St. Ignatius parishioner ordained Jesuit priest in Milwaukee
By Eileen Connelly, OSU
The Catholic Telegraph
Growing up in St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Monfort Heights, Jesuit Father Eric Sundrup had no idea of the significance the faith community’s patron saint would one day play in his life.
Looking back, however, the newly ordained priest can definitely say that it was at the parish where his vocation was initially nurtured. “I was impressed by the priests there and how they cared for the people,” said Father Sundrup, who returned to his home parish to celebrate Mass on June 15. “The call to the priesthood comes out of community and that was my experience at St. Ignatius.”
Father Sundrup went on to attend La Salle High School, graduating in 1991. It was as a student at Xavier University that he first met the Jesuits. During a retreat his sophomore year, the young man experienced Ignatian contemplation and prayer, which led him to discern a vocation as a Jesuit priest. “I was drawn to the way Jesuits approach things, focusing on how God is at work right now,” Father Sundrup explained. “My spiritual director at XU helped me to learn to pay attention to my own desires and imagination and bring that into prayer with God.”
While he was excited about his vocation, Father Sundrup realized that for the time being he needed to stay focused on his studies. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biology, Father Sundrup fostered his love for ministry through various university service groups. His parents, Mike and Diane, were his “biggest cheerleaders. They were very supportive and wanted me to be happy,” he said.
Following his graduation in 2003, Father Sundrup entered the Jesuits and quickly discovered a love of Spanish language and culture during a summer trip to Peru.
“Being there woke something up in me,” he recalled. “Even though I didn’t really speak any Spanish, the people there accepted me. They gave their love so freely and I realized I wanted to be closer to that. It changed the way I approach things, the way I pray.”
His Jesuit formation continued after that meaningful summer. Father Sundrup earned a master’s degree in philosophy from Loyola University Chicago in 2008. He was then assigned to the Instituto de Idiomas Maryknoll in Cochabamba, Bolivia, for four months of intensive Spanish study, followed by a sixth month teaching stint at Colegio Miguel Pro in Tacna, Peru.
Missioned next to Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Chicago, Father Sundrup taught biology and served as a college counselor For the past three years, he has been studying at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, Calif., where he earned a master of divinity degree while serving as a deacon at a local bilingual parish.
A highlight of Father Sundrup’s preparation for the priesthood has been his work at “The Jesuit Post,” a website (https://thejesuitpost.org/) he co-founded in 2012 to explore the intersection of faith and culture for a young adult audience. “The Jesuit Post’s” first book of essays was published earlier this year by Orbis Books.
Father Sundrup was ordained on June 7 at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee and will soon be bound for St. Mary Student Parish at the University of Michigan, where he will be working with the undergraduate students and in Hispanic ministry.
“As I pack up to head to Ann Arbor, I’ve been looking over my old photo files of many different places, people and works,” he said. “Looking into peoples’ faces, I can’t help but feel intense gratitude for the countless people who have supported and challenged me, the good friends who have laughed and cried with me. As I’ve learned over and over, God always go above and beyond. All those faces provide a concrete witness to the diverse community that makes up the church I have been called to serve. This wonderful, holy, crazy communion of witnesses will be in my daily prayers. It will be an amazing privilege to serve the people of God as a Jesuit priest.
This article originally appeared in the July 2014 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.