October 9, 2013 — Jesuit Father Niel Jarreau has been a Jesuit 70 of his 86 years, and today he is still active in ministry as a retreat director at Ignatius House Retreat Center in Atlanta.
After celebrating his 70th anniversary as a Jesuit this past summer, Fr. Jarreau said that it has always been an exciting, greatly fulfilling and peaceful way of life.
Fr. Jarreau joined the Society of Jesus at the age of 16. A graduate of Jesuit High School in New Orleans, he went on to complete studies at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., and St. Mary’s College. He was ordained a priest in 1956.
“I knew I wanted to be a priest from the very beginning,” Fr. Jarreau said. “It never left me.”
Following his ordination, Fr. Jarreau served in high school ministry at Jesuit College Prep School of Dallas and Jesuit High School of Tampa.
Fr. Jarreau then did retreat ministry as assistant director of Ignatius Retreat Center in Atlanta for seven years before returning to Dallas to serve as associate director of St. Rita Church. He was also a retreat director at Montserrat Retreat House in Lake Dallas before coming back to Atlanta in 2002.
Today, Fr. Jarreau is a counselor and conducts private retreats at Ignatius House. Of all his various roles in service to the church, Fr. Jarreau said that what he’s doing right now is the most fulfilling.
“So many people are looking for something worthwhile to put their life’s energy into,” he explained.
Fr. Jarreau noted that what he cherished most about the Jesuit training was the study of modern psychology.
“Most of my time as a priest was — and still is — spent in my office listening to hurting people who are searching for the will of God in their lives and striving to become the person they truly want to be. Unfortunately, there is too much unnecessary suffering of this kind in the world,” he said. “Here, after the grace of God and the Jesuit training, psychology has been my greatest companion.
“Christianity is a tremendous challenge,” said Fr. Jarreau about the need to be rid of ambitions for power or money. “Only God himself can fill our emptiness.” [Georgia Bulletin]