Father Karl Kiser, SJ, is the exiting president of the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, having served there longer than any other Jesuit. Over the years, Saint Ignatius and Scripture have been his guides. But it was under the direst of circumstances that he truly saw the Gospels come to life.
“I always had thoughts about being a priest,” he said. “But I seriously considered it when the church women were killed in El Salvador. They were martyrs. I wondered why would someone believe this way and die for their faith.” Deep down, he knew that his vocation was “hardwired.” And six years later, he entered the Jesuits. In his last year of training, Fr. Kiser was introduced to Fe y Alegría in Peru. Fe y Alegría is an alliance of local organizations that focus on the impoverished.
“I was brought in to do retreat work with children and faculty. These people were very poor. Many had never had a bed or three meals a day before they visited our retreat house.”
In their poverty, Fr. Kiser saw that the people he served were completely dependent on God. Their faith was their treasure. “They grind out a living, but God is always there in their lives. They are filled with hope from their heavenly father. To be thankful, that is powerful.”
Terrorism was rampant while he was with Fe y Alegría. People were faced with death every day, which spoke to their commitment to their faith.
“When you hear every Gospel through the ears of someone who has nothing, it taught me what the Scriptures mean,” he said.
“To have nothing and be thankful, that is powerful.”
Father Kiser discovered the same truths when he went on to work at a prison in Boston. As a chaplain, he found many similarities to his experiences in Peru.
“It was one of the most powerful experiences in my life. Again, I worked with people who didn’t have anything. In prison, the God of mercy, the God of forgiveness, came alive like I’d never seen in my own life.”
|Fr. Karl Kiser, SJ, celebrates Mass|
Each of these experiences has profoundly shaped how Fr. Kiser looks at God and how he ministers. Using the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, he searches out the freedom Jesus calls us to.
“We all have the same desires — we want to be loved, we want to be known. If we can free ourselves from these thoughts, we can become the people we want to be.”
The truth is, in every age, all of us face different questions, challenges, and tragedies. It is the grace of God that can get us through.
“The scarcity of prison. The poverty of Peru. Or the worst: when parents are faced with a child’s untimely death. When I’m forced to face tragedy, it becomes the question of good and evil,” said Fr. Kiser. “That’s when faith matters. I hope to explain the real spirit of Christ in such a way that people feel they can’t live without it.”
We hope you will continue to support Jesuits like Fr. Karl Kiser in their vocation. Your generosity allows the Jesuits to continue to spread the Gospel through their ministries.
Saint Ignatius and a small group of his companions founded the Society of Jesus — the Jesuits — in 1540 to serve ad maiorem Dei gloriam, “for the greater glory of God.”
From the beginning, this “company of Jesus” has worked together with lay women and men. The root of the word company refers to people who shared bread — an ancient symbol of life and essential part of the Eucharist.
Company encompasses ministry, mission, and community. The Jesuit company includes students and alumni, parishioners and retreatants, and people like you.
With your prayerful support, our Circle of Companions in Christ finds God in all things and serves where the need is greatest.