Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Story

25 Years a Jesuit

Rector, St. Peter Claver Jesuit Community – Kansas City, Missouri

Father Derrick Weingartner, SJ

June 20, 2024 – Father Derrick Weingartner, SJ, has been a Jesuit for 25 years, but never imagined that he would live out his call to pastoral ministry in the Society of Jesus primarily by serving his brother Jesuits. He was missioned as rector of the St. Peter Claver Jesuit Community in Kansas City, Missouri, a community of 11 Jesuits, in 2021. He also represents the Society of Jesus on the boards of Rockhurst University, Rockhurst High School and the Ignatian Spirituality Center of Kansas City.

Before moving to Kansas City, he was the rector of the St. Charles College Jesuit Community and pastor of St. Charles Borromeo parish in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. Today, after nine years serving as the local superior of Jesuit communities, Fr. Weingartner finds joy and satisfaction through a vocation of service.

“I truly feel in my heart that I am where the Lord has placed me, and I’m doing what the Lord has called me to do: to love my brother Jesuits and the Society of Jesus through the ministry of rector,” he said.

An Internal Ministry

A rector is a Jesuit who is responsible for the well-being of the Jesuit apostolates and his fellow Jesuits, supporting them as they engage in their apostolic works. This “internal ministry” in the Society of Jesus involves practical matters, such as facilitating community activities, as well as working with the house coordinator to meet the community’s daily needs. It also involves a lot of listening and pastoral care.

“Being present to my brothers as they go through their struggles and successes as Jesuit scholastics or Jesuit priests is not unlike accompanying parishioners at a parish as they go through the joys and the challenges of life,” Fr. Weingartner said. Regular check-ins with the men of his community, who range from regents (Jesuits in formation who are teaching at Rockhurst High School) to senior Jesuits, facilitate this support.

“I love the Society of Jesus. Serving as a rector is a way for me to actively love the Society of Jesus and my brothers,” he said. “I think when it’s done well, it helps my brother Jesuits  live their vocations as men of poverty, chastity and obedience.”

Father Weingartner meets with students at St. Ignatius School in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, where he served as pastor at St. Charles Borromeo parish.

Saying Yes to the Lord

A native of Houston, Fr. Weingartner first met the Jesuits at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory School. He heard the call to the priesthood later, during his late 20s, and discerned for three years before pursuing it.

“After I said yes to the Lord that I would serve as a priest, it was natural that I would reach out to the Jesuits,” he said. He contacted a Jesuit vocation director and entered the novitiate at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau in 1999.

Always interested in parish ministry, Fr. Weingartner was grateful to serve first as associate pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and later as pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Grand Coteau, beginning in 2014. “I really enjoyed serving as a pastor in a parish and entering into the reality of people’s lives and accompanying them throughout the liturgical year,” he said. “I think the way I related to parishioners  carries over to my work as rector.”

It was during his time at St. Charles Borromeo that he was called to pronounce his final vows in the Society of Jesus. It was a profound experience of saying “yes” to Christ with his mind and heart. His vow Mass took place during Mass at the parish on the feast of the Assumption in 2015.

“It was very satisfying to be called into the fullness of that relationship with the Society of Jesus,” he said. “I felt an increased responsibility for the Society of Jesus and my brother Jesuits in a more profound way than I ever had before.”

Father Weingartner and his parents celebrate after his profession of final vows in 2015.

A New Direction in Ministry

It was also in 2015 that he received another surprising call from the provincial, asking him to take on the additional duties of rector of St. Charles College in Grand Coteau.

“Initially, I would say I was duped, because I did not realize the extent of the commitment,” he joked. “But as I look back, I am grateful that the Lord asked me to serve in this ministry and that he gave me the grace and courage to say yes to it.”

The Jesuit population peaked at 55 during his six years as rector at St. Charles College. While he was not directly responsible for the 20 or so novices, whose superior was the novice director, living in a community of Jesuits from the earliest stages of formation to the very end of their lives came with gifts and challenges.

“During the time I was there, 31 of the elderly Jesuits died. It was a tough and yet beautiful experience to know those men in the last years, last days of their lives,” Fr. Weingartner said.

Another major challenge was navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. “I put a lot of energy into trying to care for the community, especially my elder brothers who were more vulnerable to COVID,” he said. He added that the pandemic demanded adaptability. “I think it helped me grow in my understanding of what it means to adapt to the times and the needs of the community or the needs of an apostolate.”

In 2021, Fr. Weingartner was missioned to serve as rector in Kansas City, a place he’d never previously visited. Getting to know the local Jesuits, as well as the works and apostolates, challenged and enriched him as he continued his service to the Society of Jesus.

As he celebrates his 25th Jesuit jubilee, Fr. Weingartner is grateful to his brother Jesuits who have helped make his life so meaningful and helped him more fully say yes to God’s call to discipleship.

Father Weingartner in the chapel at Montserrat in Spain.
Father Weingartner in the chapel at Montserrat in Spain.

“I’m grateful to live in a religious community of men who share the same vocation, the same understanding of what it means to be a man of God, of what it means to live out the Spiritual Exercises and live the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience,” he said.

Father Weingartner looks forward to the future with confident hope.

“I believe the Society of Jesus will continue responding to the Lord’s call with courage, grace and a sensitivity to the needs of the people that we serve,” he said.

“I hope I can grow to be a better priest, a better Jesuit and a better rector, and that I can even more fully say yes to the Lord and whatever he invites me to do through the Society of Jesus.”

Do you think you might be called to life as a Jesuit? Visit www.BeAJesuit.org to begin exploring.