Jesuit Father Thomas C. Widner died on Aug. 13, 2018, at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was 76 years old, a Jesuit for almost 33 years, and a priest for 49 years.
Born in Beech Grove, Indiana on April 27, 1942, Fr. Widner attended grade school and Latin High School (then a pre-seminary boys’ high school) in Indianapolis. He graduated from Marian College in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in English. He did seminary studies at St. Mary’s College in Kentucky (1964-1965) and Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri (1965-1969) before being ordained on May 24, 1969 for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He also earned a master’s degree in English from the University of Notre Dame (1969).
After ordination, Fr. Widner spent fifteen years working in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. He taught English at Latin High School (Indianapolis) and was an associate pastor at Our Lady of the Greenwood (1969-1972) before becoming the co-pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church (1972-1975). From 1975-1984, he was the editor-in-chief of The Criterion, the Archdiocesan newspaper, while he was in residence at St. Susanna Church (1975-1977), in residence at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church (1977-1979), priest in residence at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church (1979-1984), associate pastor of St. Barnabas Catholic Church, and administrator of Holy Trinity Parish in Edinburgh, Indiana (1984-1985).
On August 31, 1985, Fr. Widner entered the Society at Loyola House in Berkeley, Michigan. After first vows, Fr. Widner was an assistant editor and writer for America Magazine (1987-1991). He was the associate director of the Spiritual Renewal Center in Hammond, Indiana (1991-1992) before taking on the duties of editor-in-chief of The New World (the Archdiocese of Chicago Newspaper). From 1995-1997, Fr. Widner was a publications assistant at Company Magazine while director of the Chicago Province Communication Office. He spent two in retreat ministry and as a staff member at Jesuit Spiritual Center at Milford before moving to Washington, D.C. and working as the Secretary for Communications at the USA Jesuit Conference (1999-2004) in addition to being the superior of Leonard Neale House (2001-2004).
Fr. Widner moved back to Indianapolis in 2004 where he was the Vice President for Mission and Identity at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School and rector of the Jesuit Community (2004-2010). In 2010, he became the director of spiritual formation at Bishop Bruté Seminary where he worked until his death.
Throughout his life, Fr. Widner continually cultivated his union with God and was greatly admired for his life of prayer. This union with God made Fr. Widner a wonderful spiritual director, a great pastor, and an attentive superior. Fr. Widner’s great love for the Society of Jesus was seen especially in his role as director of mission and identity at Brebeuf. While director, he established a program to train lay people to be directors of the Spiritual Exercises. This program, and the directors it formed, allowed many faculty members to make the nineteenth annotation of the Exercises. For the past eight years, Fr. Widner brought his love of God and his understanding of Ignatian Spirituality and discernment to seminarians in his role as spiritual director at Simon Bruté College Seminary. This is a gift the seminarians – and the Church in Indiana – will not forgot.
As a Jesuit, Fr. Widner maintained close relationships with archdiocesan priests, both socially and in prayer groups. While at Brebeuf, he was a link between the community and the archdiocesan priests – especially for the much-anticipated annual party for the priests of the archdiocese at the Brebeuf Community.