Thomas Croteau, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Served in Honduras in the spring of 2013.
- Taught at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas from 2016-2019.
- Served as a deacon from 2021-2022.
Will serve at St. Peter Claver Parish in Punta Gorda, Belize.
Thomas Croteau, SJ, was born in Denver, Colorado, and raised there by his parents with the assistance of his two older sisters. He attended Catholic elementary and high school, was a Boy Scout and trained in Tae Kwon Do. In middle school, around the time of confirmation, he began altar serving and thinking about a religious and priestly vocation. This discernment was aided in large part by the members of the French religious congregation, the Community of the Beatitudes. For college, he attended Ave Maria University in Florida and met many wonderful religious and priests. After graduating from AMU in 2011, he entered the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Stanislaus Kostka in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. It was a beautiful two-year period of prayer and community life and service with Acadiana as a home base to return to after serving around the U.S. Central and Southern Province and in Honduras. After professing vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, he was sent to study philosophy at Saint Louis University. While he was there, he had the grace of becoming an uncle. From 2016 to 2019, Dallas became home, and the Jesuit high school there welcomed him into the theology department as a teacher for sophomore and junior classes. In typical Jesuit fashion, having completed his time of teaching theology, he was sent to study theology. This mission brought him to beautiful Berkeley, California, where a particular blessing has been getting to know Jesuits from around the country and around the world.
Bachelor’s degree, philosophy and classics and early Christian literature, Ave Maria University; Master’s degree, philosophy, Saint Louis University; Master of Divinity, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
What is your favorite TV show you’ve encountered since entering the Society?
While in regency, I was introduced to the TV series “Parks and Rec.” For those who may be unfamiliar with the show it is set in the town hall of a small city in rural Indiana and follows an indefatigable local government employee who seeks both to demonstrate love for her neighbor and the common good generally through her daily work. The show goes through a variety of humorous twists and turns. In the end, what I most appreciate is the way the show gives example after example of how folks of very different backgrounds and personalities can form solid friendships.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
I am partial to St. Robert Bellarmine. He was a smart man, yet he always wanted to put his learning at the service of others. The Society of Jesus and the Catholic Church asked him to serve in important capacities with many resources, yet he never forgot to live simply and take care of the poor in his neighborhood. St. Robert lived in a time of great theological controversy, yet in his writings he focused on the importance of prayer and charity. He was a talented and hardworking preacher, and as I am preaching now, I am quite grateful that he wrote a little list of his top 10 tips for homilists. He could recognize and foster holiness in the young — he was spiritual director to fellow Jesuit St. Aloysius Gonzaga.
What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
In the Society of Jesus I have come to appreciate the graces of being known and getting to know others. Jesuits have a long formation. Partly, this is to prepare us spiritually, intellectually, morally, humanly, etc., for future ministry. However, St. Ignatius also insisted on the importance of the Society being able to get to know a man over a long time to see if he is suited to serving God and neighbor in this particular order. It has been quite consoling to see how seriously the superiors and communities of the Society take this desire of St. Ignatius. Through regular and honest conversations, phone calls, letters and simply spending our lives together, Jesuits get to know one another very, very well. As a Jesuit, I am particularly grateful for the grace of being known so well by my fellow Jesuits. It is also a great joy to get to know so many of my fellow Jesuits. In particular, however, it is a unique privilege of the Society of Jesus to have so many apostolic opportunities to get to know those whom we minister to quite well. Especially if a Jesuit has the opportunity to be teaching in a school, it is hard to find another ministry in which one has so much time with those one hopes to serve and so come to know well their personalities, life stories, idiosyncrasies and gifts. Another customary Jesuit ministry is spiritual direction and retreat ministry. Again, the depth of encounter with others in such ministries is humbling and has been one of the graces for which I am most grateful as a Jesuit.
What brings you joy?
Learning and sharing what I have learned brings me joy. An image that has stuck with me comes from watching a Yo-Yo Ma guest lecture at Loyola University New Orleans. For the university’s centennial, they had invited a number of outstanding folks. I was a novice helping at the Jesuit high school in New Orleans and so I did not catch many of the speakers and presentations. It would have been foolish, however, to miss the Yo-Yo Ma presentation. He invited a couple different students to play and then offered some pro tips. In one case, he paired a student cellist with a pianist. His first instruction to the cellist was something like, “play so that you sound your best.” The student cellist played well, but about a minute into the duet Yo-Yo Ma stopped the song and said something like, “Okay, now play so that people hear how good the pianist is.” The result was a spectacular performance, far exceeding the first attempt at the song. It was not that the cellist was not good the first time, but just focusing on himself brought a pressure that hindered the music’s excellence. By focusing on the piano and seeking to bring out the talent of the other musician, the cellist seemed both to enjoy the music more and to play better himself. I like to learn. When I get to dig into Scripture or the writing of good philosophers or theologians (especially if they were writing in Latin or Greek), I love it. But when I get to share that with others, in such a way that it can highlight or accentuate what God is doing in their minds and hearts, that truly brings me joy. That is when we are really making music for the Lord.