Bill Verbryke, S.J., is a new face on campus but a familiar one in Cincinnati’s Jesuit circles. The 58-year-old is a Cincinnati native and former president of St. Xavier High School. He joined Xavier in the fall after an eight-year assignment in metro Detroit.
Like rectors or superiors before him, Verbryke’s job is to lead the Jesuit community by managing the spiritual and personal needs of its members. Unlike most of his predecessors, however, Verbryke has the additional responsibility of consolidating several smaller Jesuit communities scattered throughout Cincinnati into a single community on Xavier’s campus.
With a flock of priests whose ages range from the mid-20s to early 90s, most of whom are accustomed to living on their own or in smaller groups across the city, it could be a challenge. “It’s hard for people to change. It is going to be different. Some will say, ‘Why didn’t we do this sooner?’ Some will resist.”
Verbryke is perhaps an ideal choice to lead the move. He hails from the Cincinnati suburb of Clifton and is a 1971 graduate of St. Xavier High School. In addition to serving as president of St. Xavier between 1991-2001, his other experiences as a high school teacher and leader among Jesuits-in-training in Chicago and Detroit have prepared him to rally the local Jesuit troops.
He says the consolidation within the Jesuit communities in Cincinnati is similar to what is happening overall in the Catholic Church, as parishes merge to accommodate the shrinking ranks of priests.
“The mission of the Jesuit community is a mission in itself,” he says. “It used to be thought that the Jesuit community was present for the apostolate, but now the Jesuits are an apostolate themselves.”
The plan is to nearly double the size of the current Jesuit residence hall by summer 2012 to provide enough space to accommodate as many as 35 priests. Currently, 16 live in the two-story house on campus, Verbryke among them.
“The sacrifices required will be worthwhile because the benefits, strengths and support of a combined community will anchor us all. Bringing together our different apostolates will create a sense of rubbing shoulders. Our worlds will be expanded.
“What’s exciting for me personally is helping to shape a community environment that will help us live as companions to help us in our ministries.”