Province: USA Central and Southern
Birthday: November 19, 1977
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
Bachelor’s degree, philosophy and letters, Saint Louis University
Master of Theology (with focus on Ignatian Studies), Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Master of Divinity, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
History teacher at Belize Central Prison Youth Division, Jesuit High School of New Orleans and De Smet High School in St. Louis; math teacher at De Smet and Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado
Served as RCIA director and deacon at St. Columbkille Parish in Boston, as well as retreat director and spiritual director at St. Ignatius Church in Boston and with Boston College Campus Ministry
Served as preached retreat director at Manresa Jesuit Retreat House in Convent, Louisiana, a ministry he hopes to engage deeply after ordination
Will serve as a parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church in New Orleans
Stephen Kramer, SJ, was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, to a devout Catholic family. Tied for the last of six children, he and his twin sister received Catholic education all the way through college. Stephen first met the Society of Jesus at Saint Louis University High School and was intrigued by the lively, intelligent and loving Jesuits that he found there. His affection for the Society deepened even further after his older brother Mark Kramer joined the Society. Eventually, in 2006, Stephen entered the Jesuit novitiate in St. Paul, Minnesota. Throughout his formation, Stephen fell in love with teaching in various places including at a prison in Belize; Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado; De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis; and Jesuit High School of New Orleans. In addition to teaching, he has become devoted to all work related to St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, from giving retreats to spiritual direction. Currently, Stephen is completing a master’s degree focusing on Ignatian Studies and a Master of Divinity degree at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. After his June ordination, Stephen is looking forward to serving as a parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Jesuit Church in New Orleans. (USA Central and Southern Province)
Stephen serving as a eucharistic minister at Jesuit High School of New Orleans.
How has your spirituality changed since entering the Society?
The first lesson I received in trust, the greatest spiritual lesson I have learned from the Society, came from my vocation director. Fr. Chris Pinné, SJ, gave me an application to join the Society, but I was attacked with fear and doubt and had great trouble filling it out. As the weeks and even months rolled by without receiving my application, Fr. Pinné calmly sat me down. Then he asked me the most important question anybody had ever asked about my spiritual life: “Stephen, why don’t you trust God?”
At first, I was bewildered. “Of course I trust God,” I protested. However, I began to realize he was right. I knew I desired to serve God in the Society of Jesus. I believed God was calling me to do so. But, I did not trust God would see me through. It dawned on me that if God wanted me to serve this way, then he would provide.
When I got home, I immediately sat down and completed the application. I knew once I dropped the envelope into the mailbox, I was not getting it back. Once more, fear overtook me. My hands were shaking. Then, I recalled Fr. Pinné’s words. I looked up, said, “God, I trust you,” and deposited the envelope. The moment the envelope was out of reach and the hatch had closed, a strange feeling came over me: peace.
Over the years, as I have gone through formation, there have been many times that I found myself in unfamiliar territory. But every time I look up and tell God I trust him, I am met with his peace. And every time this happens, I relearn the same lesson. God is here and with us always. If it is God’s will, then God will provide. There is no need for fear.
Stephen (standing, second from right) on an Ignatian pilgrimage at Montserrat in Catalonia, Spain.
What is your favorite book, movie, music, or TV show
you’ve encountered since entering the Society and why do you love it?
Therese of Lisieux's “Story of a Soul” is a book that I could read a thousand times. Every word of her story is a prayer and shines with the love of God. I find her life to be a perfect reminder of how simple life really is. Even in the midst of intellectual pursuit, the complexities of modern life and a troubled world and church, the answer is simple: love.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
I have a hard time choosing between my favorite saints; thus, I will choose two. On the one hand, I have a devotion to St. Peter Canisius, SJ, whose brilliant educational, catechetical and reform work inspire me. On the other hand, I find Therese of Lisieux's loving simplicity to be a perfect model. Together they represent a beautiful example of how our faith can be both astonishingly simple and complex at the same time. They represent truth and beauty: reason and love.