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2024 Ordinands

Michael Mohr, SJ

Province: USA Central and Southern

Hometown: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Highlights of Jesuit Formation:

  1. Pastorally supported Indigenous communities in the Pakaraima Mountains of Guyana.
  2. Taught English language courses to his brother Jesuits in Vietnam as well as to the local youth community.
  3. Worked with Jesuit Refugee Service in Uganda in both Kampala and Adjumani doing pastoral work and English language instruction.

Post-Ordination:
Will pursue a Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Boston College Clough School of Theology and Ministry.

Michael serves Mass with Pope Francis on the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, on January 1, 2023.

Education:
Bachelor’s degree, English, Millsaps College; Bachelor of Sacred Theology, Pontifical Gregorian University

Biography:
Michael Mohr, SJ, was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, by his wonderful parents Jeff and Lisa alongside his amazing sister, Brittany. A graduate of Catholic High School, Michael first began thinking about religious life thanks to the witness of the Brothers of the Sacred Heart, to whom he remains grateful. He studied English and secondary education at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, where he was also active in a number of clubs and associations, especially the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. During high school and college, he spent his summers working with youth in the Navajo Nation. After college, Michael was hired to teach high school English at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison, Mississippi. During those three years, the idea of serving the church as a priest and teacher became more and more attractive.

In the novitiate, Michael did apostolic work in Kansas City, St. Louis and Houston. He studied philosophy at Saint Louis University and completed his regency at St. Louis University High School. While there, he taught English and theology, assisted with the band, and helped with pastoral ministry and retreats. Additionally, much of Michael’s formation was shaped by numerous international experiences of service and study, including Spanish studies in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Mexico; working with Indigenous communities in Guyana; pastoral work in Belize; teaching English in Vietnam to his brother Jesuits; working with Jesuit Refugee Service in Uganda; and studying theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In Rome, Michael participated in Living Stones, a young adult group focused on spiritual formation and giving faith-based art and architectural visits through different churches. His first Mass will be at St. Francis Xavier College Church in St. Louis. After ordination, he will pursue the Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Boston College Clough School of Theology and Ministry.

Michael gives an English lesson to a Jesuit Refugee Service class in Kampala, Uganda.

What are three words a family member or fellow Jesuit would use to describe you? Do you agree with his or her selections?
Three words that a friend used to describe me are joyful, outgoing and sincere. It is moving to hear these words spoken by a friend, and if taken together certainly capture the kind of person I try to be.

I remember working with a young person once who said he did not trust me initially because I seemed too happy, but later he remarked that he saw a sincerity in my manner that showed an authenticity he did not expect to find. “I thought it was a mask,” he admitted, “but I think this is really just who you are.”

It gave me pause to consider his statement and reflect on that sincerity, to contemplate the nature of my joyful manner. I realized that when I am with people, excitement is my natural response. I genuinely enjoy being with others, and I especially enjoy meeting new people. There is something about the potential surprises that await in a new encounter that I find particularly exciting.

I often find myself genuinely joyful in new experiences, and the Society has taught me to reflect on that in a healthy way. One of the best parts of Jesuit life, in fact, is the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people in a variety of contexts. I think it shows that I am clearly in the right place!

Michael distributes Communion to his sister Brittany and her husband Philip at their wedding.

What’s one piece of Jesuit history that you find really inspiring?
There are two Jesuit saints and their friendship that I find particularly inspiring. Aloysius Gonzaga was from a noble family in Italy, and yet he abandoned his future temporal power to enter the young Society of Jesus. As a student at the Roman College, it is said he had a knack for disobeying his superiors by putting himself at continued risk of illness through his many acts of charity.

Michael with the Jr. Billiken mascot during regency at St. Louis University High School

His spiritual father and teacher, Robert Bellarmine, encouraged him in his desires to serve. Gonzaga, in his early 20s, became ill after working with a victim of the plague and later died with Bellarmine attending to him during his passing. It would be Bellarmine himself who promoted Gonzaga’s cause to sainthood, and he allegedly expressed that one day he would like to be buried near his former student who he believed to be a saint. Years later, Bellarmine himself would be canonized, and now both are buried in adjacent chapels in the Church of St. Ignatius in Rome. Bellarmine got his wish.

A story like this inspires me for a number of reasons. For one it shows the power of good mentorship and religious brotherhood. These two great saints also model what holy friendship looks like and how it can facilitate mutually life-giving graces. While from two different generations, a holy friendship emerged that brought them both spiritual consolation and support. For Gonzaga, he was inspired to live the vision of charity so often preached about by his teacher Bellarmine. For Bellarmine, he saw in his student and fellow Jesuit one so devotedly dedicated to Christ through his acts of service. Taken together, these two Jesuit saints reflect the meaning of “friends in the Lord” Ignatius had envisioned in the early Society of Jesus. I think we can still draw inspiration from them today in our Jesuit communities as we form friendships with not only our peers but with our brother Jesuits across generations.

Michael at his profession of first vows in the Society of Jesus

Where has your Jesuit vocation taken you that you never thought you would go?
Since joining the Jesuits, I have had the opportunity to work and study all over the world, even in places I did not choose to go. It has all been nothing short of amazing. I have always loved meeting new people, but to pray, study and work alongside fellow Catholics from around the world has taught me the true universality of our faith. Ever since the novitiate, I was encouraged to embrace the challenges of living in different local contexts other than my own, and while it is not always easy, I found an abundance of grace and new closeness with God.

I remember during philosophy studies I received a call about the availability of teaching English to scholastics in Vietnam to help prepare them for studies. I never would have chosen to do something like that, but it was an opportunity for me to see the beauty of the universal Catholic faith in a context other than my own. I made new friends there with my brother Jesuits, and five years later, when I was assigned to theology studies in Rome, I found myself reunited with several former students from Vietnam who were now my classmates. We were able to pick up where we left off and embrace our new mission together. I never would have guessed that those friendships formed through the Society would endure, and yet here I am realizing that the gift of the Society of Jesus is often a gift of friendship.

What’s one thing you would tell someone considering entering the Society today that you wish you had known?
I would tell anyone considering the Society of Jesus that he has no idea the joy that is awaiting him if he just says yes. To “trust the process” actually works. My journey of formation has shown me the depths of God’s love for me and for the people of the world. I am constantly surprised by the ways I am called to labor alongside the Lord. The experiences of friendship — beginning with Jesus — are glimpses of a world charged with hope.

For 10 years, I have gone “all in” with the process of formation and have learned more about myself than I thought possible. Most importantly, the Jesuits have put me in touch with the real world. The various experiences of ministry and study have opened my eyes to the complex realities of the lives of the people of the world. It is a life that has demanded me to be bold, and the grace that flows through living my vocation with conviction has revealed the reciprocity of gifts that await us all if we choose to walk together.