Father Jose Emilio Fezter, SJ died December 22

Jenara Kocks Burgess


North Texas Catholic

January 10, 2013

Father José Emilio Fetzer, SJ, 52, who was known in the Fort Worth Diocese for his gift of teaching spirituality at the Montserrat Retreat Center at Lake Dallas, died Dec. 22, 2012, at Ignatius Retreat Center in Atlanta.

“That was his favorite topic ... how to apply spirituality to real life, [and] how to make it influence your decisions and viewpoint,” said Father Edmundo Rodriguez, SJ, who worked with Fr. Fetzer while he was at Montserrat. “That was something he worked on and loved doing, lecturing, and discussing,” he said.

A Funeral Mass was celebrated Dec. 27 at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, and his body was buried in the Jesuit Cemetery at St. Charles College in Grand Coteau. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, at Christ the King Cathedral in Atlanta.

Fr. Fetzer was born March 12, 1960, in Lima, Peru. He studied at the University of Lima, then at DeKalb College and Georgia State University in Atlanta. Before joining the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), he was a parishioner of the Atlanta Cathedral, and decided to join the Jesuits while praying in the chapel at the Ignatius Retreat Center.

He entered the Jesuit Novitiate Aug. 14, 1995, at St. Charles College. After his first vows on Aug. 15, 1997, he studied at Creighton University in Omaha, and at Saint Louis University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish.

Fr. Fetzer taught Spanish at Jesuit College Preparatory School in Dallas 2001-2003, after which he earned a Master of Divinity from Weston Jesuit School of Theology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2006, he joined the staff of Montserrat Retreat House in Lake Dallas.

Fr. Rodriguez said he worked with Fr. Fetzer at Montserrat from 2006 until 2011. Fr. Fetzer was a deacon when he first came to Montserrat, and worked Jesuit or Ignatian spirituality, Fr. Rodriguez said. After Fr. Fetzer was ordained a priest on June 14, 2008 at Immaculate Conception Church in New Orleans, he continued teaching spirituality at Montserrat.

Fr. Rodriguez said Fr. Fetzer was also instrumental in making sure catechists who were teaching in Spanish in various parishes in the Fort Worth and Dallas Dioceses could get credit for attending continuing education classes at Montserrat. Fr. Rodriguez said they taught the classes as a team.

“I mostly taught things like Church history and Christology. He mostly taught the part on spirituality,” Fr. Rodriguez said.

In a 2010 interview with the North Texas Catholic while Fr. Fetzer was a retreat director at Montserrat, he elaborated on his desire to help those he served encounter God.

“I see my role as a Jesuit priest as facilitating the encounter between God and the human person,” Fr. Fetzer said. “My different experiences of God have been illumined by the Spiritual Exercises [of St. Ignatius]. To give the Spiritual Exercises is to relate one’s experience of God with others. Although they require a great amount of preparation, directing the Spiritual Exercises is ultimately sharing who one is and what one has with others. It is sharing one’s experience as a loved sinner with others," he said.

Fr. Rodriguez said Fr. Fetzer provided a lot of spiritual direction, particularly in Spanish, for priests and deacons, but also for laypeople. He said Fr. Fetzer also helped parishes in Lewisville, Denton, and Dallas by celebrating Mass on weekdays or weekends when he was available.

“He was very ready to help other priests because they were overloaded or had to take some time off,” Fr. Rodriguez said. “He was very excited about becoming a priest. That’s why he said as many Masses as possible in different locations with different congregations. He just loved that,” Fr. Rodriguez said. “The whole experience of ordination was still fresh in him,” he said.

Joanne Jensen, assistant to the pastor at St. Philip the Apostle Church in Lewisville, said Fr. Fetzer helped with the Parish Lenten Mission one year and celebrated many Masses on the weekends at St. Philip.

“He was wonderful. He had this great sense of humor you don’t see very often,” she said.

Jensen said the parishioners were sad to hear about his death, and they were also sad when he moved to Atlanta because they appreciated how much he helped with the Masses at St Phillips.

Fr. Fetzer left Montserrat in 2011 to work at the Ignatius Retreat Center in Atlanta as a retreat director.

“He was able to make friends with about everyone he met. He wasn’t shy at all,” Fr. Rodriguez said.

Fr. Fetzer was preceded in death by his father, Emilio Fetzer. He is survived by his mother, Olga Balarin de Thorne, of Lima, Peru, and by his sisters, Maria Alicia Robertson of Redmond, Washington, and Maria Olga, Maria Inez, Erika and Regina Fetzer, all of Lima.

Letters of condolence may be sent to Ms. M. Alicia Fetzer Robertson, 6020 142nd Ct., NE, Redmond, WA, 98052. Donations may be made in his memory to the Jesuit Seminary Fund of “The Jesuits,” 710 Baronne St., Ste. B., New Orleans, LA, 70113.

Father José Emilio Fetzer, SJ, 52, who was known in the Fort Worth Diocese for his gift of teaching spirituality at the Montserrat Retreat Center at Lake Dallas, died Dec. 22, 2012, at Ignatius Retreat Center in Atlanta.

Published (until 12/12/2013)