Where Have All the Jesuits Gone?

The history of Gesu is intimately tied to the history of Jesuits, especially those serving over the years at the parish and Marquette University. After the founding of the parish (1894), the Jesuits lived in Johnston Hall, immediately to the east of Gesu, roughly from 1907-1973. Previously, they lived at the initial site of Marquette College at 10th and State Streets.

In 1907, there were approximately thirty-five members of the community, most of whom served the university which, at that time, was nearly identical to the community. The rector of the community was president of the university. (The community and university were separately incorporated in 1970.)

In those days, the priests of the Johnston Hall community typically celebrated mass daily. Most of them celebrated mass at Gesu, whether they were assigned to the parish or not. The side altars in the lower church, some still evident today, provided the necessary space. And many masses occurred during the same hour of day throughout the lower church.

The Jesuits moved from Johnston Hall to then Heraty Hall, located at 1404 W. Wisconsin Ave, in 1973. The next year, nearly ninety Jesuits were members of the community. In 1976, the current Pastoral Center at Gesu became an independent Jesuit community, i.e. one with its own religious superior and minister.

Approximately, ten or so Jesuits lived at Gesu, all of whom served the parish. With so many priests serving at Gesu, mass and confession times remained numerous, though not as many as Johnston Hall days. The Gesu Jesuit Community was dissolved or suspended as an independent community in 2011.

Today, there are two priests assigned to Gesu, Fr. Matt and me. Mass and confession times have gradually been reduced to meet this number of priests. But these times and this number is typical for any parish the size of Gesu. In fact, our daily and weekend mass and confession times are more than most parishes in the archdiocese.

We are fortunate to have a few Jesuit priests who help at our daily and weekend masses. Typically, they serve when either Fr. Matt or I cannot be present. Most Jesuits who live on campus are assigned to ministries other than Gesu, e.g. Marquette University, Marquette High School, among other places.

Many of these men assist with sacramental ministries at their assigned works or institutions, including those who assist with the 6 pm mass at Gesu, now staffed by the parish and Campus Ministry. Some of these Jesuits have commitments to their institutions on weekends. A few are retired from teaching, but still pursue scholarly activities. Some assist at other parishes, e.g. our parish on the near south side, St. Patrick and Trinity-Guadalupe.

So, when one asks, where are the university Jesuits, i.e. to assist at Gesu? the answer is that most are working full-time elsewhere. Or, they have other weekend commitments. Moreover, Gesu is sufficiently staffed with the priests it regularly needs, given, of course, its current size.

One final statistic: the former Jesuit residence at 1404 W. Wisconsin had over sixty members in 2005. The current E.J. O'Brien Jesuit Community, located at 1345 W. Wells St., has thirty.

-Fr. Jim

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