Fr. Karl Kiser, SJ, to succeed V. Rev. Brian Paulson, SJ, as provincial of the Midwest Jesuits
Though he had been a Jesuit in the Chicago area for nearly 40 years and is a native of the suburb of Waukegan, Illinois, for the V. Rev. Brian Paulson, SJ, serving as provincial of the Midwest Jesuits was uncharted territory. The Midwest Province had only just been created in 2017 by combining the former Wisconsin and Chicago-Detroit Provinces. As its first provincial, Fr. Paulson was tasked with not only leading but also with unifying the men and works of the former provinces, which are spread across 12 states. Reflecting on this mission, Fr. Paulson says, “I am pleased with the sense of mutual trust and support Jesuits in the Midwest have across the territory regardless of the original province in which they entered.”
Father Paulson notes that Jesuits from the former Wisconsin Province, comprising the north and west sides of the new province, are now making a big, positive difference in cities on the eastern side of the province; he provides examples such as Jesuit Frs. Nathan Wendt, Paul Lickteig, and Tom Manahan, all working in Cincinnati. On the other side of the province, on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, Jesuits Fr. Joe Daoust and Br. Mike Baranek, both originally from the former Chicago-Detroit Province, make their own meaningful contributions in ministry.
As Fr. Paulson comes to the end of his term as provincial, his leadership will span an even larger area, as he is to succeed Midwest Jesuit Fr. Tim Kesicki as president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. The end of Fr. Paulson’s time as provincial is bittersweet, as he is excited to take on new responsibilities: “I will certainly miss the work and people here, but as provincial, I have taken great consolation in the times when I have been able to be part of successful international, interprovincial cooperation, and I know that will continue on the Conference-president level. I look forward to getting involved in conversations about sharing men and resources.”
Father Paulson is guided by his faith and Ignatian principles in his leadership, as he says, “Ignatian governance is supposed to be rooted in the manifestation of conscience.”
Incoming provincial Fr. Karl Kiser, SJ, joins the province office from Cleveland, where he has served as pastor of Gesu Parish. Prior to his service as a pastor, Fr. Kiser was president at University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy for 14 years. There, Fr. Kiser developed his own leadership style, one that is deeply rooted in his faith: “I like inspiring people around a vision, and I like finding new ways of serving and thinking.” Coming from a pastoral role, Fr. Kiser is prepared to incorporate the Gospel into his vision. “It’s very important to me that first and foremost, we’re centered around the Gospel, and we’re aiming to spread and preach the Gospel,” he says.
Father Kiser’s goals for the province stem from this, as he notes that the primary job of the provincial is to care for the Jesuits in the province through cura personalis—care of the whole person. Regarding specific goals, Fr. Kiser says, “I think that Jesuits, Ignatian spirituality, and the Jesuit vocation have particularly deep and powerful gifts, gifts that are deep and powerful in a way that the world needs today.” As we go forward, Fr. Kiser says, “My number one goal would be to ask, ‘How do we leverage our talents and our institutions to meet the needs of a Church that’s struggling today?