On June 14, 2021, at the end of an otherwise routine midday Mass at the Midwest Jesuits’ province office, Fr. Glen Chun, SJ, socius of the Midwest Province, rose to read a short letter from Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus. The letter read:
“Confident in the Lord with regard to your integrity and prudence, I choose and name you Provincial of the United States Midwest Province. In doing so, I confer on you all the authority, rights, and privileges which belong to this office according to our Institute, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. I pray that the Eternal Lord in His Wisdom will guide and assist you in all things to His greater honour and glory.
With that, the leadership of the 400-plus Jesuits and 80-plus works of the province changed hands from Fr. Brian Paulson, SJ, to Fr. Karl Kiser, SJ.
Father Paulson, appointed in 2014, heads to Washington, D.C., to assume the presidency of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States this fall. Father Kiser is now the second provincial of the Midwest Province, which formed in 2017 after the former Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Provinces were joined.
Father Kiser describes his childhood in the small town of Menominee, Michigan, as idyllic. Raised in a pious, Catholic family, he admired the faith-filled, service-and-justice- oriented priests and nuns he encountered in his formative years at Catholic schools on both sides of the Menominee River. The third of four children, he was born to a truck driver father and a mother who worked in health care. “I was the slacker,” Fr. Kiser jokes, noting that his brother and two sisters followed their mother into careers in health care. It wasn’t until later—after earning a bachelor’s in political science from Michigan State University—that he discerned his vocation to the Society of Jesus. He entered the former Detroit Province on August 30, 1986.
During his formation, Fr. Kiser taught at Colegio Cristo Rey in Tacna, Peru, and with Fe y Alegria (Faith and Joy) schools in Lima, where he learned to speak Spanish. He studied at Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid, Spain; and the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 14, 1997.
Father Kiser served as superior of the Jesuit novitiate in Berkley, Michigan, and then at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy for one year, before becoming the president of the school from 2002 through 2016. Prior to his appointment as provincial, Fr. Kiser was pastor at Church of the Gesu in University Heights, Ohio.
“Father Kiser inspires others by living our companionship with Jesus in an open and authentic way,” said Father General Sosa. “He collaborates well with others and left many friends behind when he moved from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy to the pastor’s office at Gesu Parish in Cleveland. He is a discerning leader. I am confident that, with the help of a good team, he will provide excellent spiritual, personal, and apostolic governance.”
Of his mission as provincial, Fr. Kiser said, “I’ve found that in journeying with people, you help them, but also there’s a deep personal joy that comes from it. One of the things I have found rewarding in my life is in finding ways to explain the faith in easy, simple ways. I’ve found that people are very, very receptive.”
As Fr. Kiser looks forward to this accompaniment with lay people, he also looks forward to his work with fellow Jesuits. “I think I will find the most life in the company of my brother Jesuits on this journey over the next six years,” he said.
Quentin Maguire is director of communications for the Midwest Jesuits. He has worked with the Jesuits for over 12 years.