Ever since the thirty-day retreat in the novitiate, I
knew my vocation was to be a Jesuit and a priest. The
Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius touched me deeply then
and continues to do so through the years.”
– Ken Buddendorff SJ, on the occasion of his 60 years in the Society in 2008

One of my earliest memories of Ken Buddendorff S.J. was at a CLC National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio in 1995 at John Carroll University. Although I had never been to a national CLC gathering, I quickly felt very much at home, in large part due to Fr. Ken. With genuine Southern hospitality, he introduced me to numerous CLC members from across the United States. He apparently had been associated with CLC for years and was well acquainted with the wider CLC family. I felt so welcomed by my new CLC family. It was a memorable introduction to CLC!

It is my pleasure to thank Fr. Ken for his 48 years of service to CLC as Ecclesial Assistant for the New Orleans Region. No words are sufficient to express gratitude for his commitment and service to CLC. Join me now as I briefly retrace highlights of his journey.

Jesuit Beginnings
Raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, young Ken set his sights on being a pre-med student at Loyola University. At a high school senior retreat, however, he experienced a calling to the priesthood. Shortly after his freshman year at Loyola University, he entered the Society in 1948.

He was ordained in 1961 and assigned to Jesuit High in New Orleans. It was there that he began his association with CLC, then known as Sodality, in 1963 as Province Promoter.

Early Contributions to CLC
As Province Promoter, Fr. Ken was engaged in many activities. On his recent Jubilee Celebration of 50 years as a priest, Fr. Ken reflected, “Perhaps the most inspiring ministry for me has been my activity as a province promoter of Christian Life Community (CLC), originally labeled Sodality. In addition to the students groups at Jesuit High in New Orleans, co-ed CLC communities developed during the summers. The Summer School of Catholic Action (SSCA) became popular in many of the big cities of the United States. In the South, New Orleans, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas alternated to sponsor courses in prayer, liturgy, the foreign missions, and many other attractive subjects. I felt very privileged to be a member of the SSCA faculty during the 1960’s. Four couples at Loyola became a CLC that offered along with me, the organized Pre-Cana conference for engaged couples contemplating marriage. Even to this day, I am in contact with these CLCers.”

Among other CLC activities, Fr. Ken worked in the historical transition of Sodality to CLC in the 1960’s and 1970’s alongside the late Mary Bialas.

Emmaus Program in Spiritual Direction
One of Fr. Ken’s greatest contributions to CLC and the greater Church has been the formation of laity for collaboration with Jesuits in retreat ministry and ongoing spiritual direction. He clearly saw the need for trained spiritual directors. In 1998, he invited CLC members in the Dallas area to take part in a three-year spiritual direction program. It included two years of academic study followed by a one year practicum. Since the inception of the Emmaus Program in Spiritual Direction, four classes have graduated in Dallas, Texas and Grand Coteau, Louisiana, resulting in 40 participants certified for retreat ministry and spiritual direction.

In addition, the spiritual direction program was adapted for Jesuits in formation interested in deepening their preparation as spiritual directors or retreat directors. About 30 men have completed the program.

Class members have included psychologists, attorneys, doctors, teachers, accountants, parish priests and Jesuit scholastics, men and women from all walks of life, living the Exercises in their daily lives and influencing their interactions with their students, patients, colleagues, and families.

Madonna Haigh, Co-Director of the Emmaus Program, commented “One graduate of the program is now the retreat house director at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House in Grand Coteau, Louisiana. One is now pursuing a theology degree at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska. Three have written and published books about the Spiritual Exercises. The Spiritual Exercises have been made available in parishes. Lay directors are a vital part of the retreat schedule at Our Lady of the Oaks Retreat House and lead retreats all over the country.”

Referring to Fr. Ken, Madonna says “He is committed to the propositions of General Congregation 34, especially those involving the support of and collaboration with lay partners. His energy, his spirituality, his organizational skills and attention to detail has been invaluable to both CLC and the Emmaus Program.”

Thank You
I have been particularly struck by Fr. Ken’s ability to wear multiple hats effectively. He has generously contributed to CLC whether he was vocations director, campus director, community superior or retreat house director. His vision, organization skills and keen focus along with his humor and warmth has brought forth much fruit in forming laity as collaborators in ministry. Thank you Fr. Ken for your past and ongoing support of CLC!!!

Jubilee 2011: Carmen Castagno, Fr. Ken Buddendorff SJ and Patti Clement (left to right). Carmen and Patti are graduates of the Emmaus Program for Spiritual Direction founded by Fr. Ken.

Fr. Ken Buddendorff SJ, Carmen Castagno, RC and Madonna Haigh. Fr. Ken and Madonna co-directed the Emmaus Program for Spiritual Direction.

Jesuit Jubilee 2011: Fr. Ken Buddendorff SJ with the Castagno Family.