(Washington, D.C., June 6, 2014) — Three men who will be ordained as Jesuit priests on Saturday, June 14, have one thing in common: Boston College. Thomas Simisky, 43, a native of Worcester, Massachusetts, is a former Marine Corps artillery officer who earned a master’s in economics at BC. Mario Powell, 32, a native of Los Angeles who converted to Catholicism, entered the Jesuits after graduating from BC in 2003; and Sam Sawyer, 35, a Scranton, Pennsylvania, native who graduated from BC in 2000, worked as a software programmer before joining the Jesuits.
The three men being ordained all credit the Jesuits at BC with inspiring their vocations. The Jesuits, the largest order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church, have seen vocation inquiries rise in the year since the election of the first Jesuit Pope, Pope Francis. Nineteen men are being ordained nationally as Jesuit priests this summer.
Although the three BC grads studied at the university at different times, they came to know each other several years ago as theology students at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (BCSTM). Their call to Jesuit priesthood required them to undergo extensive training — from the moment they entered the Jesuits as novices to ordination — a process that can take anywhere from eight to 12 years.
During the formation process, Simisky, Powell and Sawyer earned graduate degrees from Jesuit universities and taught at Jesuit schools. Both Simisky and Powell taught theology at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, while Sawyer taught philosophy at Loyola University Maryland.
They also traveled abroad for a variety of experiences. Simisky studied in Bolivia and Chile and worked in Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Jamaica, while Sawyer traveled to Spain and Brazil accompanying pilgrims to World Youth Day gatherings.
The Very Rev. Thomas H. Smolich, SJ, president of the Jesuit Conference, said, “This is a wonderful time for the Society of Jesus, for the family and friends of those being ordained and, most of all, for the Church. These 19 men have chosen to devote their lives to service, and to witness that commitment in the ordination ceremony is humbling. As they begin their priestly ministry, we will continue to keep them in our prayers.”
The ordination Mass for Simisky, Powell and Sawyer will take place at Fordham University Church in the Bronx, New York.
Following ordination, Simisky will serve on the staff of Fairfield College Preparatory School in Connecticut; Powell will return to BCSTM to complete a graduate degree in theology; and Sawyer will also continue graduate studies at BCSTM before heading to Washington, D.C., to serve in a Jesuit parish.
Full bios of the three ordinands follow.
Mario M. Powell, SJ
Mario M. Powell, SJ, 32, spent his early childhood in Hawaii before moving to Santa Monica, California, in grade school. Powell, a convert to Catholicism at age 13, attended St. Monica’s grammar school and first encountered the Jesuits at Loyola High School of Los Angeles. As an undergraduate at Boston College, Powell was active in leadership and service groups and also participated in speech and debate while earning a bachelor’s degree in history. Initially, he aspired to become a lawyer, but his service work with the poor helped to shift his focus away from his own desires to the question of what God was calling him to do. In 2003, he entered the Society of Jesus. After two years as a Jesuit novice, he was missioned to Saint Louis University where he earned a master’s degree in American studies. For his three-year regency assignment, Powell taught history and theology at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, while founding the Model U.N. Club and coaching the downhill ski team. At the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Powell earned a Master of Divinity degree while serving as a deacon at St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Throughout his nine months at St. Ignatius Parish, Powell was challenged and confirmed in his priestly vocation. Following his assignment this summer at the Church of St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem, New York, Powell will return to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry to complete a Licentiate in Sacred Theology.
Thomas M. Simisky, SJ
Thomas M. Simisky, SJ, 43, grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he attended Assumption College and received a bachelor’s degree in politics in 1992. Following graduation, he served for four years with the Marine Corps as an artillery officer, attaining the rank of captain while stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and deployed to the Persian Gulf. After his military service, Simisky earned a master’s degree in economics from Boston College while also working as a graduate assistant for the Latin American Studies Program. The experience was transformative because it was the first time Simisky met the Jesuits and learned the story of a man who would greatly influence his vocation, the former soldier, St. Ignatius of Loyola. For two years while discerning his vocation, Simisky taught Spanish and coached football at Catholic Memorial High School in Boston before entering the Jesuits in 2003. After the novitiate, Simisky spent a semester in Bolivia and then two and a half years in Chile for philosophy studies at the university named for Jesuit Saint Alberto Hurtado. For his regency assignment, Simisky headed to Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, where he taught theology. Missioned next to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Simisky earned both a Master of Divinity degree as well as a master’s degree in theology while assisting as a deacon at St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Brookline, Massachusetts. His 11 years as a Jesuit have included a host of diverse and inspiring experiences, including working with young people and the homeless in Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Jamaica. Following ordination, he will be missioned to Fairfield College Preparatory School in Connecticut.
Samuel J. Sawyer, SJ
Samuel J. Sawyer, SJ, 35, spent his early years in Montana but, following the untimely death of his father, the family moved to Pennsylvania where his mother began work at the University of Scranton. From the time he was very young, Sawyer was surrounded by Jesuits — both at Scranton Preparatory School, where he attended high school, and at the University of Scranton campus. At Boston College, Sawyer started actively discerning a vocation to the Jesuits. While earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science, he worked with other Jesuit high school alumni to establish Boston College’s longstanding Kairos retreat. Following graduation in 2000, Sawyer spent a year teaching math and running the computer lab at Baltimore’s St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, a tuition-free, independent Jesuit school for underserved boys. He then returned to Boston as a software engineer for a defense contractor and later worked as an independent software consultant. As a parishioner at St. Ignatius of Loyola Parish in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, Sawyer’s involvement with the Liturgy Commission and the RCIA group helped convince him that his longtime discernment was coming to an end: He applied to the Jesuits in 2004 and entered the novitiate that summer. Missioned next to Loyola University Chicago, he earned a master’s degree in philosophy and was then assigned to teach philosophy for two years at Loyola University Maryland. Next missioned to the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Sawyer earned a Master of Divinity degree while serving as a deacon at Immaculate Conception Church in Everett, Massachusetts. During his years of formation, he has worked on the Hearts on Fire traveling retreats, accompanied pilgrims at World Youth Day gatherings in Spain and Brazil, served as a chaplain for Loyola University Chicago’s medical school immersion trips and co-founded The Jesuit Post, a popular website examining the intersection of faith and culture.
About the Society of Jesus
Founded in 1540 by Saint Ignatius Loyola, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) is the largest order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church. The New England Province of the Society of Jesus consists of nearly 300 Jesuits serving the Church in educational, pastoral and spiritual ministries. Jesuits minister in parishes, at retreat houses, and serve as chaplains at prisons, hospitals, nursing homes and in the military. Educational ministries include two Nativity middle schools, three Jesuit high schools and three higher education institutions: Boston College, College of the Holy Cross and Fairfield University. The Province provides spiritual and educational formation for young Jesuits and cares for the needs of elder Jesuits. To learn more about the New England Province, please visit www.sjnen.org, follow JesuitNE on Twitter and become a fan of JesuitsEast on Facebook.