Jesuit Father Martin L. Elsner died on Feb. 4, 2018, in Opelousas, Louisiana. He was 86 years old, a Jesuit for 68 years and a priest for 55 years.
Fr. Elsner was born in St. Louis on Sept. 1, 1931 to Martin L. Elsner, Sr. and Mary Gerometta Elsner. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by brothers John and Steve Elsner and sister, Mrs. J. C. Maguire, Jr. He is survived by nieces and nephews.
He attended Jesuit High in Dallas, TX (1945-47) and Price High in Amarillo, TX (1947-49). After professing first vows, he studied continued his studies at St. Charles College. He studied philosophy at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, where he also earned a bachelor’s in English. He later earned an M.Ed. from Loyola University New Orleans and studied theology at St. Mary’s College in St. Marys, Kansas.
He entered the Society of Jesus on Aug. 14, 1949, at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. He professed first vows two years later and was ordained to the priesthood on June 13, 1962, at St. Joseph Chapel at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama. He pronounced final vows in El Paso, Texas.
Fr. Elsner began his priestly ministry in Shreveport, Louisiana, where he served as assistant principal from 1964 to 1968 at the former Jesuit High School. He was then appointed rector-president at Jesuit High School in El Paso, Texas, where eventually he also served as both president and principal. He was a source of strength and consolation to the Jesuits and to the community at large when the school closed in 1972. He then became superior of Jesuit House in El Paso, a small community made up of Jesuits who had served at Jesuit High before it closed. These men continued the Jesuit mission of education by serving in public schools, because that is where they thought they would find the students with the greatest need; Fr. Elsner taught at Riverside Public School.
Fr. Elsner was called from El Paso to serve in the provincial office in New Orleans in 1977. He served for one year as Vice Provincial for Pastoral and International Affairs, continuing for two more years as an assistant to the provincial with the same portfolio.
After three years in province administration, he became pastor at St. Joseph Church in Houston, a post he held for eight years (1980-88). After a sabbatical, he became pastor at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Antonio. He remained in San Antonio until 2017, serving twice as pastor (1989-96, 2000-2008) and many years as associate (1996-2000, 2008-2011). From 2011-2017, he was spiritual director at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio until declining health indicated a move to the St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Pavilion in Grand Coteau in October 2017.