Garrett Gundlach, SJ
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Spent three years of regency with the Lakȟóta people, where, by stepping foot into their sacred spaces of spirit and culture, he took baby steps toward learning what allyship might mean.
- Volunteered at Jesuit Refugee Service in Paris, where he and collaborators co-founded a joyful space for interfaith dialogue.
- Participated in World Youth Day in 2013 (Brazil) and 2016 (Poland), which deepened his passion for serving with this pilgrim church — particularly alongside youth.
Will spend the summer of 2021 in pastoral ministry at the English-speaking parish in Amman, Jordan, and continue Arabic studies. In September 2021, he will go to Beirut to study Islam-Christian dialogue at the Jesuit university of Saint Joseph.
Garrett Gundlach, SJ, is the oldest son of Catherine and Doug Gundlach and oldest brother of Austin, Trevor and Nolan. Born and raised in the Great Lakes, a Catholic and a Scout, some of his favorite things were biking to parks, camping and birdwatching. Converging high school and college interests in faith’s lived freedom, Latin American language and culture and local or global shared struggles for peace and justice brought him to a Jesuit university (Marquette ‘09), Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest (Portland Morris 2009-10) and to the Society of Jesus novitiate in 2010. Garrett considers himself deeply blessed by the patient and loving support he has received in his growth as child, student and now Jesuit wherever he has gone. His interest in interfaith cooperation coupled with a generous God, creative Jesuit formators and always patient hosts led to transformative work and relationships with the Lakȟóta people on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, with migrants and refugees in Chicago and then Paris during respective periods of philosophy and theology study, and now Arabic immersion and Islam-Christian dialogue studies in Beirut, Lebanon. Both MSW and SJ, Garrett is passionate about visiting, holding or initiating safe, sacred and creative spaces for dialogue, exchange and when possible, friendship and collaboration. In all this journey, while Garrett is heartbroken by our society’s capacity to distance and forget our neighbor — particularly our neighbor oppressed, harassed or dispossessed — he is also absolutely fascinated by the small or huge, named or unnamed ways that God daily invites us to truly see, to truly love, to finally bridge the gaps that we once built, one act or one community at a time. After he is ordained, Garrett will return to the Middle East and spend the summer of 2021 in pastoral ministry at the English-speaking parish in Amman, Jordan, alongside some volunteering and ongoing Arabic study. In September 2021, he will return to Beirut where he will study Islam-Christian dialogue at the Jesuit university of Saint Joseph.
Bachelor’s degree, theology and Spanish, Marquette University; Master of Social Work, Loyola University Chicago; Bachelor of Sacred Theology, Centre Sèvres, Paris
What is your favorite book you’ve encountered since entering the Society?
I don’t know about favorite, but I read “Moby Dick” during regency. There’s a bigness, a wildness, a vastness but also a barrenness, a sadness and an ordinariness. I love it and all its long, detailed detours. There are moments of fiery passion and then hundreds of pages of whale descriptions and other stuff that almost make you forget the story. Kind of like the extremes we can feel in our faith lives, our prayer, or even the most exciting jobs and missions and vocations: adventures aren’t intriguing from start to finish.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
I love being involved in activities like composting, yogurting, kombucha and beer brewing, gardening, and bread baking. As a rule, I live too busy, too fast, too cerebral. Bread baking, however, doesn’t care. You have to slow down. At least for the old-fashioned ones I was doing, you have to feed starters. You have to knead. You have to wait. And wait. And wait. Fermentation takes time. And you have to screw up to get better, sometimes eating dense, flat, raw-dough collapsed loaves with too much butter before anyone sees your failure. But because it’s the novitiate, they don’t really care, anyways. Jesuits will eat it.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
Come spread rumors of new life!
Imagine you could travel back in time and meet yourself the first day you entered the Society of Jesus. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to yourself?
Garrett, your weaknesses, your fears and your failures are not obstacles to your mission and much less are obstacles to your relationship with God. Rather than some combination of your plowing through them, ignoring them or merely tolerating them, as you’ll become quite adept at with time, ask God to meet you there in those weaknesses, fears and failures and just listen for a while. You’re not a hero, but a disciple, an apprentice and a friend — these are much better, anyways; trust me.
How might you explain the Jesuit motto “ad maiorem Dei gloriam” to someone who’s never heard it before?
May our growing love for the world and its peoples look both backward and forward to show God’s great gifts. May we look backward to yesterday to see and celebrate how God has worked in, around and especially through us for greater love; may we look forward to today and tomorrow to where God’s next invitation for us might be to love with God’s ever-creative love for the world. May we embrace that alone we are small and even together we are small, but that we bear witness to, we share and we channel the largest love imaginable when we dare to say “yes” to the little invitations of God.