While some religions are struggling to attract younger members, Jesuits could be seeing a resurgence. The number of Jesuit priests seems to be growing, said Brian Harper, with Midwest Jesuits, Milwaukee. There is a beginning class of 26 in St. Paul, Minnesota, which is at capacity. There are more than 40 other Midwest Jesuits in various stages of priestly formation.
Jacob Boddicker, a 33-year-old Tipton native, was one of three Jesuit priests from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport to have been ordained on June 3 in Milwaukee.
Boddicker is joined by Brian Taber of Davenport and Michael Rossmann of Iowa City.
The ordination finishes 11 years of preparation in Boddicker's case.
Boddicker grew up in Tipton, one of five children of Carla and Dan Boddicker, a Republican state representative from 1993 to 2005.
Jacob Boddicker graduated from Tipton High School in 2002 and started at the University of Wyoming to study archaeology. He changed majors to become a teacher, and transferred to the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls. Shortly, he dropped the education major to concentrate on history.
"I did well in school, but I got to a point, I was not happy," he said. He began to realize, God really could lead him to what to do with his life.
An active Catholic student, Boddicker heard the history of the church from a visiting professor. That interested him so much, he got in touch with Jesuits, and spent a summer with the religious order in Milwaukee.
He spent months praying to make a good choice about his life, before he finally decided to put his faith in God.
"God ... fulfills me in a way I never thought possible," he said. He made his first vows in August 2008, and spent three years in St. Louis, studying philosophy, before he moved to work in Milwaukee for three years. In Wisconsin, he helped older Jesuits in a retirement home and taught at Marquette University High School.
He moved to Berkeley, California, to attend theology school, mostly at the Jesuit School of Theology.
His family was supportive of his decision, he said.
At first, Boddicker said he was naive, and did not appreciate the process of formation to be a priest. "But as I read and prayed about what God was inviting me to consider, it was just very clear," he said.
Boddicker will spend the summer at Creighton University in Omaha, and three years at the Rosebud Indian Reservation, South Dakota.
The three new Jesuit priests from eastern Iowa spent years in the religious order, which includes more than 16,000 priests, brothers, scholastics and novices in the world, according to jesuits.org.
The Society of Jesus, whose members are called Jesuits, was founded nearly 500 years ago by St. Ignatius Loyola. It is the largest male order in the Catholic Church, and members are in varied professions, including doctors, lawyers, pastors and chaplains.
Taber, of Davenport, expressed his appreciation to the order. "I owe an unfathomable debt of gratitude to a multitude of mentors, colleagues, students and fellow Jesuits for their guidance, encouragement and patience," he said.
While Boddicker will head to South Dakota, Taber plans to teach and work as a sports chaplain and coach at St. Ignatius College Prep in Chicago, and coach at St. Giles Catholic Parish, Oak Park, Illinois.
The Jesuit order has reorganized: This month, the USA Midwest Province of the Society of Jesus was formed from the former Chicago-Detroit, and Wisconsin provinces. The new province includes about 540 Jesuits in 66 ministries and in 12 states.