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2024 Ordinands

Christopher E. Alt, SJ

Province: USA Midwest

Hometown: Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Highlights of Jesuit Formation:

  1. Made lifelong friendships and connections he otherwise never would have had.
  2. Ministered in incredible places alongside amazing people, including the folks he accompanied at Rikers Island, his students and colleagues at Christ the King Jesuit College Prep in Chicago, and the Gospel choir he sang with at St. Benedict’s Catholic Church in Oakland, California.
  3. Earned a license to practice psychotherapy and clinical social work.

Post-Ordination:
Will return to the Midwest Province and split his time between serving in a parish and practicing clinical social work

Christopher with his parents, Ed and Mary, after his diaconate ordination in the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California.

Education:
Bachelor’s degree, theological and religious studies, University of San Diego; Master of Divinity, Boston College Clough School of Theology and Ministry; Master’s degree, social work, Loyola University Chicago; Licentiate in Sacred Theology, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University

Biography:
Christopher Alt, SJ, was raised in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, by his parents Ed and Mary, along with his two older sisters, Jennifer and Chelsea. He has fond memories of his Catholic education and worshiping with his family at the Newman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where the seed of his vocation was nourished and he first learned to sing. He recalls the sense he got as a kid going to those Masses: “Though I couldn’t have articulated like this at the time, I got the strong notion that whatever was happening there and whoever was helping to make those kinds of experiences possible, I knew I wanted to be a part of that for the rest of my life.” In high school Christopher was given the book “The Fifth Week” by William O’Malley, SJ. It only took him 10 years to read it. In the meantime, he attended the University of San Diego and, later, Boston College, where he met the Jesuits. After graduation, he did stints as a homeless shelter house coordinator and a hospital chaplain, and then, after a 20+ year approach-avoidance complex regarding his vocation, he finally took the leap and joined the Society of Jesus in 2016.

After two energizing, whirlwind years in the novitiate, including making lifelong friendships and ministering in the New York City prison system with Thrive For Life Prison Project, he took first vows — one of the best days of his life. In 2018 Christopher moved to Chicago and earned a Master of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago. From there, he was missioned as a school counselor to Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory (CTK) on Chicago’s West Side. The initial dread of the thought of working with teenagers quickly evaporated as he encountered the amazing students at CTK. Christopher then moved to Berkeley, California, where he is completed a Licentiate of Sacred Theology in Christian Spirituality at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, served as a deacon and choir member at St. Benedict’s in Oakland, and continued his professional development as a licensed clinical social worker. After ordination he will return to the Midwest Province and split his time between serving in a parish and practicing clinical social work.

Christopher at his post-diaconal ordination reception with parishioners of St. Benedict’s in Oakland.

What are three words a family member or fellow Jesuit would use to describe you? Do you agree with his or her selections?
I couldn’t miss the opportunity to survey folks: “Gentle, sensitive, loveable, faithful, surprising, quietly feisty, persevering, accepting, imaginative, compassionate, inquisitive, kind.” I might add stubborn, occasionally prickly and aloof, but only to balance out the very generous picture folks have painted.

Chris with family after his first vows in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2016.

What’s one interesting fact about yourself not everyone would know?
I once worked as the Shamu Show host at SeaWorld in San Diego.

Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
In college I started praying with the Exodus story and since then I’ve been deeply affected by the figure of Moses, whose name I took for confirmation. He is such a complex and conflicted character, with so many tensions surrounding his identity and role — an Egyptian prince turned hunted Hebrew, a man “slow of speech and heavy of tongue,” yet called to confront Pharaoh, marshal the Israelites, and lead people to a freedom he will never himself enjoy. He has such chutzpah (or is it vulnerability) to question God’s choice in him: Mi anochi? — Who am I? he responds, pushing back against God as to why he shouldn’t be the one. Not so “stiff-necked” as to miss the burning bush but later stumbles in trust as he strikes the rock. He is a great prophet and leader, yet most human, prone to bitterness and disappointment. At the end of his life, he mines his memory to finally express his vision, recalling his deeply personal relationship with God, the One who worked wonders but now quietly sustains him and God’s people. Moses isn’t just a man of long ago, but still today reaches out to “touch the hopes and future” of us all. He’s been a good companion to me.

Christopher with Zach Presutti, SJ, and the Thrive For Life Prison Project retreat participants at Otisville Correctional Facility in Otisville, New York in 2018.

What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
Recently someone asked me why I joined the Society. Without much thought I said I liked the way they see the world. The Society of Jesus has helped me put language to my experience of God, and that language in turn has formed me to see myself, others and God in new, sometimes strange ways.

The vocabulary: loved sinner, magis, humility, humiliation, contemplative in action, detachment, mortification, downward mobility, restlessness, rowing out to the deep, freedom, creative fidelity, mission, reconciliation, mercy, passion, desire, friendship — together these words form a constellation by which Jesuits orient their lives. I love how the Society has helped me see the depth of the reality these words express. I also love how the Jesuits have helped me grow spiritually. The vows allow me to live more simply, with a greater sense of calm even though the needs of the age call us to urgent action.

Ignatian spirituality and the friendships made have supported my healing and to claim my story even as, paradoxically, I’ve grown less self-focused. As I like to say now, my life is none of my business; there’s work to do. I don’t think I would’ve been as engaged with what is going on in the world today — its joys and sorrows — if it wasn’t for my religious vocation.

Mostly, I love the Society because it has taught me how to pray and helped me grow in gratitude. We’re not a perfect bunch, and I don’t always speak with such generosity. But my love for my Jesuit brothers has grown, and because of my life in the Society, I can say I feel closer with the poor and marginalized, the Church, and with Jesus and God.

With fellow Jesuits on summer vacation in Wisconsin. From left: Mark Blancke, SJ, Orlando Portalatin, SJ, and Conan Rainwater, SJ

Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words.
“Cashing in on a 30-year crush.”

What’s one thing you would tell someone considering entering the Society today that you wish you had known?
Come and see.

What brings you joy?
More recently, and in no particular order: watching RiffTrax with John and Brendan; all things St. Benedict’s in Oakland; memories of Lessons and Carols in Chicago and the kiddos at Christ the King; Beethoven’s 7th symphony; “The Chosen,” “Hadestown” and Eleri Ward’s acoustic Sondheim; Berkeley sunsets; music planning with Ray; after-dinner movie viewings in Waupaca; fishing trips in Omena; spotting weasels at Lake Five; listening to Jayme explain poetry; walk-and-talks with Blancke; faith sharing with the 4 Espíritus; Nathan’s love for “The Bachelor”; teasing Williams, Kast and Patrick Saint-Jean (it’s mutual); reading the arts and entertainment section from the Sunday newspaper; Palo Santo scented shampoo; black hoodies and drawstring joggers; the chalice and paten made from the trees at the Alt farm; my 14 nieces and nephews; Dad’s laughter; Mom’s hugs; morning prayer with coffee; buttered toast.