A Jesuit's Journey:
Fr. Thomas Caldwell, SJ
Fr. Thomas Caldwell, SJ
Born: January 24, 1926
Entrance: August 8, 1943 | Ordination: June 20, 1956 | Final Vows: August 15, 1960
June 16, 2016 — Jesuit 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 that realization.”
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 boss.”