Fr. Thomas Caldwell prepares to celebrate Mass.
"[My mission] is to help those I work for and with to realize God loves them ... to see that they should live in the joy of that realization"~Fr. Thomas
A Jesuit's Journey: Fr. Thomas Caldwell, SJ
Fr. Thomas Caldwell’s mission is to be helpful.
“It is to help those I work for and with to
realize God loves them,” he says. “To see that they should live in the joy of
He knew he wanted to be a priest by the time he
was in seventh grade. In his junior year of high school, he realized his
calling was to the Society of Jesus.
“Our teachers at Marquette University High
School in Milwaukee were something else,” he recalls. “I thought they had
something special, and I wanted it. It turns out I was right.”
His vocation led to a master’s in Latin and
Greek. He went on to study Scripture, with five years of Jewish studies in
Vienna, before finishing in Rome at the Pontifical Biblical Institute. These
years have stayed with him; a Greek translation of Philippians 3:12 now hangs
on his wall. In English, the verse reads, “I pursue, if perchance I may lay
hold of (the prize), since I have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus.”
“I like to translate ‘been laid hold of’
differently,” he says. “I interpret it as ‘God gave me a hug.’ The initiative
has always been his.”
Eventually, Fr. Caldwell returned to Milwaukee
as a theology professor at Marquette University.
“Sending young people into the world better
equipped to live fully is highly rewarding. I think I helped.”
Father Caldwell also served twice as minister of
Marquette’s Jesuit community.
“That’s a job where the chief responsibility is
to be helpful. Mostly, it worked out pretty well. There weren’t too many
protests against me!”
This desire to serve continues to influence Fr.
Caldwell at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wis.
“I continue to look for ways to be helpful —
whether it’s providing information, moving furniture, doing secretarial work,
proofreading, or any old thing,” he says. “After meeting me, I hope people
might think I could help them in some way."
“There is no competition here,” he explains. “We
are all truly equal. My favorite answer when people ask me about life here is
‘The natives are friendly, and the food is good.’ Yet, thinking back, these
phrases also describe the other communities I have lived in; my Jesuit brothers
share a sincere desire to serve God by carrying out Jesus’ work. I know I can
really trust them, because they love God and will prove it every time.”
Father Caldwell also places trust in the
Society’s lay supporters.
“Their help is something very real to us. It is
mentioned every single day in our prayers, and we could not function without
it. I have been grateful for our lay collaborators throughout my life as a
Jesuit; they are among our numerous gifts from God, who is a tremendously good
Click here for more "A Jesuit's Journey" stories.
Fr. Caldwell's story was also featured in the Summer 2016 issue of Jesuits magazine; click here for the Summer 2016 Jesuits magazine index.