Recruited to teach by Fr. Kiefer, Fr. Gole spent just about his entire teaching career at SHST
Honorary SCJ Fr. Joseph Gole, 97, died December 8 in Milwaukee, Wis. His health had been deteriorating significantly in recent days.
Born in Dubrovnik, Slovenia, Fr. Gole grew up in the town of Zagorica. He began his studies for the priesthood at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France. While there, his education was interrupted by the German occupation of France during World War II. He completed his seminary training in Yugoslavia.
He was ordained on July 4, 1943, for the Diocese of Ljubljana, Slovenia (he marked his 70th anniversary as a priest this year!). In 1945 he left for Austria to continue his studies but was detained by German troops and spent time in a concentration camp.
After the war he earned his doctorate from the Austrian University in Graz and soon after began teaching International Law.
Recruited by both Fr. Richard Keifer, then provincial superior of the US Province, and Fr. Edward O’Donnell, SJ, of Marquette University, he came to the United States in 1950 to teach at both SHST and MU. At SHST he taught Philosophy, Metaphysics, Homiletics and Scripture. At Marquette, he taught in the law school.
Fr. Gole was fluent in seven languages, but when he first arrived in the United States, English was not among them. On his 40th anniversary at SHST he looked back on that first year and laughed. At his first teacher review he was told by a school administrator that “Everything is going well, you are a fine teacher and you know your topics… yet, unfortunately, no one can understand what you are saying!”
In Europe classes could be taught in a variety of languages. He was surprised to learn that in the United States he would be expected to teach in English. “Even my Latin class – it had to be taught in English!”
Frustrated, he initially wanted to quit teaching. A Slovenian parish in Milwaukee was looking for a priest and he could have easily gone there.
“But I was trained to be a teacher and that is what I came to do,” he said, though for years he did assist at the Slovenian parish.
Fr. Gole got out his English/German dictionary and began the difficult process of translating all of his classes. Self-taught, he was able to give his first homily in English at a Christmas only a few months after his arrival in Milwaukee.
Over the years he had offers to take positions at other universities around the country but he said that “the SCJs have always been so good to me.” Many of the founders of the U.S. Province had roots in Germany, similar to his own. “I felt at home here.”.
After 25 years at SHST Fr. Gole retired from his teaching responsibilities and was awarded the rank of Professor Emeritus. However, even in retirement he continued as a tutor for many years. He also served as chaplain to two Knights of Columbus councils (the KCs named a scholarship in his honor) and with the Boy Scouts.
In 1975 the Priests of the Sacred Heart named him an honorary member of the community. It was his 25th anniversary at SHST.
“I always felt that I was a part of the community,” he said.
Fr. Gole remained a member of the Diocese of Ljubljana, Slovenia.