Christian Wagner, who served as a deacon at San Quentin State Prison the last three years, has been ordained a Jesuit priest, according to a press release issued by the religious organization.

Christian Wagner, a former deacon at San Quentin State Prison, has been ordained a Jesuit priest.

Nearly 11 years after entering the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, Wagner was ordained a Jesuit priest by Cardinal Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, on June 3 at Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee. Eleven other Jesuits were also ordained at the ceremony.

“God’s presence has become ever more real during my formation as a Jesuit priest,” said Wagner. “I am especially grateful for God’s gentle work with me through all the people I met and all those who so generously supported me over the last years. Their prayers, help, and assistance continue to illustrate God’s presence.”

Wagner, 45, grew up in Germany. After earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences in 1994, he earned a master’s degree in biotechnology at the European Biotechnology School of the Higher Rhine Universities in France and a PhD in microbiology from the University of Basel in Switzerland.

His work in the pharmaceutical industry brought him to the United States. But after five years, he was searching for a more fulfilling career.

The desire for meaningful work took Wagner to Loyola University Chicago, where he taught biology and began to revisit the idea of becoming a priest, which he had placed on the back burner since high school.

He entered the Society of Jesus in August 2006. As a novice, Wagner served as a chaplain with the Clinical Pastoral Education program at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and later earned a master’s degree in philosophical resources from Fordham University in the Bronx, N.Y.

In a unique experience for a Jesuit in formation, Wagner was missioned to Asia, where he spent two years learning Mandarin in Taiwan and China. Then, he worked for one year as a visiting scientist at a research center.

In 2014, he was sent to the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, where he earned a Master of Divinity degree. He also completed a three-year spiritual direction course at the Jesuit Retreat Center of Los Altos, while serving as a deacon at San Quentin State Prison and the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.

His first assignment as a priest is at St. Michael’s Church in Munich, Germany, until August 2017. Then Wagner will return to Berkeley to complete a licentiate in sacred theology. He celebrated his first Mass as a priest at Madonna della Strada Chapel at Loyola University Chicago.

What are the Jesuits?

The Society of Jesus is a religious order of priests and brothers in the Roman Catholic Church. For more than 470 years, the Jesuits have served in the spirit of St. Ignatius Loyola, who founded the order in 1540. Jesuits serve throughout the world in educational institutions, parishes, retreat centers, social justice ministries and international ministries.