Well, we asked readers to submit their memories of Jesuits —retreat directors, pastors, teachers—who have had an effect on their lives, and we've received over 200 responses at the latest counting. The stories that came in were touching and funny, some were sad, and others joyous. One respondent wrote in a preface to his submission that he realized that he had previously shared his story with only one other person. We're able to offer only a small percentage of submissions on these pages, but we will be printing more in our Summer issue.
We hope you enjoy all the submissions!
Most memorable Jesuit? Tough question, but what about the late Virgil Blum? Through an exacting study of constitutional case law in his civil liberties classes, he opened a generation of Marquette students' eyes to the rightful place of Catholics in American society. A prophet in his own time, to be sure, and a teacher for the ages.
William R. Burleigh
Chairman, W.A. Scripps
Marquette University '57
Having entered the Society of Jesus at age 16 in 1929, Frederic G. Middendorf, my late uncle, was a Jesuit for more than 70 years! He was the most memorable Jesuit I have ever known. Uncle Fred, the eldest of seven, was the patriarch of a large family. Twice a year, in the fall and spring, he celebrated Mass with his siblings and their families in memory of their parents in the chapel at St. Xavier High in Cincinnati, where he taught biology. After Mass, we all went down to the biology lab to have lunch. Surrounded by fish tanks, bones, mice, and even a boa constrictor, we ate our ham sandwiches and enjoyed each other's company. Sometimes the young children, including myself, would go into the gym to play, swing on the ropes, or walk the halls of the high school. What a great place for a kid to explore!
He was there for my sacraments too, including First Communion. Weeks before that big day, he asked me what I wanted as a gift from him. Knowing that he raised chicks from eggs in his biology classes, I told him that I wanted baby chicks. He gave me the gift that I wanted—two baby chicks—a special delight for a second grader!
I was teaching psychology at the University of Southern California in 1985 when I asked my students to invite knowledgeable religious representatives to an open forum on nonbehavioral explanations for human behavior.
One student invited Fr. Joseph Fice. By the end of the forum, all the students and the faith representatives were directing their questions to soft-spoken, humorous, intelligent, emotionally and spiritually healthy Joe Fice. I immediately asked for a meeting with him. Having abandoned God fifteen years earlier, I was a very broken individual. Joe handed me a few books that spun my head around.
He then proceeded to alter the course of my life. I had never met anyone like him. He had time for me and never judged me. He let me the one to bring up God and responded to my questions with questions. We had two years of talking while traipsing the streets of Los Angeles before we both shipped out, he to Arizona, I back to Philadelphia. Since then I have received a certification in Ignatian spiritual direction from the Jesuit Center at Wernersville, Pennsylvania. I am now like Joe. I love because I have been loved unconditionally. There are no words of gratitude adequate.
Patricia Sisca Pace, PhD
In 1987 I returned from my missionary work in Ghana, West Africa, after suffering from malaria. It was my hope to be able to spend the rest of my life in Africa. But when I was told I could not return, I decided to make a 30-day retreat at Bellarmine Hall in Barrington, Illinois.
Fr. Ray Fussner was my retreat director for this retreat and my successive yearly retreats until he died. He was the most gentle, loving retreat director I have ever been with. He had a lively, almost visceral awareness of the presence of Christ in the everyday experiences of life. He helped me reorient my life toward ministry in the United States. The experience of my retreats with him are very important to me in my spiritual journey. Many thanks to Fr. Ray and to Bellarmine Hall.
Br. Raymond Papenfuss, CSC
Holy Cross Village
Notre Dame, Indiana
The most memorable Jesuit in my life is definitely Br. Bruno Karpinski, currently retired at Colombiere Center in Michigan. Brother Bruno, as I have always known and loved him, is my uncle, who spent the majority of his Jesuit years in India. I remember as I was growing up the family's anticipation of the next letter from Bruno as the years went by. In fact, he was away from his family with nary a visit for about 25 years; none of his nephews or nieces had ever met him.
Time seemed to stand still the year that we learned Bruno was coming home for a visit, but the day finally came when he made it back to Erie, Pennsylvania, for a fabulous family reunion. His stories and pictures of Patna were quite eye-opening as it was hard to believe he had lived in such squalor. The visit was shorter than we all wanted, for he was being assigned to Nepal upon his return to India. He would occasionally return to Erie in subsequent years filled with stories of his newfound love, Nepal.
The years and our dear Lord have been good to Brother Bruno.
