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Emmaus House History 


(as shared by Fr. Gene Merz, SJ, on the occasion of  the 25th Anniversary, September 12, 1999)

Chapter 1: The Dream and its Historical Context (1973-1974)

In 1973 Bishop Maurice J. Dingman contacted Dick Rice, SJ, regarding the possibility of Jesuits coming to Des Moines. A meeting was held on June 17, 1974 at Bishop Dingman’s home with Bishop Dingman, DM Chancellor Ed Pfeffer, Buck Stanton, SJ, Gary Brophy, SJ, Gene Merz, SJ, and the priests and religions from the Diocese of  Des Moines. 


Bishop Dingman expressed his desire that the Society of Jesus begin a prayer house in the Diocese. Gene assured Bishop Dingman that whatever foundation that would be begun would have prayer as a high priority, but not a prayer house. Gene urged a small apologetic community. Merz arrived in Des Moines on July 31, 1974, the Feast of St. Ignatius, and began to live at Emmaus at 1437 Woodland ave. on August 1, 1974. Fr. John Lorenz was the first visitor to welcome them to Des Moines. 


Ignatius sent Jesuits in pairs to different dioceses when called by the bishop of the diocese for renewal. The missioning of Jesuits to Des Moines at the request of Bishop Dingman tapped deeply into the roots of Jesuit history and charism. The renewal the Jesuits would serve would be based primarily on the Spiritual Exercises in retreats and spiritual direction. Bishop Dingman assured Gary and Gene that  it was not a question of his helping the Jesuits give the retreats, but rather modeling the seriousness of his intent concerning renewal. Bishop Dingman soon began five years of spiritual direction with Gene.

gene merz_edited.jpg
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