Fr. Ron Mercier has been chosen to be the first provincial superior of the new Central and Southern Province.
By Cheryl Wittenauer
As Ron Mercier talks about his life, a pattern emerges. The 60-year-old Jesuit, a product of working-class Holyoke, Mass., keeps getting asked to do things, and he always says yes, even when he’d rather say no, not now.
He agreed, as a young Jesuit graduate student of Russian history at Harvard University, to help out at a Ukrainian Catholic church in Boston.
Years later, he said yes to similar requests from churches of the same Byzantine Rite in Toronto and St. Louis.
Nearly a decade ago, he accepted an invitation to be the first executive director of the Jesuit Collaborative, a three-province network linking ministries in Ignatian spirituality from North Carolina to Maine.
And when Missouri Provincial Doug Marcouiller asked him four years ago to run a house of formation in St. Louis – where he had just accepted a teaching job at Saint Louis University – he responded with the same spirit of obedience and availability that’s in the Jesuit DNA.
A little over a year ago, Marcouiller asked the tall, lanky Mercier to facilitate a meeting of Jesuit superiors at Lake Dallas, Texas. They gathered in March 2013 to discuss, reflect and pray about the necessary qualities of the man who would lead one of the nation’s largest Jesuit provinces, more than 1 million square miles, when the Missouri and New Orleans provinces combine their men, ministries, institutions, assets and cultures in late July.
“He said, ‘you should know your name has been mentioned as a possible candidate,’” Mercier recalled Marcouiller saying. He laughed and didn’t think much about it.
But his name kept coming up, and eventually, he was one of three men recommended for the post to the Society of Jesus’ leader in Rome, Father General Adolfo Nicolás.“I kept hoping it would pass, but it didn’t,” Mercier later recalled.