It is with great joy that the Midwest Jesuits introduce the 15 new novices of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Provinces of the Society of Jesus. The novices entered the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado in St. Paul on Saturday, August 20, 2016.

This fall, 47 new Jesuit novices joined the Society of Jesus in Canada, Haiti, and the United States, the largest group of novices in the last 10 years.

Meet the New Novices

Christopher Alt, 30, earned a bachelor’s degree in theological and religious studies from the University of San Diego and a master of divinity degree from Boston College. He served as a Jesuit donné* at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland and also worked at a health care center and homeless shelter. Christopher enjoys music, art, fitness, and hanging out with family.    
Mark Blancke, 30, grew up on a farm in southeast Michigan. He received bachelor’s degrees in health science from Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Mich., and nursing from Regis University in Denver. Mark practiced as  a medical/surgical nurse for four years and has interests in organic gardening and green living. He enjoys running, cycling, sailing, skiing, and hiking.

Adam Bryan, 22, is a native of Lima, Ohio. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in physics from Xavier University in Cincinnati, where he also became interested in liberal arts, particularly medieval philosophy and literature. Adam enjoys playing sports, listening to and playing bluegrass music, learning foreign languages, and reading intellectually stimulating literature.

Alexander DeWitt, 23, was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. He has a bachelor’s degree in classical studies from Rice University in Houston and spent a semester at the University of
Edinburgh. Alexander was a Jesuit donné in Chicago, learning Spanish and working at St. Procopius Catholic Parish. He enjoys baking, reading, traveling, movies, and golf.

Alexander French, 28, studied at Northern Kentucky University for two years, before entering the seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. He studied theology for two years at Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology in Indiana. A country boy who enjoys the outdoors, hunting, and good music, he also lived and worked on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Mark Hakes, 28, earned a bachelor’s degree in vocal performance from Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., and a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He made a pilgrimage to the Taizé Community in France in 2014, and has volunteered and served as a youth minister. He enjoys outdoor sports, cooking, baking, gardening, and reading, especially Harry Potter books.

2016 First Year Novices.jpg
First-year Midwest Jesuit novices: (front row, left to right) Vicktor Moberg, Mark Blancke, Christopher Meister, Robert Purgert, Joshua Utter, Josef Rodriguez, Alexander French, Christopher Alt; (back row, left to right) Mark Hakes, Matthew Waldoch, Adam Bryan, Alexander DeWitt, John Weinandy, Patrick Saint-Jean, Cody Sandschafer
Christopher Meister, 29, is a University of Notre Dame graduate from Chicago. He worked in marketing, before receiving a master’s degree in teaching from National Louis University in Chicago and teaching history and coaching swimming in Chicago Public Schools. Through Pope Francis, he became interested in the Jesuits. Christopher also loves to travel and learn languages.

Vicktor Moberg, 24, was born and raised in San Diego. He was very active in the Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program and youth ministry. Vicktor graduated from Argosy University/The Art Institute of California – San Diego with a degree in culinary business management. He moved to South Haven, Mich., to pursue his goal of becoming a sous-chef. Vicktor enjoys good company, beer, and food.

Robert Purgert, 22, met the Jesuits at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. A childhood leukemia survivor, he is a spokesperson for cancer research and care-giving organizations. He graduated from Miami University of Ohio with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Robert enjoys spending time with others, finding new favorite craft beers, and watching his beloved Cleveland sports teams.

Josef Rodriguez, 30, was born to Filipino parents in San Francisco and grew up in New Jersey. He entered the Legionaries of Christ after graduating from South Plainfield High School, earning degrees in liberal arts, religious studies, and philosophy; gaining experience in Gregorian chant and choir directing; and working in Texas and Georgia. Josef enjoys playing music, cooking, critiquing films, and being an armchair philosopher.

Patrick Saint-Jean, 33, is from Haiti and grew up in Montpellier, France. He received a license in clinical psychology from Bordeaux Segalen University and master’s degrees in psychiatric anthropology from Universidad del Valle de México (UVM) and psychoanalysis from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Patrick volunteered with L’Arche and loves exercising, writing, watching the news, listening to music, and spending time with friends.

Cody Sandschafer, 24, grew up in Effingham, Ill. He graduated from Marian University in Indianapolis and studied at Saint Meinrad Seminary & School of Theology in Indiana. Cody was a middle school math teacher and donné at Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. He enjoys spending time with friends and family, hunting, sports, and philosophy.

Joshua Utter, 25, graduated from Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and international studies. He served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, before working as a retreat leader at a Catholic youth camp. Joshua walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain and enjoys running, hiking, traveling, and visiting state parks.

Matthew Waldoch, 24, graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee with a bachelor’s degree in economics and theology. He studied in Rome and was present for Pope Francis’ election. Matthew served as a donné at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha. He is interested in urban exploration, playing strategy games, trying new foods, and learning historical theology.

John Weinandy, 25, is one of seven siblings from Bowling Green, Ohio. He attended St. John’s Jesuit High School & Academy in Toledo, Ohio, and John Carroll University in Cleveland, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology. After working in medical research, he returned to St. John’s as an alumni volunteer and staff member. John enjoys reading, cooking, playing games, and exploring God’s creation.

*Prior to entering the Society, some men are Jesuit donnés and spend time living in a Jesuit community and working in a Jesuit ministry to get a sense of what life in the Society of Jesus entails.

An earlier version of this story
 appeared in August, 2016.

Click here for the Fall-Winter 2016 Jesuits magazine index.

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