Fr. John Beall, SJ, was assistant principal—read school disciplinarian—during my years at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois, in the early sixties. The task for students was to stay clear of him as much as possible. But at the beginning of my junior year, he actually approached me and said that he'd noticed I was taking Greek that semester and wondered how I was doing. I told him that I was coming to enjoy it.
My senior year English class was taught by a scholastic. He told us that all students should experience jug, detention, at least once. I had somehow managed to avoid it all those years until the day he said, "Mann! Report for jug after classes. There's a spitball on the floor and it's closest to your desk."
When I showed up at jug, Fr. Beall asked me what I was doing there. I gave him the story and joined the others. A few minutes later, Fr. Beall told us, "Each of you is to write down the Greek alphabet on a sheet of paper. Not one word with each other. You'll stay here until you have it finished."
He left. It took me 30 seconds to write down the Greek alphabet and start to circulate it among my fellow detainees. Ten minutes later, when we told him we were done, he told us we could go and that he didn't want to see any of us back in jug.
He made eye contact with me as I was leaving, then gave me a wink. A delightful memory of a wonderful Jesuit I'll always have.
Loyola Academy '63
My most memorable Jesuit was my freshman high school Latin teacher Fr. William Nuttall. We both came to St. Joseph's Prep in Philadelphia on the same day in September 1947. It was a cold fall and snowy winter. Fr. Nuttall was recently separated from the navy. We began each day, regardless of the weather, by opening all the windows to "clean the air"—blowing away the odor of the students' brown-bag lunches of bologna, salami, and tuna sandwiches that permeated the room. We and the brown bags froze, but we had good air.
Fr. Nuttall was a good teacher and became a good friend. I think about him often: all good memories.
St. Joseph's Prep '51
I learned chemistry from Fr. Jim Lotze, a scholastic in 1959 at the University of Detroit High School. We were all taken with his zeal and enthusiasm for chemistry, but he assured us that "If you like this class, wait until you see biology" (his true love). Most of us were taking advanced math, which started the hour before regular high school classes, so although we didn't need biology (physics was the required class) we had a free period coming up our senior year. About 85 percent of us gave up our free period to take biology with Mr. Lotze. We were not disappointed. If you look at the alumni listings for the classes of '60 to '62, when Mr. Lotze was teaching, you'll notice an extremely high number of MD's after names.
I took aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan and didn't make it back to the state of Michigan until 1979. I checked in at University of Detroit High and learned that Fr. Lotze was teaching biology at St. John's in Toledo. I called St. John's and found he had an early afternoon class. I got there ten minutes before class after morning business in Toledo. I was standing by the door when Fr. Lotze came up the steps, looked over at me, and said, "Paul Trame! What are you doing here?" He invited me to the class and was very pleased that I could answer the two or three questions he threw my way. Of course I could. I'd had him as a teacher.
University of Detroit Jesuit High School '61
The Jesuits' Cranwell School sat atop one of the Berkshire Hills in Massachusetts, with endless views from every vantage point. Of course, I was a teen-aged boy and was oblivious to such. The exception being when I was serving jug and was raking leaves from every tree on every hill.
The man in charge was our prefect of discipline, Fr. Hubert Cunniff. He amazed me as he was everywhere, all of the time, rain, snow, sleet, or sun. When he took out "the book," hearts dropped, invisibility was sought, and fast prayers were said. He had eyes everywhere. Now I realize that those eyes were kindly and were on the lookout for our well-being. Admittedly, a hard sell at the time! At one of the last reunions, he sat in Cranwell Hall, with a long line of "boys" waiting to tell him that they'd grown up a bit and ask why couldn't life be as uncomplicated as it was when we wore blazers and flannels with a crease.
When my turn came, I asked if he had any regrets. He said, "I was never able to tell you boys just how much I loved you. It just wouldn't have worked with the job I was given. But now I can."
Fr. Cunniff lived well into his nineties. At his funeral I passed his casket and said, "You were loved too, Father."
The Cranwell School, Lenox, Massachusetts '66
John Carroll University '70
I attended Loyola High School in Towson, Maryland, from 1946 to 1950 and remember the sea of black cassocks and white collars in the hallways, in the classrooms, and all over campus.
In my senior year, I began dating a wonderful, lovely girl, but my grades began to fall. One day, Fr. Lee Bradley told me he wanted to see me after last period. He came into the classroom. His first words were, "OK. What's her name?" I was quite surprised at his brilliant deduction. Fr. Bradley, who was my confessor, became my counselor until I graduated. And that lovely girl later became my wife.
