Dan Dixon, SJ
Province: USA Midwest
Hometown: Birmingham, Michigan
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Helped to start the Welsh Academy, a middle school for families of modest economic means in Cleveland.
- Taught classes for English language learners to migrants and refugees at St. Rita’s Center in the Bronx, New York, and Catholic Worker in Oakland, California.
- Taught RCIA classes for adults and served as a deacon at St. Elizabeth Parish in Oakland, which exposed him to the beauty and joy of sacramental ministry in the church.
Will be a pastoral associate at St. Mary Student Parish at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Bachelor’s degree, theology, University of Notre Dame; Master of Education, University of Notre Dame; Master’s degree, business administration, Columbia Business School; Master’s degree, private school leadership, Teachers College at Columbia University; Master of Divinity, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
Daniel J. Dixon, SJ, was born and raised in Birmingham, Michigan, by his loving parents, Mike and Sharon, along with his older brothers, Mike and Tom. He met the Jesuits while a student at the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. He attended the University of Notre Dame where he majored in theology and was taught and mentored by Fr. Brian Daley, SJ. After college, he joined the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), where he taught middle school social studies and religion at St. John Vianney Catholic School in Goodyear, Arizona. While in ACE, Dan directed the school play and started the school baseball team. Dan’s experience in ACE and love of teaching encouraged him to enter the Jesuits in 2012. As a novice, Dan served in a variety of places, including St. Mary Student Parish at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. After taking vows in 2014, Dan moved to New York, where he completed degrees in private school leadership and business administration from Columbia University, while teaching English as a second language to immigrants and refugees at St. Rita’s Center in the Bronx.
Dan was then missioned to help start the Welsh Academy, a middle school for families of modest economic means at Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland. There he taught high school theology and helped direct Saint Ignatius’ strategic plan. Dan then moved to Berkeley, California, to complete his Master of Divinity degree at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in preparation for ordination. While living in the Bay Area, Dan served as a volunteer at the Oakland Catholic Worker and a deacon at St. Elizabeth’s, a thriving Latino/a parish in Oakland. His first Mass will be on Sunday, June 11, at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Milwaukee. After ordination, Dan has been missioned to be a pastoral associate at St. Mary Student Parish at the University of Michigan.
What are three words a family member or fellow Jesuit would use to describe you? Do you agree with his or her selections?
Hope-filled, pastoral, practical.
I asked a good Jesuit friend for these words. I think he did a great job summarizing different aspects of my personality that have been honed by Jesuit formation. On one hand, I greatly value practicality, especially in my professional life. I am always thinking about implementation and whether or not a certain idea or program will work for its intended audience. On a deeper level, the reason I want to be a Jesuit priest always comes down to the pastoral. I love walking with people, listening to their stories and forming connections. I believe that God is at work in every person’s life, and that gives me a great deal of hope for the future of our church and our world, even when being realistic about the many injustices and challenges that people face.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
St. Oscar Romero comes to mind. His closeness to the poor and suffering people of El Salvador taught him the importance of speaking out against the killing and injustice of the government, at great personal risk. This conviction was rooted in his knowledge of and love for Jesus, who was poor and identified with the poor, most powerfully through his suffering and death on the cross. He is an inspirational example to me of someone who used his power and position to advocate for others, never losing sight of his relationship with God or his responsibility to those most marginalized.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
I’ve learned to love hiking and exploring urban areas. Jesuits in formation get to live in lots of unique places. From discovering coffee shops in various New York neighborhoods to planning a weekly hike in the Bay Area in the throes of the pandemic, this exploration has not only deepened my understanding of the local culture but also revealed to me the diversity inherent in God’s creation.
What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
There is so much I love about being a Jesuit. For example, the diversity in the Society makes community life much more interesting. Before entering, I worried the long formation process was designed in part to make Jesuits think a certain way or be interested in studying a particular thing. Happily, I have never been more wrong! I have friends who are professionals in sociology, physics and theater. There are Jesuits with views spanning the political spectrum. Some of us are obsessed with sports, while others couldn’t care less. I have learned that Jesuits do take seriously “finding God in all things” in the way that guys are encouraged to follow their passions, interests and desires in their personal and professional lives.
Where has your Jesuit vocation taken you that you never thought you would go?
Honestly, every single place I’ve been. I had never been to New York and became mesmerized by the sheer energy, diversity and wildness of the place. Latin American, too. I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in Peru, Mexico and Guatemala. Each place is very unique with its history, Indigenous culture and delicious food. But what has most moved me in these experiences is the faith of people. Their knowledge and love of God is evident, and they have helped form me greatly as I prepare to become a priest.
Who is one important mentor who has accompanied you on your journey? What made them a good mentor?
I think of Fr. Ray Guiao, SJ, who I’ve asked to be my vesting priest. When I entered the Jesuits in 2012, Ray was my formation director. When it came time to discern placements for first studies, Ray encouraged me to consider New York, a place I’d never been. Given that I’d studied theology and philosophy in undergrad, he saw possibilities for special studies that I would have never considered. A few years later, as the president of Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland, Ray offered me the opportunity to work with him to start a school for families of modest economic means, which later became the Welsh Academy. It was an extraordinary act of trust and confidence in me that I still treasure. Working so closely with a Jesuit brother on something so central to our mission inspired me and gave me strength even when the inevitable challenges arose. I found, and continue to find, the Holy Spirit at work in Ray’s deep pastoral care for all those he encounters.