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Gene Martens, SJ

60 Years a Priest
Pastoral Ministry at St. Ignatius Hall and other St. Louis communities

Father Gene Martens, SJ, has been serving the Church as a priest for 60 years and as a Jesuit for 73 years. He has served in various ways through pastoral ministry in St. Louis since 2012.

Father Martens began his active ministry in 1957 as a teacher of English, Latin, Greek and theology at Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri. He returned there in 1966 after earning a certificate in Higher Religious Education from the University of Strasbourg in France and remained at Rockhurst High School for ten more years. During that time, he taught religion, worked as a student counselor, gave talks on religion to parents and assisted in training programs for teachers of religion throughout the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

From 1977 to 1984, he was assigned as a minister to the bishop and clergy of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri. He also served as a pastor at Holy Trinity Parish in Marshfield, Missouri, during this time. From 1984 to 1987, he served as the assistant to the rector of the Fusz Pavilion Jesuit Community for senior and infirm Jesuits in St. Louis.

From 1987 to 1990, he was pastor of Mount Carmel Church in Pueblo, Colorado.

Upon returning to St. Louis in 1990, Fr. Martens served as the associate director of development for the former Missouri Province, remaining until 2011.

Over all his years in ministry, Fr. Martens has led more than 60 retreats, mostly for women religious. He has also given spiritual direction to many of his parishioners, students and colleagues. He has also collaborated on and written several published works, including book reviews, journal articles, and two books – one as a member of the editorial team and the other as an author.

Father Martens earned a bachelor’s degree and licentiate in philosophy from Saint Louis University. He also holds a master’s in Latin and a licentiate in sacred theology, both from Saint Louis University. He received a certificate in Higher Religious Education at the University of Strasbourg in France.

Father Martens’ Reflection on 60 Years as a Priest

On this occasion of my 60th jubilee of ordination to the priesthood, I have been invited to write reflections on my Jesuit life over the years. In my reflections three years ago for my 70th jubilee as a Jesuit, I wrote, “Also, over these 70 years I have had the blessing of Jesus, in His Eucharistic Presence, living in my house.” On this occasion of my 60th jubilee of ordination to the priesthood, I’m led to wonder whether this reality of His close Eucharistic Presence had anything to do with the fact that I wrote a book entitled At Mass with Jesus on Calvary: Reflections on the prayers of the Mass and the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. (Published in December, 2019) I guess it could be called a whole book of “reflections on the Eucharist.” Certainly, the book would not have been written had I not entered the Society of Jesus in 1950 and been ordained a priest on June 11, 1963.

I’ve recently realized what a most sacred and intimate relationship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit the priest has when he celebrates Mass. As we pray in Eucharist Prayers II, III, and IV, it seems to be the power of the Holy Spirit which brings about the change of the bread and wine on the altar into the Body and blood of Jesus. However, it is the words of Consecration spoken by the priest at the altar which, so to speak, cause this action of the Holy Spirit to take place. How sacred and intimate, then, is the union which takes place between the priest and the Holy Spirit, as well as with Jesus, every time a priest celebrates Mass!

From about August 1964, until June 1965, I spent the final year of my Jesuit spiritual formation as a Jesuit in Paray-le-Monial, France, where I had the blessing of offering the Eucharist a number of times in the convent where the Sacred Heart of Jesus appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque during the 17th century. From these visions resulted the devotion to the Sacred Heart, as we know it today.

Between 1990 and 2011, as part of my duties in our former Missouri Province development office, I offered Mass and preached “mission appeals” in 260 different parishes, spread out over Missouri, Illinois, Kansas and Colorado, begging money for our missionary work.  By offering Mass in so many different parishes, I felt I was experiencing “the front lines” of the Church in our country.

Among other blessings of my 60 years as a priest, I have formed so many friendships over the years with so many people in so many different places, because of the various ministries to which I have been called during my priestly life. Yes, indeed, I have received the “hundredfold” that Jesus promised to those who follow him in this way.