A Mexican Jesuit, Fr. Ignacio Jimenez, who lived at St. Mary's Jesuit Community in Kansas City, is the most memorable Jesuit in my life. When he would come to my Anglo parish, Sacred Heart in Kansas City, on weekends in the 1940s to visit and offer Mass in Spanish for the Mexicans such as my parents, I would guide him to the Spanish-speaking homes.
I invited him to my graduation from high school in 1942. He got me a scholarship at the Sisters of Charity's University of St. Mary in Leavenworth, Kansas. I graduated in 1949 and by this time discovered that I had a vocation. He guided me to the Sisters of the Company of Mary in Arizona.
I celebrated my golden jubilee in 2003 and pray for Fr. Jimenez, the most zealous and memorable Jesuit in my life.
Sister Eloise Rodriguez, ODN
My mom worked for the Jesuits in St. Louis, and my earliest memory of Jesuits involves Frs. Jerry Borer and Tom Curry, my parents' closest friends, giving me my first Holy Communion in my back yard while I was all dressed up in the family Holy Communion gown. Things were a bit more liberal in the '60s! They were so good to my family through the years. When my dad died very unexpectedly at age 39, leaving my mom with five kids under age 18, Fr. Curry gave my mom a job at a retreat house and truly helped our family survive. Fr. Jerry still sends me letters, and all my siblings love our memories of him bringing us huge bags of M&Ms.
I got to know Ray Balduf, SJ, while I was a 22-year-old volunteer at Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit infirmary in New York. We only knew each other for about a year before he passed away at age 87, but in that year we became great friends. Fr. Balduf and I would sit and talk for hours. Our conversations covered the spectrum; often we would talk about nothing at all, and other times our conversation would be very meaningful. He taught me about the Society in which he grew up and about life in Buffalo during the Great Depression. He even tried to teach me some Latin, which never did catch.
But the most important thing he taught me was that a true friendship, one rooted in God, can transcend any difference—even 65 years of age. He would often end our conversations by saying "It's a good life, kid. Just believe in yourself."
Somehow Fr. Balduf made that a little easier.
Le Moyne College '06
For too little of a time Fairfield University women's basketball team was blessed with the presence of a wonderful man, Fr. Gregg Grovenburg, our chaplain. He joined us at practices, accompanied us on our road trips, and visited with the players on numerous occasions. He showed us we could find God in many places—in hotel rooms, where he would often say Mass, in locker rooms during a prayer before we took the court, on bus trips in quiet conversation to and from games.
It was not uncommon for Fr. Gregg to take to the road with us after a busy day on campus and get to our locker room before game time. Our team is not solely Roman Catholic and their introduction to Jesuit education came from him. Our alumni will always ask how Fr. Gregg is and tell me they miss him. He's now in St. Louis, serving in the Jesuit infirmary, but his presence is felt daily as we read his team reflections that hang in our locker room. He is my, and I venture to say all my players', most memorable Jesuit.
Head Women's Basketball Coach
My most memorable Jesuit was Fr. John Barrett. We met while my husband was posted to our American Embassy in New Delhi in 1972. He was a very tall Irish Jesuit missionary in that beautiful country; his smile, hearty laugh, easygoing attitude, and deep spirituality touched so many of us. He loved hot dogs on the grill.
This Jesuit never lost his sense of humor, even when in his early years in India a plane he was piloting crashed. He told the story that he prepared to die as they were crashing and woke up to the shocking realization that he was still here.
I have the greatest respect for the Jesuits, but the Lord blessed me with the friendship of one very special missionary—Fr. Barrett. Daily, as I attempt to grow in my spiritual life, he is with me.
Martinsburg, West Virginia
Fr. Leo Pollard, of Fairfield Prep and Boston College High, was my sophomore homeroom and Latin teacher at the Prep in 1949-50 and, thereafter, an important friend.
Fr. Pollard "married" Diane and me and baptized our son, Edward Leo, his namesake. Years later, Fr. Pollard rejoiced with us in the priesthood of another son, Paul. Their concelebrated Mass left me unable to look anyone in the eye. Fr. Pollard later confided in Diane that he reckoned Paul's vocation the realization of the one he had hoped for me.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
I grew up in a neighborhood close to St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago. A few of my pals and I would sneak into the gym to watch basketball practice. Usually we were shooed away by one of the priests, so one day, when a priest walked in, my cohorts scattered, but I hadn't seen him. I turned and there was a priest walking toward me. He said, "Hold out your hand." I heard that some teachers at Ignatius whacked students, so I was apprehensive, but I held out my hand. The priest reached into his pocket and withdrew a handful of jellybeans and plopped them into my hand. This was my first meeting with Fr. John Esmaker.
