Stephen Molvarec, S.J., joins faculty of School of Theology and Ministry

The assistant professor of church history specializes in twelfth- and thirteenth-century religious life

School of Theology and Ministry Assistant Professor of Church History Stephen Molvarec, S.J., went from STM student to faculty member in record time.

“I had to be the fastest crossover to the other side of the desk. One month I was a student, the next month I was hired,” said Fr. Molvarec, who earned a M.Div. in 2022 and an S.T.L. in 2023. “I have [the late former STM Dean] Tom Stegman to thank for that because Tom was just convinced that I belonged here and it was just a question of working out where and how at BC.”

After graduation, Fr. Molvarec served as visiting assistant professor at STM during 2022-23. He became a full-fledged faculty member this past July. This semester he co-teaches History of Western Christianity I with STM Dean Michael McCarthy, S.J. It’s his first experience co-teaching a course, and he has found it to be “fun.” His other course is a seminar on heresy.

“My joke around school is that the seminar is not a practicum,” he said. The course is for doctoral students and S.T.L. students who are interested in questions around medieval reform and also Protestant reformation.

For the spring semester, one of the courses he will be teaching is on Tolkien. For the future, he is considering courses on topics such the history of silence and contemplation or the history of the relationship of Christians with the material world.

A member of Midwest Province, Fr. Molvarec entered the Society of Jesus in 2012 was ordained in 2022. He is living in the BC Jesuit community at St. Mary’s. Some of his ministry work has included direct work with the homeless in Detroit, Chicago, and Milwaukee, as well as serving as a chaplain for the boxing and rugby teams at Loyola University Chicago, and more recently as a deacon at Boston University.

“I think it’s important to have contact with students' lives outside of classrooms, and for them to know me not just as a teacher he said.”

“I try to give forward what I was given, whether it's friendships with Jesuits or what I was given by faculty members. And then I try to bring that into a context of the Church. It's as simple as that.”

He was first drawn to STM because he and his provincial were looking for a place that would offer intellectual rigor and help in his formation as a priest. “I like our community here. Faculty are invested in it, and students are invested in it in a way that doesn't always happen in other places. Also, I’ve questioned how what I do as a historian can be helpful for the Society [Jesuits] or the Church. And in this role as a church historian, I’m helping form ministers for the Church. And so in my mind and in my heart, joining STM was a perfect arrangement.”

As a medieval historian, Fr. Molvarec conducts research in medieval Latin, French, and German. He is a member of several professional associations, including the Medieval Academy of America and the La Société Internationale des Médiévistes in Paris, for which he served as director of communications for 12 years. He recently began a term on the board of directors for the New York State Association of European Historians.

He earned a master of arts and doctorate in medieval history, both from the University of Notre Dame. For his dissertation, he explored what the Carthusians, a religious order of hermit-monks founded more than 900 years ago in France, thought about solitude and how they related to society and the Church. He was particularly drawn to study a time period in the mid-1200s when the order, which had most of its monasteries in remote, inaccessible places, chose to build a monastery in close proximity to Paris.

Some of Fr. Molvarec’s more recent research centers on the Eucharist and Saint Guinefort, a greyhound dog that was venerated by Catholics in 13th-century France, and what that says about the relationship of medieval people with nature.

While working on his dissertation, Fr. Molvarec was awarded a Birgit Baldwin Fellowship through the Medieval Academy of America that allowed him to travel and study in Paris for two years.

“They were two of the best years of my life to date,” said Fr. Molvarec. “Paris is a lovely city. It’s a 19th-century city in some ways. Life is slower there and it's really refreshing. I think that the French understand how to enjoy life, whereas Americans just work too hard. It’s one of my very favorite cities.”

One of Fr. Molvarec’s other favorite cities? Buffalo.

“It's a city that I love to be from,” said Fr. Molvarec, who was born and raised in Buffalo. “Buffalo was very important city at the beginning of the 20th century due to its location at the terminus of the Erie Canal. It was one of the country’s largest cities and drew a lot of millionaires. Every major architect of the 20th century has a building in Buffalo, including Frank Lloyd Wright. It’s where Theodore Roosevelt was inaugurated after the assassination of President William McKinley.”

Fr. Molvarec attended Canisius College in Buffalo. It was where he first encountered the Jesuits.

“So much was given to me there in ways that I think a lot of people never experience. I studied Greek, Latin, philosophy, and history in a way that isn't possible in most places these days. I was close with a number of Jesuits while I was a student, and I still keep in touch with some of my teachers. I don't know that many people still email or go out for lunch with their college professors more than 20 years later, but I do. It’s a phenomenally special place.”

His positive experiences at Canisius inform his approach as a teacher and pastoral minister. “I try to give forward what I was given, whether it's friendships with Jesuits or what I was given by faculty members. And then I try to bring that into a context of the Church. It's as simple as that.”