For more than 25 years, Fr. Kevin Waters has been sending young men out into the world from DeSmet Hall

For more than 25 years, Fr. Kevin Waters has been sending young men out into the world from DeSmet Hall

Story by Kate Vanskike
Photos by Rajah Bose

He told the best stories.
His class challenged your ideas, forced you out of your comfort zone.
His homily changed your outlook, at least for a day, and then again another day.
His persistence solidified your faith.

Throughout history, the Jesuits have served these purposes, holding tight to what began with St. Ignatius nearly 500 years ago: Finding God in All Things. It’s a spirituality grounded in the belief that God is active in our world, a conviction that spurs us to pursue this presence and help others to do the same. This is Jesuit education.


The number of men on Gonzaga’s campus wearing the collar has decreased – a decline shared by every order of religious men and women, as fewer young people
enter a life marked by chastity, poverty and obedience. While the number has waned, the Jesuit mission has not; it is being embraced in active ways by students and those who serve them.

Here, young people see Ignatian spirituality at work not just in the stained-glass windows of the third-fl oor chapel or in the majestic haven of St. Al’s, but in residence halls, in the Hemmingson Center, in classrooms, on the quad and at Spokane’s best breakfast spots.

Jesuits at Gonzaga today

Fr. Tim Clancy, Fr. Mike Connolly, Fr. Barney Coughlin, Fr. Ken Krall, Fr. Steve Kuder, Fr. Craig Hightower, Fr. Pat Lee, Fr. Bob Lyons, Fr. Mike Maher, Fr. John Navone, Fr. Joseph Nguyen, Fr. Brad Reynolds, Br. Steve Souza, Fr. Jim Voiss, Fr. Kevin Waters, Fr. Matthew Yim, Fr. Alan Yost

Each month during his senior year, Conor Garside (’16) shared breakfast with Father Ken Krall, S.J., alternating who would pay and where they would eat. After so many tales of residence hall shenanigans and wacky students, he considered Fr. Krall and the other Jesuits “repositories for fun stories,” but also for “valuable knowledge from a lifetime of dedication to learning and teaching.”

“Getting to know the men behind the clerics has been a special privilege, expanding my horizons and creating friendships that will last a lifetime,” says


Fr. Brad Reynolds connects with students and faculty through University Ministry

Garside also found a connection – the love of opera – with Father Kevin Waters, S.J., a professor of philosophy and music, and the resident chaplain of DeSmet Hall for well over a quarter of a century.

“A Jesuit’s ministry to the young embraces several facets,” says Fr. Waters. Chief among them is nurturing intellectual development, coupled with concern for
a disciplined will. “The classroom is not adequate for this,” he says. “How a student lives and behaves, accepts and resists, makes decisions, builds friendships, and takes on responsibility for oneself and for others, happens where the student resides. It happens in DeSmet from late August to early May.”

That’s a calling several Jesuits answer as they relinquish a more private (and quiet) space for residence halls with a few hundred freshmen and sophomores.


Two years ago, Alumni Relations added a unique role to its staff – alumni faith formation coordinator – to reconnect alums who seek out the kind of spiritual activities they had enjoyed on campus.

Erik Mertens (’05) was the perfect person to lead this eff ort. After a year discerning whether to enter the Society of Jesus himself, Mertens found that not
to be his calling, but still wanted to help people connect with, and deepen, their spirituality. He helps to integrate faith and mission in Alumni gatherings and plans mini retreats during reunion weekends on topics like how to fi nd God in your life.


Fr. Peter Byrne played host for a Spokane gathering of alumni for Jesuits On Tap

Jesuits on Tap is an event Mertens initially began in his other job as the young adult minister at St. Aloysius Church. A pub night, where young people gather to talk theology, is “the perfect event to extend to our alumni circle,” Mertens says. It’s a bit of a “road show” he takes to Seattle, Portland, Denver, even D.C., where
he invites local Jesuits to come speak.

“There’s always a great range of ages – people who don’t know each other but end up finding cool relationships with other Zags in their city.”

As a member of the Alumni Relations team, Mertens is part of the division of University Advancement – about 65 employees who help share the stories of Gonzaga to build lifelong attachments and sustain our mission. At monthly meetings, Mertens leads the group through the Examen, a prayer practice Ignatius himself used, which fosters gratitude and humility.

One of the newest members of the Advancement team, Shannon Hill, says: “The first meeting I went to was a very surprisingly spiritual experience. As I settled in and listened, I grew more comfortable, becoming completely engrossed. Erik made a moment of prayer and reflection connect our team with each other and connect each of us as individuals to God.”

Infusing the Ignatian spirit throughout the Gonzaga community is one of President Thayne McCulloh’s highest priorities, as he seeks to shift the focus from our Jesuit heritage to the Jesuit mission in action. If Mertens’ work in Advancement is any indication of what a campuswide practice would look like, Gonzaga is positioned to be a place where faculty, staff and students alike enjoy regular reminders to slow down, to practice discernment, to refocus on what matters most.

“Erik’s like a breath of fresh, spring air,” says Eva Walker, another Advancement staff member. “I always look forward to his reflections because I know they will help center me and uplift me for the coming week.”

Says Walker, “His passion for all things Jesuit is contagious.”

That spirit is advancing throughout the Gonzaga campus, where a desire to be Jesuit is in the hearts of so many who stand with the men in the collar.


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