William Morlock ’49 grew up in the Mission District, the son of an Irish-American mother and German-born father. While he attended dozens of Seals’ baseball games (the stadium was walking distance from his home on 22nd Street between Florida and Alabama), he was not the athletic type. He attended SI and found himself in the honors program, taking four years of Latin and three years of Greek. Scholarly and contemplative by nature — he celebrated his 44th year in the classroom at SI in 2005 — he found himself drawn to the Sodality. It did not take the Jesuits long to encourage him to consider a vocation as a priest.
“The school had a clerical atmosphere when I was a student,” said Morlock. “All the priests wore cassocks, and most of the lay teachers had left to serve in the war.” Those priests were guided by the same counter-reformation philosophy that guided St. Ignatius of Loyola as he founded the Society of Jesus in the 1500s. “We heard time and time again how the Church had been torn asunder by the wicked Protestants,” said Morlock. “It was totally pre-Vatican II, with religious instruction consisting of apologetics.”
Morlock was impressed by his Jesuit teachers, including the scholastic Albert Zabala, SJ, who would later serve as chairman of the theology department at USF and who founded the USF Summer Theology Program, and Fr. Alexander Cody, SJ, the school’s chaplain. “The first impressed me with his intellectuality, the second with his spirituality. These were ideal Jesuits.”
Given Morlock’s religious predilections, “it didn’t take long for them to apply pressure. The entire Church was dedicated to recruiting boys for the priesthood, and there was a general presumption that if you were religious, you should become a priest.” Since its early days, SI had sent its students into the Novitiate, hitting a peak in 1931 with 17 seniors entering the Society of Jesus.
Morlock was one of eight in his class to begin studies toward the priesthood, but he chose the diocesan seminary of St. Joseph’s, as he was “put off” by the Jesuit lifestyle. On his first day at St. Joseph’s, he heard the news that the Russians had the Bomb. Then he entered the building and barely left for two years, cut-off from most of the outside world, with the exception of trips home for two weeks during Christmas and three months each summer. “I left because I could not adjust to monastic life,” he said. “It was almost as bad as the Jesuit novitiate, with a completely regimented life measured by the constant ringing of bells.” Morlock, after a stint in the Army, returned to the U.S. and to SI, where he has taught since 1961 in three departments, as a German, church history and world history teacher.