I would go to the quadrangle, an area between Holy Family Church and the school, for quiet time. One afternoon, Fr. Esmaker came. He called me over and we began to chat, mostly about nature and science.
Fr. Esmaker's friendliness encouraged me to apply to Ignatius, which was quite a feat as I came from an inner-city public school. By some good luck I was admitted. After that, we met to talk. His physics classes were good; he'd season them with some of his axioms: "All runs must be earned runs. No bases on balls in this life, Buddy."
He died in '64 and was waked in the school's foyer. When I went to pay my respects I became more than ever aware of his influence on my life. He was a great role model.
Funny thing, what a handful of jellybeans can bring about.
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Years ago, when I was an eighth grader, my dad passed away unexpectedly. He was an alumnus of Boston College High, where my older brother was going. I'd been accepted there, but my mother decided there wasn't enough money to pay tuition for me. She had to tell the school that I wouldn't be attending. I was very disappointed, but I understood the situation.
Fr. Joe Shea, then president of B.C. High, came by to express his condolences and to see how our family was doing. After some discussion with my mother, Fr. Shea came up to me privately and asked, "Jim, where do you really want to go to high school?" I told him B.C. High but that I understood it wasn't possible. Fr. Shea looked at me for a minute and then said, "Well, you're going. Money won't be a problem."
I attended and graduated from B.C. High tuition-free. The education and experiences there changed my life, lifted my goals, and ultimately became the framework for my personal and professional success—all made possible because of Fr. Joe Shea.
San Jose, California
Boston College High '72
Fr. Harold Gaudin, SJ, was president of St. John's High in Shreveport, Louisiana, in the late '40s. He extended scholarships to my brother, Joe, and me. He arranged a part-time job on weekends in the faculty residence hall for me and arranged four-year scholarships for both of us at Loyola University New Orleans. Joe graduated with a BS in accounting and I graduated with a DDS in June 1955. Fr. Gaudin was the most memorable Jesuit in my life.
Fr. James Mertz used to come once a month from Loyola University Chicago to St. Timothy's to offer Mass and talk about Madonna della Strada chapel on Loyola's campus, which I later found out was his life's magnum opus. I served Mass for him. He always had good, friendly words for us in the sacristy.
I "heard" him again while the student body at Loyola Academy was marching out of his chapel one day in 1943. Suddenly we were halted in our steps when we heard a voice that sounded like the wrath of God thunder, "Better that boy stop a bullet in the battlefield than have carved his initials in my pew." I can still hear his awful anger.
At two in the afternoon, our principal, Fr. Walker, announced that Fr. Mertz didn't say those words. The heck he didn't! Fr. Mertz also taught the religion class at Loyola University in 1947 that formed my religious life.
Bert Hoffman, Jr.
Ask anyone in the Seattle University Honors Program in the early '60s about his or her most memorable Jesuit and you would get one answer: Fr. Thomas O'Brien, its founder and director.
I was a naive freshman, coming out of a girls' high school. After two days in Fr. O'Brien's literature class, I was certain that I was in the wrong program. He would ask questions like "What is a sign?" and "What is a symbol?" and would tell us that we must answer in 25 words or less—no accursed secondary sources—and defend our answer.
I didn't understand the questions, didn't know where to find the answers, and was certain that none of my classmates suffered from this problem. Even the books he assigned, e.g., the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita, were so confusing to me I thought I would never survive the first quarter. So I went to the dean and said that I wanted to quit. He said try it a little longer. I did and went on to finish the two-year program despite the trauma of Fr. O'Brien making me participate in the comprehensive oral exams.
The pressures of the program welded the eighteen of us into a tight-knit group. Even after 40 years, fifteen of us returned to Seattle University to celebrate those two years of learning.
Falls Church, Virginia
Seattle University '63
It was 1945. The war with Japan was coming to an end. I was in my senior year at Brooklyn Prep. A new teacher came in—Fr. Ambrose McManus. The story was that he had been held prisoner by the Japanese and had only recently been released.
Being the wise guys that we were, we soon took advantage of his timidity and created uproars in his classes. It reached a point where class was completely out of control, with the poor man not knowing what to do.
