Getting to know Rev. Jim Voiss, S.J., vice president for mission and ministry

Father Voiss joined Marquette in January 2020 after serving as rector of the Jesuit community for Gonzaga University in Spokane from 2014-19.

A 30 year higher education veteran, Father Voiss is an Oregon native and the author of Rethinking Christian Forgiveness: Theological, Philosophical, and Psychological Explorations.

In this Q&A, Father Voiss discusses his love of photography, shares some of his favorite books and movies, and recalls a powerful experience of working in a cancer hospice in Munich.

Hometown: I claim Portland, Oregon, as my hometown, but I was actually born in Washington State. Shortly after my birth, my father — a naval officer at the time — was transferred to the East Coast. We moved first to Bethesda, Maryland, and then to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After resigning his commission, we returned to Portland where both my parents are from.

Family: I have two older sisters, both born in Portland, and one younger brother, born in Bethesda. They all live in Oregon still.

Hobbies and interests: My main hobby is photography. I’m not very adept at photographing people, but I have had some success with nature and architecture. I especially love to photograph what I call “abstractions in nature.” These are photos taken of naturally occurring images but framed in such a way that it is not clear what is being presented. That seems to invite the viewer into a kind of silent conversation with the image and can produce a powerful aesthetic engagement. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to show some photos in an exhibit I called “Visual Textures: Still Movement.” I hope to have other such opportunities in the future.

Favorite movies: I have a lot of “favorite” movies. Among them: Beckett, The Lion in Winter, Star Wars (original), The Matrix (first part), Laurence of Arabia, The Station Agent, The Shack and The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Heroes: I don’t really have any heroes. But there are many people I admire and with whom I would love to have a conversation. I would include Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Angela Merkel, Karl Rahner, Ignatius of Loyola, Pope Francis and Meryl Streep.

Favorite quotes/mottos: “Enough is as good as a feast.” (Mary Poppins) “Never scrimp on a splurge!”

Currently reading: I just finished a novel called This Passing World: The Journal of Geoffrey Chaucer — a fascinating tale of intrigue, storytelling and the meaning of life. In nonfiction, I am reading, Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation, Generation Z Goes to College, Leonardo da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson. In spirituality, I’m reading Immortal Diamond, by Richard Rohr.

Favorite vacation spots: I love to go to the Oregon coast and Munich, Germany.

Biggest career learning experience: Perhaps my most powerful formative experience occurred when I was making tertianship, the final, formal phase of Jesuit formation. That was in 2001-02 in a program in the outskirts of Berlin, Germany. I was sent to work for three and a half months at a cancer hospice in Munich. Accompanying dying patients in their final days and supporting their loved ones in the process was a profoundly moving experience for me. It is such a privileged place to be. I continue to return to those memories and draw fruit from them even today.

Fun facts: One random tidbit: When I was still quite young (about 10), I realized that I could wiggle my ears — together and individually. Also, I have a love of strong coffee, dark chocolate and German beer (when not obsessing about a low-carb diet!).