By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published Thursday, September 12, 2013
ATLANTA—The priests honored at the 2013 Jesuit Jubilee of the New Orleans Province of the Society of Jesus are teachers, prison ministers, hospital chaplains, authors, and parish priests. And while their daily jobs differ, all are working for the greater glory of God.
On Sunday, July 28, the New Orleans Province celebrated the “milestones of service” of 22 Jesuit priests, including Father Niel Jarreau, of the Ignatius House Retreat Center in Atlanta.
Celebrating his 70th anniversary as a Jesuit, Father Jarreau said that it has always been an exciting, greatly fulfilling and peaceful way of life.
Father Jarreau joined the Society of Jesus at the age of 16. A graduate of Jesuit High School, he went on to complete studies at Spring Hill College and St. Mary’s College. Following regency at Jesuit High School of Shreveport, La., a required period of three years in Jesuit formation spent teaching, he was ordained a priest in 1956.
“I knew I wanted to be a priest from the very beginning,” he said. “It never left me.”
A New Orleans native, Father Jarreau had one sister, and two brothers, one of whom was also a Jesuit priest.
Following his ordination, Father Jarreau was in ministry at the Jesuit High School in Shreveport, then the Jesuit House of Studies in Mobile, Ala. He served in high school ministry at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, Texas, and then on the faculty at Jesuit High School of Tampa, Fla.
Father Jarreau entered into retreat ministry as assistant director of Ignatius Retreat Center in Atlanta for seven years before moving back to Dallas to serve as associate director of St. Rita Church. He was also a retreat director at Montserrat Retreat House in Lake Dallas, before coming back to Atlanta in 2002.
Father Jarreau is a counselor and conducts private retreats at Ignatius House.
Of all his various roles in service to the Catholic Church, Father Jarreau said that what he’s doing right now is the most fulfilling.
So many people are looking for something worthwhile to put their life’s energy into, he explained.
After his regular studies of philosophy and theology, Father Jarreau noted that what he cherished most about the Jesuit training was the study of modern psychology.
“Most of my time as a priest was—and still is—spent in my office listening to hurting people who are searching for the will of God in their loves and striving to become the person they truly want to be. Unfortunately, there is too much unnecessary suffering of this kind in the world,” he said. “Here, after the grace of God and the Jesuit training, psychology has been my greatest companion.”
The attractions of this world, such as desire for power or money, are strong and lead to struggles and unhappiness for many.
“Christianity is a tremendous challenge,” said Father Jarreau about the need to be rid of these ambitions. “Only God himself can fill our emptiness.”
The priests honored at the Jesuit jubilee have a combined 1,085 years of service to the Society of Jesus and the church. The jubilee began with an afternoon Mass at the Holy Name of Jesus Church in New Orleans, followed by a reception at Loyola University.
The jubilarians of 2013 are currently assigned in California, Texas, Missouri and Louisiana, as well as abroad.
“It was a nice visit,” said Father Jarreau.
In a prepared article for the jubilee program, the priest said that the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, are an essential part of their lives.
“They are a strong force in our training and continued spiritual growth,” wrote Father Jarreau. “They make us one in spirit and purpose and find expression in all we are and do. I could not be happier in any other way of life. Blessed be God forever.”