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2023 Ordinands

Aaron Pierre, SJ

Province: USA Midwest

Hometown: Rhinelander, Wisconsin

Highlights of Jesuit Formation:

  1. Coordinated a summer program for gang-involved youth in Chicago through the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation.
  2. Taught ethics to juniors, worked on the campus ministry team and drove a school bus route at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.
  3. Studied for a semester at Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya, and volunteered with Jesuit Refugee Service.

Will serve as associate pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Patrick’s Parishes on the south side of Milwaukee.

Aaron with his sister and her family after serving as a deacon for the Christmas Eve Mass in Rhinelander, Wisconsin.

Bachelor’s degree, preprofessional studies, University of Notre Dame; Master’s degree, social philosophy, Loyola University Chicago; Master of Divinity, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University

Aaron W. Pierre, SJ, was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but calls the Northwoods of Wisconsin home. His undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame inspired him to volunteer for a year with Rostro de Cristo in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where he began to imagine a vocation in service of the church. His vocational stirrings really “clicked” when he had a chance encounter with a Jesuit in Omaha, Nebraska, where he was working as an English-Spanish medical interpreter. A brief 10 months later, Aaron walked through the doors of the novitiate in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the fall of 2012.

Aaron and several students and staff at one of Red Cloud Indian School’s all-school Masses.

The early experiences of the Society of Jesus put him to work in Cristo Rey Jesuit High School – Twin Cities and Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis. After professing first vows, Aaron attended Loyola University Chicago, where he earned a master’s degree in social philosophy. He spent a summer doing restorative justice work in the Back of the Yards neighborhood in Chicago with the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation while living in the Su Casa Catholic Worker Community.

Aaron chaperons a cross-cultural immersion trip to Chicago with students of Red Cloud Indian School.

For regency, Aaron lived as a guest among the Oglala Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota where he taught ethics to juniors, worked on the campus ministry team and drove the local school bus route before and after school. Lakota spirituality left a deep imprint on his prayer life and animated his theological studies at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. During this stage of training, Aaron had the great privilege of studying for a semester at Hekima University College in Nairobi, Kenya, where he volunteered with Jesuit Refugee Service and fell in love with the local cuisine and custom of eating with one’s hands. Six weeks of bumbling through Swahili at a Jesuit parish in Dodoma, Tanzania, and an eight-day silent retreat in the foothills of Mt. Kilimanjaro left him with a desire to return to this great continent. Aaron served as a deacon at St. Mark’s Parish in Richmond, California, where he learned to preach and minister in English and Spanish. After ordination, he will serve as associate pastor of the Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Patrick’s Parishes on the south side of Milwaukee.

What’s one interesting fact about yourself not everyone would know?
Most people don’t know that I acted as a child, taking on roles in about a dozen community theater plays before high school. While I am by no means an actor today, those experiences have definitely given me a foundation of confidence for public speaking and leading liturgies.

Aaron with his fellow choir members of Kiwanja Cha Ndege Parish in Dodoma, Tanzania.
Aaron and Thomas Bambrick, SJ, hike “The Narrows” in Zion National Park.

What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
During the seven months I spent in East Africa, I worked really hard to become conversational in Swahili, a fascinating and beautiful language. For me, languages are like 5,000-piece puzzles which, as they take shape, become a tool to open social doors to new experiences and meaningful encounters. Being able to carry on basic conversations in Swahili helped me make authentic connections with real people, unquestionably the most rewarding part of pastoral ministry.

Where has your Jesuit vocation taken you that you never thought you would go?
I never imagined doing cell-by-cell visits in the solitary confinement pod of one of California’s “supermax” prisons, Pelican Bay. A summer of assisting the Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative out of Los Angeles gave me that opportunity and drastically reframed my perception of the people caught in our criminal justice system.

Aaron after a game of soccer with the altar servers of Kiwanja Cha Ndege Parish in Dodoma, Tanzania.

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?
Don’t take yourself so seriously! God doesn’t. And the world doesn’t need another somber, rule-driven, perfectionist who is out of touch with the joy of the Gospel. Take a deep breath and let in God’s loving acceptance which never wavers, even when you don’t get something “just right.”

What does Jesuit community mean to you? What’s one example of this lived out?
Jesuit community means sharing in a collective commitment to following Jesus, firmly rooting ourselves in the Spiritual Exercises, and being willing to share in the joys and sorrows of a life of ministry. I felt this shared joy during the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown, when one night we set up an 18-hole mini-golf course through the halls of our house and had an hour of great laughs, from the 24-year-old novice to the 86-year-old brother. That moment reveals another amazing thing about life in Jesuit community: It easily forges deep connections across cultures, ages and personalities. I felt this most notably the first day I arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, where I was catapulted out of my comfort zone. While in many ways life in East Africa was entirely new, my Jesuit community — gathered around the eucharistic table and the kitchen table — immediately felt like home.