Steve Molvarec, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Worked with the homeless in Detroit as a novice, in Chicago during first studies and in Milwaukee before beginning theology studies in Boston.
- Taught history to students at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
- Served as a deacon at Boston University’s Catholic Chaplaincy.
Will serve at Gesu Parish in Milwaukee this summer and then as visiting assistant professor at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry for the 2022-2023 academic year.
Steve Molvarec, SJ, was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, by his parents and grandparents alongside his brother and sister and numerous cousins. He attended Divine Child Kindergarten and Ss. Peter and Paul School in Williamsville, New York, both run by Franciscan Sisters. He then attended St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster, New York, before meeting the Jesuits at Canisius College, where he majored in history, philosophy and honors and minored in classical languages. He was involved in campus ministry, community service and the Knights of Columbus as well as Alpha Sigma Nu and the Digamma Society. After graduating in 2002, he pursued a master’s and doctorate in medieval history at the University of Notre Dame and wrote a dissertation on the Carthusians under the supervision of John Van Engen. While there, he was an assistant rector for a residence hall, which allowed him to pursue opportunities for exercising pastoral care and organizing community service events in the South Bend area. From 2008 to 2010, he lived in France for research, thanks to the Medieval Academy’s Birgit Baldwin Fellowship. He taught at Indiana University South Bend and the University of Notre Dame from 2011-2012 before entering the Jesuit novitiate in St. Paul, Minnesota. As a novice, Steve did apostolic work in St. Paul, Toronto, Detroit and Lima, Peru. He then studied philosophy at Loyola University Chicago. While in first studies, he was the chaplain for men’s rugby and boxing and worked with homeless persons in the city of Chicago. After finishing, he taught at Marquette University for regency, while also working with Marquette’s retreat program and providing spiritual direction. Next, he was sent to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology focusing on systematics and sacraments. He also served as a deacon at Boston University’s Catholic Chaplaincy. His first Mass will be at the Chapel of St. Joseph at the convent of the School Sisters of St. Francis in Milwaukee. His first summer as a priest will be spent at Gesu Parish in Milwaukee.
Bachelor’s degree, history, philosophy and honors, Canisius College; Master’s degree, medieval history, University of Notre Dame; Doctor of Philosophy, medieval history, University of Notre Dame; Master of Divinity, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry; Licentiate of Sacred Theology, Boston College School of Theology and Ministry
What is your favorite book, movie, music or TV show you’ve encountered since entering the Society? What did this movie/book/music/TV show teach you about yourself?
I very much enjoyed Martin Scorsese’s rendering of Endo’s novel “Silence.” I’ve taught the film a few times in a Western civ course and have written about it for a course on priesthood. It’s a film that challenges me as a Jesuit to consider what the cost of following Christ and ministering to his people might be. I theorize that Father Rodrigues (played by Andrew Garfield) is the priest for an underground church by the end of the film. So much is left unseen in Scorsese’s telling, in terms of interiority, in terms of relationship with God. So much is left unsaid about suffering and silence. It’s a bleak film, but one that leads me to examine my own life, my relationship with Christ and ministry to God’s people.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
For the first time, while in theology, I read the spiritual autobiography of Walter Ciszek, a Jesuit who was imprisoned in Soviet Russia. While he’s not yet canonized, his cause is open and proceeding. In his book “He Leadeth Me,” Fr. Ciszek never fails to inspire me to seek God in the everyday and to seek to build Christ’s kingdom in daily, even bleak circumstances. Ciszek’s implementation of St. Therese’s “Little Way” while in prison camps and his priestly ministry to God’s people in Soviet Russia inspire me and provide images of what Jesuit priesthood might look like.
What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
I love the history of the Society of Jesus and its deep spirituality, alongside its ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Jesuits seek the “Call of Christ the King” (often first encountered during the Spiritual Exercises) in so many ways, building up the church and the kingdom. I love the diversity of our works and perspectives on everything. This might seem abstract but visiting almost any Jesuit community reminds me of what brings us together — spirituality and following Christ — amidst diversity in almost every other respect.
What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you?
The “pilgrimage” experience from the novitiate is one that I return to often. In our novitiate, in late spring of the first year, each novice is given $25 and a one-way bus ticket to somewhere. In my case, I spent 30 days living on the streets of Salt Lake City, Berkeley, Portland, Seattle and Spokane before returning to the novitiate. I learned much about community, solitude, service and God’s providence as I spent time in each city. I slept on the streets sometimes and got to know many homeless people. I also got to know parish communities in each city and found welcome and hospitality generously provided. It was a time unlike any other before or since, and it planted the seeds for me to take interest in work with homeless folks in every city in which I’ve lived since. One of my interests (since my provincial is going to mission me to work in a university) is combining academic life (scholarship and teaching) with work with homeless persons.