Fr. Eugene F. Merz
Fr. Eugene F. Merz, SJ
Gene's ministry touched the minds, hearts, and spirits of priests, religious, and lay women and men throughout the world with Ignatian spirituality.
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Fr. Eugene F. Merz

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Eugene F. Merz, SJ, who was called to eternal life on January 16, 2019, around 5:30 a.m. Gene died at Zilber Hospice in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. He was eighty-seven years old, a Jesuit for seventy years, and a priest for fifty-seven years.

Gene was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 19, 1931. He graduated from Marquette University High School before entering the Society at St. Stanislaus Seminary, Florissant, Missouri on August 15, 1948. He was ordained at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee on June 15, 1961, and pronounced final vows at the Emmaus Center in Des Moines, Iowa on January 5, 1977.

Before ordination, Gene earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy (1954) and a master's degree in education (1955) from Saint Louis University. After ordination, he earned a bachelor's degree in sacred theology (1963) and a master's degree in spiritual theology (1973) from Saint Louis University. Gene also earned a master's degree in psychology from Gonzaga University (1964).

Upon completing the usual Jesuit course of studies at St. Stanislaus, Saint Louis University, and Saint Mary's College, Gene did regency at St. Francis Mission in South Dakota (1955-1958). After ordination (and further studies), Gene taught theology at Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin for one year (1964-1965) before becoming a spiritual director for scholastics at Fusz Memorial (1965-1974). He then moved to Des Moines, Iowa where, with the exception of a sabbatical in 1979, Gene was missioned to the Emmaus Center for almost a decade. At the Emmaus Center, he was superior of the Jesuit community and director of pastoral renewal for the Diocese of Des Moines (1974-1979). After his sabbatical, he was director of the Wisconsin Province Renewal, the first Jesuit province 19th Annotation Retreat (1980-1983). Gene then used his gifts in Ignatian spirituality and cura personalis as master of novices for the Jesuit Novitiate in Saint Paul, Minnesota (1983-1991). 

In 1991, Gene returned to his hometown where he spent the rest of his life. After a well-earned sabbatical (1991-1992), he was the Wisconsin Province Director of Pastoral, Retreat, and Native American Ministries (1992-1994) before being rector of the Marquette University Jesuit Community and working at the Center for Ignatian spirituality (1994-2000). After a sabbatical, Gene was the associate director of the Center for Ignatian spirituality (2001-2005). In 2005, he became the guestmaster of Arrupe House Jesuit Community and was a spiritual and retreat director (2005-2019).

Gene's ministry touched the minds, hearts, and spirits of priests, religious, and lay women and men throughout the world with Ignatian spirituality. He reached people through prison ministry, Native American ministry, Jesuit formation ministry, diocesan renewal programs, Jesuit renewal ministry, Jesuit higher education, international retreats, directed retreats, preached retreats, and spiritual direction.

Gene also shared Ignatian spirituality with countless people through the books he authored. His writings include Moment by Moment; Moments to Remember: Ignatian Wisdom for Aging; A Pathway to God; and Finding God in Each Moment: The Practice of Discernment in Everyday Life.


Friday, January 25, 2019
4:00 - 7:00 p.m.  Time for sharing at 5:00 p.m.
San Camillo Chapel
10200 W. Bluemound Road
Milwaukee, WI


Saturday, January 26, 2019
9:00am Viewing
10:30 Funeral Mass
Church of the Gesu
1245 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI


In Memoriam
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January 18, 20196:32 AM
Gene was one of the finest people and Jesuit I ever knew. I was a new "Philosopher" Scholastic at Fusz Memorial in 1965. With one other Detroit Province man, we were sent to St. Louis. We were in the midst of 200 Jesuit "strangers". Gene made us feel welcome and helped us keep our sanity in a house that was being dragged into Vatican II with much kicking and screaming. It was the worst year of my life and only bad year in 30 as a Jesuit. Gene was my lifeline and friend. I remember him with much gratitude. – Patrick H. O'Leary

January 18, 20199:04 AM
I am so grateful to have known Fr. Merz as spiritual director and friend. Thank you to the Jesuits at Arrupe House for welcoming me and allowing me to stay several times for retreats over the past several years. God in Heaven has surely welcomed Gene home to continue good works--in whatever form that takes in his next life. – Judy Wright

January 18, 20191:36 PM
Gene gave our high school retreats in Denver, CO in the 60's, and 55 years later, he remained in touch with many of our classmates. So special was that bond that he joined us for a weekend at our 50th Reunion (and our 35th) to reminisce and share our life stories. What a gift he had for connecting with people and affecting our spiritual lives. His love for our Faith and for his Jesuit community emmenated from his very being. He will be greatly missed! But his love and inspiration will live on in all those he touched. May he rest in peace. – Jeannie Courchene

January 18, 20192:24 PM
We send our deepest sympathy to Gene's family and Jesuit community and our gratitude to you for sharing him with us in the Diocese of Des Moines. Gene touched MANY lives here in Iowa as elsewhere. His deep faith, compassion, wisdom and integrity were gifts that leave an indelible mark on us. He supported us on our own faith journey and, to the end, continued to model for us how to accept suffering and welcome death. Our lives are richer and our faith, love and commitment to justice deeper for knowing Gene. We share your sense of loss and your own gratitude for his life among us. – Sisters Jeanie and Elaine Hagedorn, CHM

January 18, 20194:45 PM
Father Merz was a fabulous Jesuit and I know God will bless him and take care of him. We all have a wonderful voice in heaven for all of those he knew and loved! – Anonymous

January 18, 20198:44 PM
Gene and I met by chance in a taxi cab line outside Union Station in Chicago in the summer of 1963, several weeks before he reported to Prairie du Chien for his assignment to Campion High School during my sophomore year. I was the first Campion student he'd ever met, a relationship that delighted him to the end of his life. He was a mentor, spiritual guide, touchstone, and source of wisdom and hope to me for over 55 years. I love him dearly, and thank God for the gift of his presence in my life. – Tim Rogge

January 19, 20197:32 AM
In union with our Jesuit brothers, Gene's family, and dearest friends, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden will warmly remember Gene during our morning 10:30 am Mass in our Motherhouse today as we hold him in our hearts forever. Deepest prayers, heartfelt gratitude, and sympathy. – Cynthia Prezkop, csj Baden, PA

January 19, 20199:09 AM
Fr. Merz came into my life when I needed him most. He lead our high school senior retreat 55 years ago and has remained in my life ever since. He will be one of the first I will seek out when I reach my final reward. He was the wisest, holiest, and most generous man this side of heaven. The angels must be singing in his newly found presence. – Barbara Paulson

January 19, 201911:21 AM
I met Gene shortly after he came to Emmaus in Des Moines. He became my first Spiritual Director. I will never forget his mantra: "All is gift." Indeed, Gene was God's gift to us in Des Moines. – Sandy Rodemyer BVM

January 23, 20192:35 PM
Father Merz played a huge role in our family and even in our law firm. The life we watched him live was one of full dedication to others. – Michael Gillick

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