Long gone are the days when most classes at Xavier University were taught by Jesuit men in flowing black cassocks. Today's faculty is made up of mostly lay men and women. New Jesuits arrived sporadically over the years, but never in the numbers needed to replace the multitudes who have left. Retirements and a steady decline in the number of men entering the Jesuit order over the last 30 years have whittled the ranks of Jesuits on campus to only eight—who nevertheless impact every aspect of campus life, from campus ministry to teaching students in classrooms, leading service projects and, like President Mike Graham, S.J., running the University.
They were it—until about a year ago, when a new Jesuit, Nathan Wendt, S.J., arrived in 2018 to be followed by five more in 2019. The reason for the influx? Midwest Provincial Brian Paulson, S.J., said it has everything to do with Xavier's prominence as a center for pastoral ministry.
"Your community attracts people from the Heartland coming to Xavier for its Catholic identity, which tells me there is a thirst on your campus for this kind of ministry," Paulson said. "In the past, a lot of Jesuits were professors who did theology on the side, but the future profile of Jesuits at Xavier will be people involved in student and adult formation in Ignatian Spirituality. Fr. Graham and I agreed that our Jesuit presence at Xavier was at a crossroads, and that a renewed team of Jesuits, with a primary emphasis on student formation, could make a high impact. We decided it would be good to develop a small group of Jesuits with pastoral commitment.”
Meet these six new Jesuits now working and studying at Xavier, including a profile of Eric Sundrup, S.J., who became the new pastor at Bellarmine Parish in July. Five are from the Midwest Jesuit Province and one is from East Africa.
Inczauskis discovered the Society of Jesus while studying at Oxford University in England and entered the Jesuit order in August 2014, several months after graduating from Wake Forest University in North Carolina. The Universidad Centroamericana (UCA) in El Salvador recently published his book La Fragua: el teatro jesuita de Centroamérica. The provincial has assigned him to pursue master’s degrees in Spanish and social philosophy. At Xavier, he is a visiting faculty member in the Department of Classics and Modern Languages in the College of Arts and Sciences.
"There has been a significant rejuvenation of Jesuits at Xavier University. We are a small but significant team acting at multiple levels across campus. Together, we help form students in the spirit of faith and justice. Apart from our work, we are also a group of friends and brothers in Jesus Christ. We pray together. We hang out. We tell jokes. Fr. Graham is my president, but he is also my Jesuit brother. Fr. Sundrup is my pastor, but he is also my Jesuit brother. We love each other, and we support each other in our common mission to preach Jesus Christ and to build up his kingdom of justice, peace and understanding in the context of a university.”
Luke Hansen, S.J.
Hansen graduated from Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., in 2004 with bachelor’s degrees in political science and religion/philosophy. He entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and went to Loyola University Chicago for a master’s degree in social philosophy in 2010. He received a Master of Divinity and a Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University in Berkeley, Cal. At Xavier, he is serving as the Catholic Chaplain at the Center for Faith and Justice.
“For the past two years, I had been studying and working in Rome, Italy. Having grown up in Wisconsin, I'm really excited to be back in the Midwest. This is my first time living in Cincinnati, but it already feels like home. In my role at the Center for Faith and Justice, I'm presiding and preaching at the 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. student Masses, participating in Dorothy Day Immersions and Alternative Breaks, assisting with retreats, working closely with our Catholic students, and serving as a spiritual director for students, faculty and staff. It's a great gift to be part of the Xavier community and to see how God is working in people's lives here.”
Nathan Wendt, S.J.
Wendt entered the Society of Jesus in 2003 and was ordained in 2014. Wendt is a spiritual director who has worked with incarcerated men and women throughout his Jesuit life and served the Ignatian Spirituality Project in Chicago, Boston, Detroit, Omaha and Cincinnati, where spiritual retreats are offered for people transitioning from homelessness
and in recovery from addiction. He came to Xavier in 2018 to lead the Road Thru Xavier program and develop immersive learning experiences for students.
“As the Road Thru Xavier Program coordinator, I’ve been working with colleagues in the Eigel Center for Community Engaged Learning to further develop Xavier’s immersive learning experience offerings. In the fall, several courses piloted immersive learning components. Faculty and students found great value learning from communities in Detroit and Cincinnati about issues of justice that deepen their academic pursuits. I’m proud to be contributing to the development of these new pursuits that will accentuate the high impact learning experiences for which Xavier is known, furthering the University in its mission and distinctiveness.”
Edward W. Schmidt, S.J.
The former editor of America and Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education magazines, Schmidt returned to Xavier in October as the Jesuit Scholar in the Center for Mission and Identity and part-time pastor at Bellarmine Chapel on campus. He had first worked at Xavier in campus ministry in 1974.
The scholar position, formerly held by the late George Traub, S.J., provides critical assistance to the mission effectiveness programs for faculty and staff developed by Debra Mooney, PhD, Vice President for Mission and Identity and Chief Mission Officer at Xavier.
As a former provincial of the Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus and a former pastor, Schmidt brings a wealth of experience to the post. As a journalist, he has written extensively for both America and Conversations.
Read one of Schmidt's essays at Jesuit Resources.org.
Christopher Mapunda, S.J.
Mapunda was raised in a large Catholic family in an East African township near Dar es Salaam in Tanzania where crime was rampant. He spent much of his childhood at a nearby parish for protection, and the exposure to parish life is what led to his vocation, he says. Three things were central in Mapunda’s vocation journey: First, the life of prayer and
spiritual accompaniment. Second, community life allowing him to serve others. Third, the apostolic life in the Society meaning the life of vows and service to others. He is a member of the East Africa Province and is at Xavier for academic study toward his doctorate in education.
“Although I help with priestly ministries, my main assignment here is to study. Coming from the Eastern African Province where we have our own ways of proceeding, here things seemed different at first. However, as a Jesuit, I was formed to learn and to adjust. Apart from the academic life, a sense of community among students, staff, faculty and Jesuits is very strong here at Xavier. I believe this union of heart and mind is stirred up by Ignatian Spirituality which we all share. So together we are partners in Ignatian ministry.”