The Rev. Joseph Mueller professed his final vows to the Society of Jesus this past Sunday in a ceremony at the Gesu Church, the same vows St. Ignatius of Loyola took upon founding the religious order in 1534.
The Rev. Thomas A. Lawler, the provincial superior of the Wisconsin Province of Jesuits, presided over the mass and welcomed Mueller — who has been a Catholic priest since 1993 — as a full member of the Jesuits.
“Today we celebrate Father Mueller’s full and total surrender to the Lord and his full and total incorporation into the Society of Jesus,” Lawler said at the beginning of the Mass.
A graduate of Marquette in 1981, Mueller began teaching at the university in 1999 and has ever since. He teaches classes including an Introduction to Theology course, a class on the Second Vatican Council, and a class on the theology of the Church. He specializes in the Fathers of the Church and ecclesiology.
Mueller originally joined the Society of Jesus soon after graduating from Marquette, and the recent final vows come after years of preparation and reflection from both parties.
“I realized in college I actually thought the way (the Jesuits) thought, looked at the world the way they do,” Mueller said, recalling why he first joined the Jesuits.
After joining, Mueller went through many steps, which culminated with the final vows he took Sunday. After spending two years as a novice, he took his first vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in 1984.
Once Mueller took these vows, he became a scholastic and received his Masters of Divinity from the Weston School of Theology in 1992. He was then ordained a Catholic priest eleven years after joining the Society of Jesus, but was not yet a full-fledged Jesuit.
The next step for Mueller was his Tertianship, which occurs after ordination, in which Mueller was evaluated by the regional provincial and then in Rome. The Superior General of the Society of Jesus, the Very Rev. Adolfo Nicolás, decided to have Mueller take his final vows following the evaluation.
Besides the original three vows Mueller had already taken, the final vows included a vow of special obedience to the pope.
“When I make these (final) vows, they’re again a perpetual commitment on my part,” Mueller said. “It’s a lifelong commitment. But this time, the condition that was on them before is no longer there. (The Jesuits are) saying we think you worked out. You’re in.”
The condition on the first vows, taken after novitiate (a period of introduction), is the Society of Jesus maintaining the right to release a Jesuit from his vows if it deems the Jesuit in question to not be where he should be spiritually.
“It’s somewhat like making tenure (you’re already a professor, but now you’re a ‘full’ one). It’s somewhat like making partner in a law firm (you’re already a member of a law firm, but now you’re a ‘full one),’” the Rev. James Martin of the weekly Jesuit publication “America” wrote on taking final vows. Thus, in allowing Mueller to take his final vows, the Society of Jesus returns the commitment that he made to them 28 years ago.
“I decided to become a Jesuit when I was a student here. I did it because I thought, that’s what God wants me to do. I think Marquette students could benefit from listening for that kind of call from God,” Mueller said.