Jesuit Father Lawrence (Larry) A. Jonas died at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, on June 5, 2015. He was 94 years old, a Jesuit for 65 years, and a priest for 55 years. Fr. Jonas would have celebrated 56 years as a priest on June 16.
Born in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, on March 5, 1921, Fr. Jonas attended grade school and high school in his hometown before going on to serve in the military in World War II. He graduated from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 1949 and entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Missouri, on August 17, 1949. Fr. Jonas had the usual Jesuit course of studies at St. Stanislaus, Saint Louis University and St. Mary’s College. He was ordained a priest on June 16, 1959, made tertianship in Decatur, Illinois, and professed final vows on August 15, 1962.
Fr. Jonas enjoyed a long life filled with good ministry as a Jesuit. After his tertianship, he served for seven years as a secondary school administrator at Creighton Prep in Omaha, Nebraska, and Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He taught economics for three years at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee and worked at the Jesuit Mission Service in Minneapolis for two years. In 1972, Fr. Jonas became involved with the Better World Movement and gave retreats all over the country for the next four years. He spent a year at the Cardoner Retreat Center in Milwaukee, a year at the Emmaus House Ministry in Des Moines, Iowa, and five years on the staff of the Jesuit Retreat House in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
After many years of retreat ministry, Fr. Jonas turned to parish work, serving in various diocesan parishes in South Dakota from 1986 to 2001 and at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee from 2001 to 2010. At the age of 89, he moved to the St. Camillus Jesuit Community but continued to assist at Gesu almost until his passing.
Fr. Jonas was, at heart, a simple, straightforward man who wanted to serve God’s people as a Jesuit priest. He succeeded in doing so with all kinds of people in all kinds of places. Though he made few headlines, that was not his goal. He was present wherever he was needed and was always happy to be of service.
Click here to read A Jesuit’s Journey reflection by Fr. Jonas on his life’s ministry.