The culmination came during one class when all the students started making sounds that mimicked Japanese planes while throwing scraps of paper in the air, simulating exploding bombs, with accompanying sounds and noises and uproarious laughter. We subsided and waited to see what his reaction would be.
He stood still—and then bent over and started to pick up all of the scraps of paper. The class was shocked and ashamed at what they had done to this poor man. The class was always orderly after that incident.
Cranford, New Jersey
Brooklyn Prep '46
In 1959, I attended a conference in Japan as part of my work in India as a Daughter of the Heart of Mary (DHM). Our superior general had been asked by Jesuits at Sophia University in Tokyo for DHMs to establish a hostel for women students at Sophia. I went to meet Fr. Pedro Arrupe, provincial of the Jesuits in Japan, about this matter.
In my meetings with Fr. Arrupe, I found myself distracted by his facial appearance and sharp features. He probably was studying me, too. He made a plea for us to consider his request for a hostel and he outlined the plans for its use by women students.
I was so impressed with him because of his holy demeanor and his awareness of the university's need for facilities for women students. We had several talks about the matter, and I wrote it all up for our superior general. Two years later, a group of DHMs was formed in Tokyo to take on this work, and today there are several DHM works in Japan, including a large hostel in Tokyo.
The most memorable Mass I have attended was on the side of Mt. Rainier when camping with a few fellow Seattle Prep classmates. The makeshift altar consisted of a rock outcropping, and flowing near our feet was the clearest, coldest water from a stream. Above us sat a glorious blue sky and the surrounding mountains were topped with snow. Our trip leader was Fr. John Koehler, who taught us what it was to work hard, play hard, and pray hard.
Ray Sylvester Houston
It was among the secular groves of Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia where I encountered the most memorable Jesuit in my life. Fr. Joseph Brown was a professor of English and religious studies whose transmission of knowledge about African-American culture went well beyond the academic. Attending his classes was like having a ticket for the theater. After one class with Fr. Brown, my dissertation topic changed from a white British poet to six African-American women writers.
But his influence didn't just change the course of my academic study; it changed my life. By his instruction and example I came to discern how I should expend my moral energies, the necessity for honoring ancestors, and the reciprocal relationship between the beautiful and the holy.
Of all the African-American music he introduced to me, one lyric best describes Fr. Brown's influence: "God may not come when you want him, but he's right on time."
Kimberly Rae Connor, PhD
Assistant Professor, American Studies
University of San Francisco
I went into the land of snow and ice and into the land of the Jesuits in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1948 as a new Catholic. My first encounter with a Jesuit was with our pastor, Fr. Edmond Anable. He was not especially my favorite Jesuit, but he was one of the most memorable. He married us in 1950 after giving my poor soon-to-be husband a very hard time because he wasn't going to church and informing me of all the misgivings of marrying bush pilots. My husband offered his wonderful tenor voice to the church choir there for many years. We have been married now for 58 years, with seven beautiful children all grown and prosperous.
That Jesuit standing before my high school senior class in 1956 became an influential and significant person in my life. After Fr. John Gubbins spoke of Gonzaga University, I was hooked! My mother wasn't thrilled with me attending college so far from home, but with my dad's and Fr. Gubbins's intervention, I registered at Gonzaga in education, foregoing music scholarships at other Northwest colleges. Fr. Gubbins officiated at my wedding. He arrived in Gig Harbor, helped calm my parents', my, and my fianc�e's pre-wedding jitters and joined in the festivities.
When we lived in Spokane, Fr. Gubbins was a frequent dinner guest. When our first son arrived, we named him John Francis, in honor of grandpa John and Fr. Gubbins. John was baptized in Jesuit House Chapel on campus.
He baptized our second son, Thomas, in Tacoma (above), and later came to Gig Harbor to see our third child, Annette Marie, and bless our new house. His visits were less frequent as they were scheduled as time and his duties permitted, but his spirit was woven into the fabric of our lives.
Following the death of my dad, Fr. G.'s letter of hope, compassion, and sensitivity helped me cope with the loss. It was gratifying to know how much he thought of my dad and our family. We visited Spokane shortly after and the children were able to see the college we attended and where Father lived when he wasn't traveling!
When Fr. Gubbins passed away five years later, he left a void in my life, which is only alleviated by memories and prayers to and for him.
Jayne Stanich Dempsey
Gig Harbor, Washington
Gonzaga University '60