Java With Jesuits Connects Students, Priests

Father George Dumais, Java With Jesuits

May 08, 2018

They walk past us on campus paths, stopping to chat with colleagues and strangers alike in the tradition of Fr. Coughlin. They live among us, yet we don’t really know their stories.

Their presence – and a lack of context – prompted one Gonzaga student to ask: Who are these semi-retired Jesuits who are part of the greater Gonzaga community? Jesuit novice Kyle Baker sprang into action to help provide some answers to that question.

“Java With Jesuits,” a trio of informal small group gatherings, is being held on campus this week to allow Gonzaga students to hear the stories of some of these veteran priests.

The first meet-up allowed George Dumais, S.J., to share his life story with a table full of eager students. Little did they know they were in the presence of a man who briefly worked alongside Mother Teresa in India – and a man who just recently took his final vows at age 82.

The soft-spoken Dumais often referred to himself in the third person and gently ribbed his audience, bringing smiles out of finals-stressed students. He shared albums of photos from a group home he started and ran in Montana for three decades that was inspired by the work of Jean Vanier and the L'Arche movement. He also taught French at a high school before retiring to Bea House near GU.

One student asked, “What was it like to work with Mother Teresa?” Dumais went back to that time in his mind and recalled how he recoiled after being asked to tend to some grisly wounds of an injured poor person. He knew he was no saint when a future one stepped in to take over.

"It was so bad, so infested, and so awful; I almost passed out when I saw it," said Dumais. "She came over and took care of it, just like she was curing the common cold.”

His own journey found him professing final vows almost 60 years after taking his first steps to become a Jesuit. In between, he passionately served a community of those with developmental disabilities, living with them as "mom and dad." 

In that sense, one final question brought Fr. Dumais’ moving story full circle: “Who is Jesus to you?”

“He’s my brother,” Dumais said. “What would he do if he was here with me? He’d start a group home.”

– Jeff Bunch