History of the Jesuit Community, part 2

Courtesy of Fr. Francis Paul Prucha, S.J.

The end of World War II marked a new period of development of the university, for the school began to expand rapidly and to enhance its university character. In 1945 the community counted 48 priests, 12 scholastics, and 2 brothers, but 14 of the priests and all of the scholastics (while still living at 12th and Wisconsin) taught each day at Marquette University Jesuit High School, which had been built west on Wisconsin Avenue in 1925, replacing the old Academy on State Street. Not until the early '50s was a residence built for the Jesuits of the high school, and then they formed a new community separate and distinct from the mother community in Johnston Hall, where the traditional work of a university community continued.

Then, in 1970, the old arrangements between the Jesuit Community and the university were radically changed. At that time the single legal and canonical entity was split to form two distinct organizations. One of them was Marquette University, with its Jesuit president and a board of trustees who were responsible for the university. A majority of the trustees were lay persons, to who were added a smaller group of Jesuits from outside the Community. The other was the Marquette Jesuit Community, with its own rector and separate legal and canonical status. Its legal title, as it was incorporated under the laws of the state of Wisconsin, was Marquette Jesuit Associates, Inc.

This act of "separate incorporation" began a new era for the Community. The university continued to operate as it had before the split--with a large number of lay persons in teaching and in administrative positions. But the Community now received the salaries, comparable to those of the lay faculty, paid to individual Jesuits. Jesuits teach at the university at the time were tenured at their present rank, but new Jesuit faculty had to follow the university's regular processes for hiring and for gaining tenure. This meant that the Jesuit provincial superior no longer could arbitrarily assign Jesuits to teach at Marquette (although his permission to the individual Jesuit was still needed), and he and the Community's rector no longer had any authority within the university. This momentous change, fortunately, went smoothly enough, based as it was on a legal contract of rights and responsibilities and division of property drawn up and signed by the university president, the rector of the Community, and the provincial superior (who is the superior of all the Jesuits in the Wisconsin Province in which the Community and the university are located). The contract provided that the president of the university, although now chosen by the trustees rather than assigned by the provincial, had to be a Jesuit, and theology classes and a campus ministry were guaranteed. Henceforth, the Jesuits did not "own" or "control" the university, nor did they any longer from a "living endowment," thought the contract specified that the Community would donate its financial surplus to the university. The Jesuits' influence came now from the "presence" on campus of a few dedicated Jesuit teachers, administrators, and ministers; the authority of the Jesuit president in running the institution' and the pervasive Jesuit legacy of the school, which was an important factor in attracting students.

A symbolic as well as practical change, pressured by the large numbers of Jesuits, led to the move, in 1973, of the Community from its longtime home in Johnston Hall to a new Jesuit Residence at 1404 West Wisconsin Avenue, in the heart of the campus across from the Memorial Library. The pastors at Gesu, however, elected to remain in Johnston Hall, close to the church.

The venerable and highly visible building that the Jesuits acquired had been erected about the time of World War I as the Stratford Arms Hotel, a home for residential as well as transient patrons, with a restaurant and a popular bar. It had been used by naval enlistees during World War II and then continued its hotel existence until it was purchased by the university about 1960 for use as a women's residence hall (called Heraty Hall).

Heraty Hall had been partly renovated by the university for use of its students, and the Jesuit Community continued the renovation process. The Jesuits, for the most part, were pleased with the new quarters, which furnished unheard-of luxuries as private baths, private telephones, air conditioning, wall-to-wall carpeting, and laundry facilities. At the time of the move there were about ninety rooms available for Jesuit living quarters on the second, third, and fourth floors, while the first floor furnished space for a dining room and kitchen, a recreation room, a chapel, and offices and parlors. In the basement were storage spaces, maintenance shops, a snack room, TV rooms, an exercise room and a library. After the Alumni Memorial Union was built in 1990, the area between the Union and the Jesuit Residence was developed into a pleasant garden.

In 1974, the first year after the move, the Marquette Jesuit Community had 88 priests and 2 brothers listed in the province catalogue. But these summary figures do not present a complete profile of the Community, which, like other large Jesuit communities in the United States, was made up of Jesuits pursuing a great variety of ministries. The largest number of men, of course, were devoted to work in the university, as administrators and teachers (57), with five of them living in a small dependent community on Kilbourn Street. There were the provincial and his staff (7), who lived in the Community but worked in offices outside the university. The remainder were a mixed group: men who served the Community as assistants to the rector but did not work in the university; several young Jesuit priests studying a variety of subjects at the university; older men (some retired professors) who did pastoral work around the city; men assigned to the Community but living in nursing homes, and still others. The focus of the Community--which at one time had been almost exclusively apostolic ministry at the university--was now somewhat diffused. But the Residence at 1404 was full and vibrant. And there was continual change in membership as mean arrived and others left for new assignments.

After 1974 the numbers in the Community held steady for some years and then gradually declined. The decline was due in large part to the serious drop in the number of Jesuits in the United States. Vocations to the Society of Jesus--as to other religious orders and to the diocesan clergy--plummeted in the '80s and '90s and have not yet recovered. Few new Jesuits joined the Marquette staff, and the aging Jesuits who retired from the university ministry could not all be replaced.

In addition, new housing arrangements withdrew Jesuits from the Jesuit Residence at 1404 (popularly know as the Jes Res). In 1989 the Wisconsin Province opened a new residence, Arrupe House, at 831 North 13th Street, and a dozen or so of the men who lived at 1404 were assigned to the new house, including 7 Jesuits who worked at the university. Then in 1992 a community for older Jesuits, the St. Camillus Jesuit Community, was started in Wauwatosa, and a number of the men from the Marquette University Jesuit community were transferred to the new community, which also received men from other houses of the Province. Meanwhile the Kilbourn residence closed and a new dependent community, Miguel Pro Jesuit Community, appeared on Milwaukee's South Side, to minister to a growing Hispanic population in that part of the city. Jesuits took charge of St. Patrick's Parish (now heavily Hispanic) and developed at the same location a Nativity Middle School to teach Hispanic boys.

On the other hand, a sizable number of young Jesuit priests--from India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, and African nations joined the Community as students working for MAs and PhDs in a variety of disciplines, supported by the community and by the university. Non-Marquette Jesuits filled other vacant rooms. These men, retiring from their disparate ministries, were assigned to the Jes Res by the Provincial--sometimes permanently, sometimes temporarily as they awaited new assignments. A large number of "guest rooms" remained, but they were constantly in use for individual visitors (who enjoyed the extensive hospitality of the resident Jesuits) and for various conferences of Jesuits from around the Province and the nation.

The catalog for 2001 listed 57 priests and 1 lay brother in the Jesuit Residence, plus 9 priests and 2 brothers at Miguel Pro. Of these only 30 worked at the university, including 10 administrators and 3 members of the university Ministry, but an additional 7 Jesuits living at Arrupe House did university-related work. Two men were Community officials, 3 were members of the provincial staff, 11 were international students, 2 were other students, and the remaining 11 were retired from teaching or engaged in non-university ministries. And the usual coming and going meant that the Community was always in flux.

With all the vicissitudes through the 120 years since the beginning of Marquette University in 1881, the Marquette University Jesuit Community has changed--in size and composition, in its relations with the university, and in its conditions of daily life. But the apostolic thrust of the Jesuits remains the same: to aid their fellow men and women spiritually and materially, primarily through the institutional ministry at Marquette University, but also through individual ministries, for the greater glory of God, Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam (AMDG).