenish, Washington, on March 15. Fr. Lépez currently serves as parochial vicar at St. Aloysius Parish and St. Mary Parish.

Fr. Lépez (right) with Fr. William Vogel, SJ (left) and Fr. Sean Carroll, SJ


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