From adventures in Zambia, to battles across Europe and Korea, to ministry among the Northwest Native American tribes, the Cardinal Bea House is home to an intriguing and eclectic group of retired Jesuits, each of whom have a multitude of unique experiences waiting to be shared.
Located in the middle of campus, the Cardinal Bea House is an assisted living facility for retired Jesuit fathers and brothers throughout the area.
But this is no ordinary retirement home.
From the time they each joined the Jesuit order decades ago, the residents have chosen a life dedicated to the service of God and the advancement of the Church. While this similarity is pervasive throughout, the interests and experiences they have accumulated in life are diverse and far-reaching.
One of many former Army and Navy servicemen in the House, Fr. John McBride, S.J., is a World War II army veteran who fought in the famous and critical Battle of the Bulge. He is also a Korean War veteran who recently received a letter from South Korean President Lee Myung-bak thanking him for his service.
After joining the Jesuits in 1940, Fr. Lee Kapfer, S.J., a former high school basketball star at Gonzaga Prep, taught at numerous high schools across the Northwest until moving to the central-African country of Zambia for ten years. While there, he worked to expand the faith by teaching young African boys in the way of the priesthood. "It was a rewarding experience," said Kapfer. "They're a much more mobile and vocal society—swaying to the music, singing and bringing gifts to mass—their culture is different, but their faith is the same, and it's growing faster now than ever before."
For over 50 years, Fr. Joseph Obersinner, S.J. has been embedded in multiple Native American cultures. Working among groups such as the Spokane, Colville, Flathead and Coeur d'Alene People, Obersinner became a famous and well-respected friend and mentor to many across the Northwest.
According to Fr. Paul Cochran, S.J., the Superior of the House, the common theme throughout is a resilient care for one another. "We have a strong sense of community here," he said. "Most of us are teachers, nurses, maintenance workers, cooks—those sorts of things. We're all very close and have always thrived on taking care of others."
Fr. Robert Fitts, S.J. has been supporting communities for over 50 years through his involvement with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps. He was even the Area Director for a short time.
John Guyol, N.S.J., a 24-year-old Villanova graduate, is currently bringing a spark of youth to the House as he lives there while continuing his ongoing work and training.
Fr. Robert Goebel, S.J. devoted most of his life to high school ministry by teaching at a variety of Catholic schools, such as Bellarmine Prep, Seattle Prep and Gonzaga Prep throughout his career.
Others, such as Fr. John Kindall, S.J., a former Bellarmine Prep principal, still devote time to tutoring students in Latin and a variety of other lessons.
"Our main mission now is to pray for the Church and the Society," Kindall said. "We can't do the things we used to do, but with the time we have now, our big job is to be in prayer." With chapel and hours of prayer every day, the residents all agree that most of their time is spent sleeping, praying, or eating meals together.
But that doesn't mean they have little time for anything else. Sports are a huge part of their lives. "We're big Seattle-area sports fans, especially with the Seahawks and Mariners," Goebel said. "And of course, we love the Zags." With a flat-screen television in the common room, they don't miss watching a single Gonzaga basketball game together.
Many of the residents are Gonzaga graduates.
After WWII, McBride attended Gonzaga, graduating at the end of the 1948-1949 academic calendar, the same year the university became coeducational. Due to his experience in the war, he became a cadet in the first ROTC program in Gonzaga history.
"I loved it, but the school was a lot different then," McBride said. "Even the students have changed considerably. There is a more universal outlook now than there was then."
Despite its location, the House is not part of the university. The connection, however, is inevitable. "We love being right in the middle of campus," said Fr. Obersinner. "It's a blessing to see the active energy and happiness of youth every day."
"We just have to be careful not to get run over by bikes and longboards and people texting when classes get out," said Goebel with a grin.