By Rosalie Tomeny
Ignatian Heritage Society member Bob Von Hoene recognizes what’s important in life and doesn’t hesitate to act – as exemplified by his proposal of marriage after less than a week of courting Mary, the woman who would become his wife, and by his and Mary’s decision to invest in Jesuit causes throughout their lives. Bob lost his beloved Mary in 2020, but he continues his gifts to the Jesuits as one way to honor her. It was Mary who introduced Bob to the Society of Jesus.
In a beautiful twist of fate, both Bob and Mary were born in Saint Mary’s Hospital in Passaic, N.J., but grew up in separate New Jersey communities. Both attended Catholic schools, with Mary graduating from Marquette University, while Bob went to the University of Dayton, a Marianist school. His law degree is from Seton Hall.
Bob Von Hoene’s relationship with the Jesuits begins with his proposal to Mary on Christmas Day in 1976. As they began to plan their wedding and their life together, the couple did not have an established parish in either of their communities in Bergen County, N.J., just outside of New York City. However, Mary had a friendship with Fr. Robert Hart, SJ, one of her theology professors at Marquette.
When Mary was a student, Fr. Hart would come and say Mass at the apartment Mary shared with her housemates in Milwaukee, and they would all have dinner together afterward. Mary’s love for Marquette and the Church broadened into a deep appreciation for the Jesuit mission. So, when she learned that Fr. Hart had been missioned to a Yale parish in nearby New Haven, Conn., she hoped he would preside at their wedding.
“We went to New Haven and arranged for Fr. Hart to marry us there a few weeks later in a very small family wedding,” Von Hoene recalls.
Father Hart then drove back to New Jersey with the happy couple for a reception in a small supper club – right across the street from the hospital where they were both born. They had come full circle!
Fortunately for all, the friendship did not end with the wedding.
“Because we both enjoyed Fr. Hart’s company so much, we traveled several times to New Haven on weekends to spend time with him and the other Jesuits,” said Von Hoene. “We were in a pleasant social environment, going to dinner together, attending jai alai games, or just being entertained by the priests with their guitars and singing. Mary and I really enjoyed seeing the social and fun-loving side of these very well educated and dedicated Jesuits.”
The Von Hoenes also embraced the spiritual side of the Jesuits with whom they socialized. And they began to adopt some of the values of the Society of Jesus, including being men and women for others. Impressed by the Cristo Rey approach to education – in which low-income students work one day a week as a way to contribute to the cost of their education – the Von Hoenes made Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory School of Houston one of the early beneficiaries of their generosity.
Those gifts later extended beyond the high school to include the Jesuit provinces that support Jesuit works by overseeing mission and providing training for Jesuits.
“Mary and I started making small donations to the Jesuits, both to the Central and Southern Province and to the Midwest Province a few years before Mary’s death in 2020,” Bob said.
“Mary specifically wanted to support both the novices and the elder priests, and when we made our wills in 2007, we left a sizable portion to both provinces, as well as to Marquette University’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program,” Von Hoene said.
When Mary died, Bob wanted to honor his wife’s wishes and started donating to the provinces at a greater level. The Jesuits of the USA Central and Southern Province are particularly grateful to Bob for his recent generous gift for the construction of St. Ignatius Hall, the new retirement community in St. Louis.
Mr. Von Hoene is sponsoring the community’s Wellness Office in memory of both his beloved wife and her long-ago professor, Fr. Robert Hart, SJ, who introduced Bob and Mary to the Society of Jesus.
Bob Von Hoene reflected recently on why donating to the Jesuit province is important to him: “I had life-saving open-heart surgery in 2021, and I realize how fortunate I am to have survived. I look forward to continuing what Mary and I began. I am grateful for the influence the Jesuits had on Mary before we met and for their influence on both our lives.”
You, too, can show your appreciation for the Jesuits you’ve known and ensure their sustainability for the long-term. Consider leaving a planned gift to the Jesuit USA Central and Sothern Province in your will. To learn about other options, call Chief Advancement Officer Paula K. Parrish, CFRE, for information. Or call (314) 758-7126 and leave a message.