By Amy Korpi, Staff Writer
What do Xavier University and two state correctional institutions have in common? They have been graced by Jesuit Fr. Gene Carmichael’s ministry.
A Chicago native, Fr.Carmichael studied at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Ill., then College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. A music lover, he paid for part of his education as a member of a Dixieland band. He entered the Society of Jesus in September 1963 and was ordained a Jesuit priest in June 1973.
Father Carmichael is most associated with Xavier University in Cincinnati, where he worked for 36 years in many roles, including associate vice president for mission and ministry, director and mentor for the Service Fellows Program, campus minister, associate dean of students, assistant director and staff counselor in the McGrath Health and Wellness Center, and acting vice president for the Division of Student Development.
Interspersed with his work at Xavier was time walking the halls of two very different institutions: Lebanon Correctional Institution and Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon, Ohio. At both prisons, Fr. Carmichael presided at Mass, offered the sacrament of reconciliation, provided pastoral counseling, and celebrated the initiation of dozens of incarcerated men into the Catholic Church.
Father Carmichael has called his ministry at the prisons “an opportunity to live out Jesus’ words: ‘When I was in prison, you visited me.’ We meet Jesus in the prisoners as we experience his gentle personal presence in them. To minister in prison is to encourage the inmates to recognize God’s love for them as well as his invitation to and challenge for them to share their God-given gifts with fellow inmates who are in need.
“It is Jesus who gifts the men with what they need in ways that only he is able to do,” he adds. “Prison ministers just show up, let go of our expectations, accompany the men, and give thanks to God for God’s eternal love for all.”
That sounds like a good formula for most of life.
Today, Fr. Carmichael is missioned to pray for the Church and the Society of Jesus at Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Mich.
Gracious God, every day you continue to bless us with your marvelous gifts. There seems to be no end to your desire to give us even more. Out of your deep and faithful love you have lavished upon each of us life, wisdom, beauty, and hope for the future. You have given us the ability to love, to forgive, and to share the blessings given to us with others.
The words “thank you” seem so small compared with the grandeur of your love. Yet we cannot allow ourselves to take our blessings for granted, so we pause to reflect on our gifts and to express our gratitude — and we pray that the knowledge of your never-ending choice to love each of us would continue to sustain us in peace and thank-filled joy today and all the days of our lives.
—Edited excerpts from Fr. Carmichael’s 1987 Honors Day invocation at Xavier University
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This story also appeared in the Spring, 2017 issue of Jesuits Magazine