“I felt called to the priesthood because of how I found the Spirit work through me with people in spiritual need. I saw priesthood as a way to live out my vocation as a Christian in a way that used my interests, skills and desires most effectively,” said Father Eric Zimmer, SJ, pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Walkerton. Father Zimmer celebrates his silver jubilee as a priest this year.
Throughout the past 25 years, Father Zimmer said he has enjoyed that he is able to pastorally provide assistance and support in times of hardship and distress. He said, “I love celebrating the Eucharist and hearing confessions; God’s grace becomes so evident in these realities.”
He always has had commitments as a teacher in addition to serving in parishes. He holds a Ph.D. in communication theory and is currently an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame, teaching business communication courses for the Mendoza College of Business. His research focuses on the adoption of innovation in nonprofit organizations, the fundraising practices of nonprofits; the Digital Divide; and the Matthew Effect, which in educational circles is the idea that in many areas of life, the rich or skilled get richer and more skilled, while conversely the poor and less skilled grow more so over time.
Father Zimmer has taught high school students in Kathmandu, Nepal; and Cleveland, Ohio. Over the years, he accepted teaching assignments with Georgetown University, the University of Washington and Creighton University School of Medicine. He has published articles in the areas of political communication, health communication, policy information and communication technology, including in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Communication Trends, and the American Journal of Public Health.
“I have done almost everything that one might do, from high school teaching to mission work in one of the world’s poorest countries to teaching at prominent Catholic universities to working at the Vatican and at the United Nations. I have taught at both medical school and business school,” he reflected.
He has been a military chaplain, a state chaplain for the Knights of Columbus and a retreat director, among other things.
Mark Liszewski, along with his wife, became friends with Father Zimmer through the Knights of Columbus Council 5521 in South Bend. The members volunteered for events at St. Patrick Parish in Walkerton. Liszewski described his friend and pastor as a likable and intelligent leader. “Father Zimmer makes you feel like you are being led down the right path.”
Father Zimmer holds an MBA in finance, a M.Div. and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, and a master’s degree in English. His bachelor’s degree, in philosophy, is from Loyola University in New Orleans.
Father Zimmer is also quite the entrepreneur. He created Jesuits.net, an international online networking and communication tool for Jesuits, serving a peak of one in every three Jesuits worldwide. The service provides video, email, document sharing, and online collaboration software for provinces and individual Jesuits. He developed the fundraising arm of National Office for Post-Abortion Reconciliation and Healing and has demonstrated entrepreneurial vision in the startup of new apostolic works, availability for mission, fluency in several foreign languages and in expertise in technological innovation.
His hobbies are just as diverse. Father Zimmer likes to hike and ride his bicycle, and to be on the water with a kayak. He can also sometimes be found camping or rowing. When he has the opportunity, he enjoys photography and reading.
Looking toward the future of St. Patrick Parish, he said, “The goal is to affirm people in their faith and guide them to commit more purposefully to be disciples.” With this as a focal point, he believes the congregation will grow in numbers and participation in the years to come.
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