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In Memoriam

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Theodore M. Kalamaja, SJ, who died on May 8, 2024 at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwautosa, Wisconsin. He was 89 years old. May he rest in peace.

Ted is preceded in death by his siblings: Frederick Kalamaja, James Kalamaja, and Mary Potter.

Ted was born in Sioux City, Iowa, on February 25, 1935. He graduated from Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, Nebraska, before entering the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus on August 17, 1953 at St. Stanislaus Jesuit Novitiate in Florissant, Missouri. He became a member of the Wisconsin Province when it was created in 1955. He was ordained a priest on May 30, 1967 in Omaha, Nebraska, and pronounced final vows on August 22, 1976 at Creighton Preparatory School in Omaha, Nebraska.

While in the Society, Ted earned a bachelor’s degree in classics (1959), a licentiate degree in philosophy (1960), and a master’s degree in Greek (1963) from Saint Louis University.

During regency, Ted taught Latin and Greek at Marquette University High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1961-1963) and at Campion Jesuit High School in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin (1963-1964). After ordination, Ted taught Latin, Greek, and religion at Creighton Preparatory School for fourteen years (1968-1982). Ted then switched his energies from high school education to pastoral ministry. Ted moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he was the associate pastor of the Church of the Gesu for two years (1982-1984).

After a sabbatical, he spent almost three decades ministering to prisoners in Orleans Parish, Louisiana (1985-2012). While ministering to incarcerated young men, Ted loved to teach them about Jesus and the Gospels. In fact, Ted taught many of them — even some illiterate ones — Latin and Greek so that they could read the New Testament in the language in which it was original written. In 2012, Ted was missioned to the St. Camillus Jesuit Community to perform community service and to pray for the Church and the Society. While at St. Camillus, Ted would daily review the readings of the Mass for the next day, summarize his thoughts in a few words, and post his “Theme for the Day” on a bulletin board outside the chapel.

Ted received a surprise in November 2020 when a generous alumnus of Creighton Prep made a major gift to the school to create the “Fr. Theodore M. Kalamaja, SJ, Campus Ministry Center” in the Lannon Center. The benefactor wrote this to Fr. George Winzenburg, SJ, the superior of the St. Camillus Jesuit Community:

I would like you to pass along that rarely does a day go by that I don’t think about Ted. It is virtually impossible to put into words what he did for me in my formation to manhood. He was one of my father’s dearest friends and he was a shining beacon for me. There is no way I would be where I am today without him. He focused on me and taught me some amazing things about God, the world, and myself. He taught me Greek, Latin, and started me writing poetry. The twinkle in his eyes and the wry smile on his face are forever etched in my memory. I could never do enough to repay him. I have tried to repay Creighton Prep, I still do. I have endowed four full-ride scholarships to Creighton Prep. I have told Creighton Prep students about Father Ted and asked them to think of him when they visit the campus ministry office. Please tell him I love him and I am praying for him as he has taught me to do.

Fr. Pat Burns, SJ, remembers this about Ted:

Ted was remarkable for his service to the poor in prison, and for his untiring efforts to make the riches of the Christian Bible available to them. Year after year he was part of the lives of hundreds of mostly young, uneducated, African American young men imprisoned in New Orleans. Ted lived simply, was a good companion in community, and was a faithful Jesuit priest all his life.