‘Let the Love of God Work Through Us’

‘Let the Love of God Work Through Us’

Three Creighton Alumni Continue Jesuit Journey as Ordained Priests

By Kate Malott

Three Creighton alumni and Jesuits in formation – Jeffrey Dorr, SJ, MSEDU’09, Trevor Rainwater, SJ, BA’10, and Jeffrey Sullivan, SJ, BA’03 – were ordained to the priesthood during a Mass at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on June 12.

“It was a wonderful experience, a culmination of time,” said Dorr. “It felt like a coming together of all that had been at work, not as an individual achievement, but God at work amid personal studies and in our training group.”

Fr. Dorr, a native of Cedarburg, Wisconsin, is a graduate Creighton’s MAGIS Catholic Teacher Corps program, during which he taught middle school at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota. He would later teach at Creighton Prep High School in Omaha.  

Fr. Rainwater, a Bismarck, North Dakota, native, majored in theology at Creighton. Originally a pre-med major, his participation in a discernment group at Creighton for those considering a religious vocation and a senior-year retreat led him to join the Jesuits after graduation in 2010. His brother, Conan, BA’15, would follow in his footsteps, joining the Jesuits in 2015. Read more about the Rainwaters’ story.

Fr. Sullivan, a native of Indianapolis, earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Creighton and has served as a pastoral and retreats coordinator for Creighton’s Campus Ministry.

Sullivan plans to return to Creighton Campus Ministry this fall, while Rainwater is working on his master’s degree in liturgical history at the Catholic University of America and Dorr begins an assignment as vicar and associate pastor at Gesu Parish in Detroit.

Creighton magazine caught up with the three newly ordained Jesuit priests to talk about their time at Creighton, their inspirations and their hopes for the future.

What did you learn about yourself as a student at Creighton?

Dorr: Faith is held up as foundation to everything else. I took education classes that began with prayer, and then we’d talk about what it meant to be a Catholic educator. The Catholic component was front and center. What I learned most at Creighton was, as a teacher, my attention must always first go to my students and second to my subject matter. Once I was able to do that and recognize that focusing on loving my students relieved me of much of my perfectionist anxiety, I found much more joy and success as a teacher.

Rainwater: The first thing was taking ownership of my faith. You’re away from Mom and Dad, and family, and choosing what time to go to Mass and with whom. The second thing was becoming a spiritual individual. I helped at St. John’s Church, and most of the groups I was involved in tended to have a Catholic focus, which set the stage for me at Creighton.

Sullivan: I attended a Catholic grade school and high school in my hometown of Indianapolis. Both provided an important set of values, such as hard work, a reverence for God and a desire to care for the community. A lot of the virtues were simply about personal formation such as self-discipline and perseverance. Creighton expounded on those virtues by exposing me to the larger world and helping me to locate myself within in the global community. It was the first time I started to see that people were not poor or disadvantaged because of a lack of faith life or a lack of perseverance. Instead, my Creighton education offered me the chance to see that not all of God's people had the privileges or opportunities that I had. By learning about a variety of peoples and cultures through studies and involvement in the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice, I was able to see the Scriptures lived out in real time and real life.

Who made a significant impact on you during your time at Creighton?

Dorr: The people who impacted me most from my time at Creighton were the other teachers in the MAGIS Catholic Teacher Corps. With passion and joy, those teachers demonstrated to me what it meant to live out a vocation. The under-funded Catholic schools we served had abundant challenges for the teachers I lived and studied with, but they demonstrated the ability to see beyond the difficulties. They worked hard to share their own gifts with the schools at which they taught and were enlivened and inspired by the kids whom they served.

Rainwater: What made a significant impact on my life then, and is still today, were the Jesuits in the classroom and the large Jesuit presence at Creighton – teacher Fr. Dennis Hamm; Mass with Fr. Roc O’Connor and the late Fr. Philip Amidon, SJ; the late Fr. Richard Hauser, SJ, who helped lead discernment groups, one for men interested in the Jesuits and another for any interested person, and Br. Pat Douglas. Joining the priesthood, it’s a very small group, so to have the support from other men had a great impact on me.

Sullivan: Fr. Paddy Gilger, SJ, BA’02, former pastor of St. John's parish, and I have been best friends for over 20 years and our shared companionship in the faith has been a support during my Jesuit formation. Jason Beste, BS’03, MD’08, and his wife, Sara, MD’09, have helped me to share in the Ignatian vision of a faith that does justice. In this past year, I have reconnected with Kyle Lierk, BSBA’99, former director of Campus Ministry, who taught me a ton about Jesuit-lay collaboration in ministry.

Of course, there are numerous Jesuits who have accompanied me throughout the years and during my time at Creighton: Fr. Larry Gillick, Fr. Mike Flecky, Fr. Greg Carlson, Fr. John Fitzgibbons, Fr. Daniel Hendrickson, Fr. Don Driscoll and Fr. Richard Hauser. I also fondly remember people like Michele Bogard (associate vice provost for student engagement) and Ken-Reed Bouley (director of the Schlegel Center for Service and Justice), who were important and taught me how to be a student leader.

What inspires you about the future?

Dorr: The hope I have for the future lies in the small and simple ways that I and others can show up and let the love of God work through us. I have seen time and again the transformative power of presence and prayer. There is no doubt in my mind that human connection and accompaniment, essentially guided by the Holy Spirit, is what has, does and will nourish and heal individuals and our world.

Rainwater: I studied the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, for people considering the Roman Catholic church, and it was fantastic to meet adults who want to learn as much as they can about the Roman Catholic faith. They asked questions, engaged and decided if they wanted to be part of the Church. That’s helped tremendously. Also, seeing the faith of the people right now, attending Mass, coming together as a Church community, and seeing Christ shine through in these dark times. You don’t truly understand a family until all the family members are gathered, and it’s great to have everyone together, listen to God’s word and share at the Eucharistic table.

Sullivan: I am inspired by the youth! I’ve had the privilege of working in the Campus Ministry Office as the director of retreats and to see the natural leadership and rich faith life in so many of our students. Through spiritual direction and faith conversations, I can see that our students have deep prayer lives and have an authentic relationship with Jesus and the Church. Their earnestness, perseverance and insights are inspiring. I am hopeful for both the Church and the world because of them.