Missouri Provincial Fr. Douglas Marcouiller will end five years of leadership on July 31 when the Missouri Province joins with the New Orleans Province to create a new entity, part of a larger reorganization of the Society of Jesus in the U.S.
The new province, Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province, at more than a million square miles, will stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains and from Missouri to the Gulf of Mexico and beyond to the Central American nation of Belize. Roughly 400 Jesuits who are members of the worldwide Society of Jesus, a religious order of Catholic men, will serve the new combined province.
The new province will take effect July 31 on the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuits’ 16th-century Spanish founder. On that day, New Orleans Provincial Fr. Mark Lewis and Marcouiller will relinquish their respective leadership roles to Fr. Ron Mercier, who has been named provincial of the new province. Mercier will be installed as provincial of Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province at a Mass on July 31 in New Orleans.
Marcouiller, a Jesuit for nearly 36 years, is the Missouri Province’s 27th and final leader. He has been Missouri’s provincial since 2009, and along with Lewis, has played a key role in orchestrating the consolidation and helping Jesuits adjust to their new province identity.
Despite all the details of the consolidation, Marcouiller wanted Jesuits of the province to remain focused on their work, the mission of the province, and Jesuits’ life together, his executive assistant, Fr. Dan Daly, said.
“He didn’t want us to spend all our time discussing legal minutia and financial details,” Daly said. “He kept an eye on the bigger picture, the apostolic opportunities and how best to respond to them.”
Marcouiller and Lewis regularly met to talk about the ministry needs of the two provinces and how best to respond.
“That’s easier said than done, because Doug knows his province and apostolic needs and men better than (those of) New Orleans,” Daly said.
Together, Marcouiller and Lewis responded to immediate needs and considered how best to plan for the future across the new province. They pushed for pastors and high school and university leaders in the two provinces to think strategically and in concert with one another. Marcouiller and Lewis worked together to recruit the new province’s assistants for advancement and for health care.
Before Marcouiller was named Missouri provincial, he was professor of economics at Saint Louis University and Boston College and rector of Bellarmine House of Studies, a house of formation for young Jesuits, in St. Louis.
The uniting of the New Orleans and Missouri provinces is part of a larger reconfiguration of U.S. Jesuit provinces that has been under way for 10 years, and by the end of this decade, will reduce the number of U.S. provinces by more than half, from 10 to four.
In 2004, the Society’s leader at the time, Fr. General Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, encouraged the 10 U.S. provinces to evaluate their mission and reconsider how best to use their resources to serve the church. U.S. Jesuits met to discuss their future, and considered various realignments.
By the summer of 2007, New Orleans and Missouri opted to join together. The decision was based on their shared emphasis on Hispanic ministry, focus on education and cultural fit. Joining together, it is hoped, will create greater efficiencies and a strength and vitality that afford more opportunities for partnerships, innovation and synergy.
Already, Jesuits affected by the move are crossing former province lines to serve in new capacities. For several years, in anticipation of the consolidation, New Orleans and Missouri provinces have collaborated on vocation work, formation of new Jesuits and some operations.
No Jesuit ministry in the New Orleans and Missouri provinces is being cut or reduced. The Jesuits have been partnering with lay associates for years, and will continue to do so in an era of fewer vocations to religious life.
Included in the new Central and Southern Province are six Jesuit colleges and universities, 13 parishes, 11 high schools and seven retreat or spirituality centers. Provincial offices will be in St. Louis.