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Our upstairs neighbor: Fr. Harry Geib, SJ

Fr.+Harry+Geib%2C+SJ%2C+works+in+his+office+near+the+headmasters+office+in+Dooley+Hall.
Fr. Harry Geib, SJ, works in his office near the headmaster’s office in Dooley Hall.

The time is 11:15 a.m., and the lunch bell just rang. Then, you feel a tap on your shoulder and know it can be only one person. For Fr. Harry Geib, SJ, lunch is just a quick break in his busy day where he gets to socialize with the many amazing Gonzaga students and teachers. 

“I like people, but for me there is just a light being around the students and their energy, and I’m very impressed by that— by the students here,” Fr. Geib said when asked about his busy life on Eye Street. 

Fr. Geib is one of only 18 Jesuits who live full-time on Gonzaga’s campus in the Jesuit residency above the administrative building, and he serves as the superior of the community. Additionally, Fr. Geib is the regional vocation promoter from Wilmington, Delaware down to Charlotte, North Carolina. As part of this, he works with 18 other men who are looking at possibly applying to the Jesuits and helps guide them along in the process through interviews and other forms of discussion. 

However, this religious life that Fr. Geib lives now was not always the plan in his mind. Growing up, Fr. Geib was set on becoming a pediatrician and really looked forward to having a family of his own. Throughout high school and college, Fr. Geib shadowed a pediatrician every Saturday in hopes that one day that would become him. However, it wasn’t until one Easter during his college years when Fr. Geib realized that he was being called in another direction. 

“But my junior year of college, the annoying idea of being a priest hit me, which very much confused me,” Fr. Geib said. 

On Holy Thursday, Fr. Geib attended Mass with a friend of his, and that is when he felt he was being pulled in a different direction. Fr. Geib calls this idea “annoying” because prior to that moment, he was set on becoming a pediatrician with a wife and kids— two things that priesthood would not permit. 

Upon receiving this call, Fr. Geib was still not sure about which direction to go. He then went to Duke for graduate school, and after that, he decided to officially enter into the Jesuits. He entered as a novice where he was in Saint Louis for two years studying philosophy. After those two years, Fr. Geib actually began his first stint at Gonzaga in 1985. He taught biology and chemistry for two years, and Dr. Harry Rissetto, current religion teacher at Gonzaga, was his student. 

When asked about Fr. Geib, Dr. Rissetto continued to bring up Fr. Geib’s leadership and character. 

“One of the things that impresses me consistently about Father Geib is that whenever you’re looking for him, you have to go find him because he’s out with the students,” Dr. Rissetto said. “He’s not a guy who sits in an office, he’s the guy who is at a cafeteria table.”

After two years on Eye Street, Fr. Geib went to Thailand where he taught English to Cambodian refugees. After this brief time overseas, he came back to the United States to continue his studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. After four years of studying, Fr. Geib was then ordained and entered a pivotal point in his life. Fr. Geib went to Malaysia where he was in charge of an elementary school, an experience which changed his feelings about life. 

“I fell in love with the Vietnamese boat people. I asked to be assigned permanently to Vietnam, but for political reasons, that was not possible,” Fr. Geib said. 

Fr. Geib sees this moment as not only significant to his life on earth but also significant in his journey to heaven. His time at Vietnam is a testament to his character and generosity, and goes to show what he’s willing to do for others. 

“Fr. Geib could be in the midst of a cat-five emergency, and if you showed up to him at his door and you needed something from him, he would drop what he was doing to help you,” Dr. Rissetto said when talking about what he admires most about Fr. Geib. “You never get the sense from Fr. Geib that something’s more important than the person he’s talking to at that moment.”

Unfortunately, being unable to permanently stay in Vietnam, Fr. Geib continued on his religious path and volunteered to go to Uganda where he lived in difficult conditions, all while serving as a Catholic priest for refugees from Southern Sudan. Fr. Geib later went to Northern Ireland to prepare for his final vows before he was officially ordained. 

Upon being ordained, Fr. Geib moved back stateside where he lived at Gonzaga for a second time from 1997-1999, except this time while working and studying at Gallaudet University. He then found his way back to Gonzaga in 2020 where he has served as the superior of the Jesuit Community for the last three years. Here, Fr. Geib brings his strong Jesuit beliefs and education and wishes to continue to live out this mission. 

“Ignatius wanted to help all souls to God, and I just hope that my presence will help with that,” Fr. Geib said.

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  • C

    Carol CorganMay 9, 2023 at 4:00 am

    Lovely piece on a lovely man, Drew!

    Reply
  • J

    James MorganMay 8, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    Beautifully written & capturing the spirit of generosity that Father Geib embodies!

    Reply