Ordination Profile: Deacon Jason Williams
The men scheduled to be ordained to the priesthood May 21 at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains in downtown Cincinnati responded to questions from The Catholic Telegraph to profile their background and journey to the priesthood. TheCatholicTelegraph.com will publish profiles each day this week leading up to ordination.
Deacon Jason Williams
I am the second of five children. My older brother, Jon, is a neurologist in the Air Force and lives with his family in San Antonio, TX. My younger brother, Jess, works for Lockheed Martin in San Antonio, TX, where he lives with his wife and two children. My younger sister, Katie, lives in Columbus, where she teaches and works in administration at an early childhood development center.
My youngest sister, Maria, is finishing her doctorate in audiology in San Antonio. She is engaged to be married in the fall of 2017. My parents, Bill and Theresa, have been married for 40 years and still live in Massillon with their dog, Tober. I grew up at Saint Mary Parish in Massillon. My home parish in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is Saint William in Price Hill. I went to Saint Mary School in Massillon, Ohio, from K-8, and then graduated from Canton Central Catholic High School in 2000. I entered the U.S. Navy in the fall of 2000, and completed basic training (boot camp) at Naval Training Station Great Lakes, north of Chicago. From January 2001 to September 2002, I completed the Navy’s Nuclear Power School in Charleston, SC. After six years in the Navy, I entered the Novitiate of the Legion of Christ in Cheshire, Connecticut, in the fall of 2006. After completing an AA in Classical Humanities, I was sent to Rome to complete a BA in philosophy at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum. In the fall of 2011, I started at Mount St. Mary’s of the West Seminary; I am currently finishing the M. Div. and a MA in theology.
• What was the process that led you to pursue the priesthood?
I didn’t really think about the possibility of being a priest when I was young. The pastor at my home parish would joke (or so my brothers and I thought) that one of us Williams boys would become a priest, but I never thought any more of it. After high school, I decided to enlist in the Navy as a reactor operator on a submarine. Those years were very formative for my vocation.
From the beginning, I made the choice to keep going to Mass on Sundays, and I feel that God took advantage of that small act of generosity on my part. My fellow sailors knew I was Catholic, and must of thought I was a very die-hard one, because some of them began to ask me all kinds of questions about the church (What’s the deal with the saints? The rosary? Satues? All those other rules?) I didn’t know the answers, but I was inspired to begin reading and asking questions of some of the priest chaplains on base. Little by little ,I began to fall in love with the faith, with the church, and that was the beginning of my vocation. It seemed like something that was a real possibility and so I began to pray about it.
Prayer led me to a few retreats and spiritual direction. Eventually all of that helped me take the step and enter seminary.
• What has the journey been like as you near ordination?
I entered seminary in the novitiate of the Legion of Christ, a religious community founded in 1941, that does mostly retreats, spiritual direction, talks, and other forms of teaching and catechesis. After five great years with that community, I had decided that God was calling me to work as a parish priest, a ministry that the Legionaries did not do. I entered the diocesan seminary here in Cincinnati in 2011, and have enjoyed these final years of preparation.
Experiences of ministry and the time to study have been very beneficial. These years also offer a lot of support in forming yourself as a man and as a disciple who knows Christ and seeks to follow Him, even when it’s challenging.
The graces over this past decade have been leading towards priestly ordination, but ordination in itself isn’t the goal. God’s work with us isn’t done, and I hope that as a priest He will continue to conform me more closely to the Sacred Heart of Jesus so that His love may be made more manifest in this world. I don’t know exactly how He’ll do that or what it will look like as far as ministry and assignments go, but that’s okay. He’s got the plan; I just pray that I can be faithful to it.
• Was there a single person who greatly influenced your decision to become a priest?
No, I can’t think of one particular person. Several people stand out: my dad and my mom, several priests (both at the parish where I grew up and chaplains in the Navy), and a few close friends.
• What message would you offer to those who want to serve God but do not know how?
The first way we serve God is by being faithful to what He asks of us in the little things of each day. Like St. Therese of Lisieux said, everything is an opportunity to love God, no matter how ordinary it may seem. I believe that if we seek to love God like that, He will help us to learn how to serve Him, no matter how He may ask it of us.
• How has being a deacon (or your internship) influenced the type of priest that you will be?
First on internship at Saint William in Price Hill with Father Andrew Umberg, and as a deacon throughout this past year, it has been helpful to have the example of dedicated and committed priests who are faithful to what God asks of them. I hope that I can follow their example of love for Christ and the people of His Church.
• What are some of your thoughts about beginning priestly life?
It is both exciting and a little frightening. Any anxiety that there may be is put in check (mostly) by trusting in God. He has done a lot of good in my life up till now. I trust that He will continue to be with me and to guide me as a priest. It is exciting to think about being available to God so that He can use my poor life to do some incredible things: the sacraments, preaching, teaching, just being Christ for others.
• What advice would you offer about discerning a vocation?
Don’t be afraid. Talk to a priest you trust about it and he can help get you on the path.
• What will you miss most about your seminary preparation time? What will you value the most?
Having had time to dedicate solely to preparation for priesthood is a blessing that I value highly. I hope that I have taken advantage of the opportunity God has given me, and I hope that He will make up for the mistakes I’ve made and the opportunities I’ve neglected. Aside from not having as much time (if any) set aside specifically for priestly formation, I will miss living in the midst of an amazing community of men who are also striving to follow Christ and serve His church. It is incredibly edifying to be a member of such a team; in reality, while there are various states of life in the church and specific roles according to each, we are all in this together. It has been great to experience so many facets of the church’s life and the people who make it up I’m pretty sure that will continue to be the case.
• What types of jobs have you had?
I delivered newspapers as a kid, worked in the kitchen at the local Catholic hospital during high school, and served in the Navy as a nuclear reactor operator on a fast attack submarine (USS Hartford, SSN 768) for six years after high school. I was stationed in Charleston, SC, for two years and then four years in New London, Conn.
• What sort of extracurricular activities did you enjoy in college?
I didn’t go to college, but I enjoy running, hiking, photography, canoeing, hunting giant squid, music (piano, organ, a little violin), and woodworking.
Other Profiles (Date published)
Deacon Chris Geiger (May 16)
Deacon Sean Wilson (May 16)
Deacon Timothy Fahey (May 17)
Deacon Alex McCulough (May 18)
Deacon Matt Feist (May 19)
Deacon Eric Roush (May 19)
Deacons Reagan, Bertke and Smith (May 20)
This seminarian profile first appeared in the May 2016 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.