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Vernon Heinsz, SJ

50 Years a Priest
Minister of the Spiritual Exercises at the St. Ignatius Hall Jesuit Community

Father Vernon Heinsz, SJ, was ordained in 1973, making this year his fiftieth as a priest. He currently serves as a minister of the Spiritual Exercises at the St. Ignatius Hall Jesuit community in Florissant, Missouri.

Following initial Jesuit studies, Fr. Heinsz taught English at Regis Jesuit High School, from 1967 to 1970, back when the school was on the Regis College campus.

He then studied at Saint Louis University for four years before heading to Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri. There, he served in several administrative and educational roles, including student counselor, librarian, assistant principal and religion teacher.

Father Heinsz left Rockhurst High in 1982 to serve as the assistant to the novice master at the novitiate in Denver. He also served briefly at Regis University as a teacher of religion and professor of religious studies.

During his time at Regis, Fr. Heinsz made the first of many ministerial trips to Zimbabwe, where he taught at the Regional Major Seminary in Harare.

In 1992, Fr. Heinsz returned to Rockhurst High School to teach theology and assist in pastoral care for the students. Three years later, he returned to Zimbabwe, this time serving as director of Ignatian Spirituality at St. George’s College until 2001.

Upon returning to the U.S., Fr. Heinsz began a ministry of spiritual direction, serving as retreat director for the Sacred Heart Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado, from 2002 to 2004. He then served for 15 years as the assistant to the director of the Ignatian Spirituality Program at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Kansas City, Missouri.

Father Heinsz holds a bachelor’s degree in classics and a master’s in pastoral theology from Saint Louis University, a master’s in English from Marquette University and a Doctor of Ministry in theology from Boston’s Center for Religious Development.

Father Heinsz’s Reflection on 50 Years as a Priest

Some years ago, I spent ten years in Africa. I was stationed at St. George’s College, the Jesuit Secondary School in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe. I came to know a young African who worked at the College, a simple, quiet, respected man. His name was “Cloudy,” Cloudy Manaswara.

One day, in conversation, I asked him about his life. Eventually, I asked particularly: with the disastrous political and economic conditions in the country with little relief in sight, how he and his family managed to cope and remain relatively happy. He thought for a moment, smiled, and said: “We have each other … we have God … we will be fine.”

Looking back over the years of my Jesuit life and my various missions – in studies, in high schools, in parishes, at the Spirituality Center in Kansas City – I can recall many of the joys and struggles of the people in those situations. And now I can hear – so often intertwined in their lives – words that gave meaning, direction, faith, hope and love to carry on in their daily lives. And those words are much like those simple words of human-divine experience and wisdom: “We have each other … we have God … we will be fine.”

St. Ignatius has said that we are to try to find God in all things. There have been so many people in my life, people who have expressed, often in very ordinary ways, God’s presence and activity with deep, living truths like, “We have each other …. we have God … we will be fine.” So, in my Jesuit life and ministry – in memory and now  – I continue to be filled with wonder, grace and gratitude, especially through people who are God’s gifts to me.

~ Father Vernon Heinsz, SJ