March 3, 2023 – Br. Edward L. Niziolek, SJ, was born in Ware, Mass., on October 1, 1938. The only child of Edward and Claire (Dubois) Niziolek. He graduated from Cranwell Prep, Lenox, Mass., in 1957. On July 31 of that same year, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Plattsburgh, N.Y. In 1958, he moved to Shadowbrook in Lenox, Mass., where he completed his second year of novitiate and two years of juniorate (1958-1961). His love of learning, and especially for reading, was evident at this time and something that would be a great comfort throughout his life. He did philosophy studies at Weston Jesuit Community in Cambridge, Mass. (1961-1964). For regency, he successfully taught English and speech at Boston College High School (1964-1967) before returning to study theology at Weston School of Theology in Cambridge, Mass. (1967-1969).
Living in Cambridge, Mass., during the late 60s, and early on in his theology studies, he was caught up in the peace movement that arose as our nation became more deeply involved in the Vietnam War. He was aware that he ended up spending more time giving peace talks than studying theology. His physical and mental health suffered terribly as the scale of the horrors of the war became evident to the world and to his own gentle soul.
Seeking a fresh start for him, he was missioned by the Society of Jesus to Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, where his days were busy teaching English, (1969-1976). In the evenings, as a way of continuing his own healing, he began to write and publish his own poetry that came out of his own intense experiences. In 1972, instead of continuing as a scholastic and preparing for priesthood, he became a Jesuit Brother in the Society of Jesus.
Serious illness impacted him early on in his life as a Jesuit and would remain part of the picture throughout the remainder of his life. When the demands of teaching became too much, he was missioned to Campion Center in Weston, Mass., where he worked as in the newly opened infirmary of the New England Province. In a variety of positions, he brought a kind and gentle spirit whether as a driver, a nurse’s aide, a supervisor of the laundry, sacristan, and perhaps most impactfully as a companion to the sick or elderly Jesuits missioned to Campion Center.
In his varied work at Campion Center over many years, in his involvement with Marriage Encounter and the Charismatic Renewal, in his relationships with colleagues and his fellow Jesuits, and in his reading and poetry, Br. Niziolek experienced moments of healing and hope where he felt more fully human and fully alive even as he continued to deal with ongoing illness.
In describing his illness in the context of his relationship with Christ, he said, “It’s both cross and resurrection for me. It’s like the ecstasy of knowing God and the pain of knowing human suffering. And I consider such an experience as a gift.”
After 47 years at Campion Center, 66 years as Jesuit, Br. Edward Niziolek, a gentle friend of God, who labored generously in the vineyard of the Lord, even as he courageously carried his own cross day in and day out, returned home to God. He died peacefully on the morning of February 23, 2023, at the age of 84. May he rest in peace.