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In Memoriam

Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. Bradley M. Schaeffer, SJ, who died on March 28, 2024 at Ascension Genesys Hospital in Grand Blanc Township, Michigan. He was 74 years old. May he rest in peace.

Brad is survived by his siblings: Scot Schaeffer, Joanne Sefcik, Karen Gilliat, and Lizbeth Willert.

Brad was born on July 21, 1949 in Chicago, Illinois. Before entering the Society, he graduated from Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago (1967). He entered the Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus on August 21, 1967 at the Jesuit novitiate in Milford, Ohio. He was ordained a priest on June 11, 1977 at St. Ignatius Church in Chicago, Illinois, and pronounced final vows on May 31, 1984 at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

While in the Society, Brad earned bachelors’ degrees in English and theology from the University of Detroit (1972), a master’s of education in counseling psychology from Boston College (1973), and a master’s of divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology in Chicago, Illinois (1979).

While he was in undergraduate studies, Brad taught theology at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School (1971-1972). During regency, he taught English and was a student counselor at Saint Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, Illinois (1973-1975). After ordination and a year of pastoral service at Ascension Church in Oak Park, Illinois, Brad returned to high school work where he found great joy working with students, parents, faculty, and staff. He first ministered at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati where he was: the academic assistant principal, a student counselor, and a teacher of English and theology (1978-1984). Brad then returned to Chicago where he was principal of his alma mater, Saint Ignatius College Prep (1984-1989).

In 1989, much to his chagrin, Brad’s ministerial energies were refocused to internal governance of the Society of Jesus where he remained for the rest of his life. Brad was assigned to the Chicago Province office where he was the provincial assistant for social ministry (1989-1990), pastoral ministries (1989-1991), and secondary education (1989-1991). In 1991, Father General appointed Brad the provincial of the Chicago Province (1991-1997).

While he was provincial, Brad asked some Jesuits to help him “read the signs of the times” and investigate ministerial possibilities with Latinos in the Pilsen area of Chicago. These Jesuits reported that Latinos were asking for more access to the sacraments and to better education opportunities. To this end, the Chicago Province was able to take responsibility of St. Procopius Parish (in Pilsen) whose parishioners were primarily Spanish speaking. Brad had a desire to bring aspects of the educational model used in Fe y Alegría schools in Perú to Chicago. This led to Brad’s vision and founding of the first Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago (1996). Today, almost forty schools across the USA use the “Cristo Rey” school model that Brad helped to create.

After a well deserved sabbatical, Brad became the president of the Jesuit Conference of the USA (1998-2006) where he helped coordinate collaboration between the Jesuit provinces in the USA. He then was missioned to be the rector of the Jesuit Community at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (2006-2012). During his time as rector, Brad helped in the design of, building of, and move to the new Jesuit theologate residence in Brighton, Massachusetts.

In 2013, Brad returned to the province office where he was the provincial assistant for senior Jesuits for the Chicago-Detroit Province (2013-2017), the Wisconsin Province (2013-2017), and the USA Midwest Province (2017-2021). In 2021, Brad was missioned to be the superior of the Colombiere Jesuit Community.

Brad was a devoted priest and Jesuit who drew his strength from the Eucharist. He clearly loved the Society of Jesus and the Church. For the Society, it was manifested so well in the deep cura personalis he exhibited as provincial, rector, and superior: he loved the men and always saw good there, even when there was difficulty. For the Church, he established honest and open relationships with many bishops across the spectrum, seeing many as friends, and touched base with them frequently. He enjoyed watching their online Masses and services. Upon hearing of Brad’s death, one of these friends, Cardinal Blase Cupich, contacted Fr. Karl Kiser, SJ, to send his condolences and prayers to the Midwest Province.

Brad was decisive. The image of him as a high school basketball referee is appropriate: at times the “call” seemed to be easy and quick — with Brad always being open to feedback, but once the decision was made he could endure criticism. For matters of some importance he sought counsel. For matters of small importance he could dither incessantly … “extroverting” as he would say.

His dedication to his prayer and his God was clear. A holy man … with an easy sense of the profane in his humor; being rooted in the reality around him.  Through homilies, conversations, and deeds, Brad helped others encounter God’s love for them. He was caring, thoughtful, and a great supporter — some would say “cheerleader” — for everyone he engaged with: Jesuits, colleagues, students, families, and friends.

Father Timothy Kesicki, SJ, Brad’s former provincial, has this to say about him:

As a Jesuit novice and scholastic, Brad Schaeffer was the kind of Jesuit that I wanted to become. It seemed that there was someone in every city who wanted to be remembered to him, an individual or family whose life was changed for the better by him. His love of the global Society and willingness to travel at a moment’s notice will be missed. I loved Brad Schaeffer whose life and legacy will live on in our hearts.

Visitation:
Tuesday, April 2, 2024
4:00 – 7:00 p.m.
Service 7:00 p.m.
Colombiere Center
9075 Big Lake Road
Clarkston, MI 48346-1015

Mass of Christian Burial:
Wednesday, April 3, 2024
10:30 a.m.
Colombiere Center

The Service and the Mass will be LiveStreamed at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9TJEVaNcLIQmq5H37lepXQ

Condolences:
Colombiere Jesuit Community
c/o Jerome K. Odbert, S.J.
9075 Big Lake Road
Clarkston, MI 48346-1015

Notes of Condolence to the family can be sent “care of” Fr. Jerome Odbert, SJ.