Rejoice in the Lord
Marianist Father Bob Jones Embraces Vocation with Goodness and Hope
by Kary Ellen Berger
Rejoicing is one characteristic Father Bob Jones, SM, has embodied throughout his life from school, to priesthood and everywhere in between.
A Fort Wayne, IN, native, Father Jones graduated from the University of Dayton (UD) with degrees in math and education. He later discerned a religious vocation and began formation with the Society of Mary (Marianists).
“I professed first vows in 2007, and worked as a math teacher and campus minister in our schools in Cincinnati and San Antonio,” said Father Jones. “During this time, I also received a master’s degree in Pastoral Ministry from Boston College. Then, I attended the Marianist International Seminary in Rome, living there for three years. After ordination, I spent a year in St. Louis, working as a high school chaplain, associate pastor and hospital chaplain. Then, I came back to Dayton where I was the Chaminade Julienne chaplain for six years, and am now university chaplain at UD, having started in August.”
Prevalent in the lives of students and others well outside the typical priesthood duties, Father Jones makes himself available to students, faculty and staff when they need spiritual guidance. He also immerses himself in the opportunities God presents to him outside of school hours.
“At the end of July, I was visiting my mom in Fort Wayne,” recalled Father Jones. “We went to Saturday evening Mass at 4:30 p.m. at her parish. At about 4:23 p.m. the cantor (who is also a longtime family friend) came to our pew and said that the piano player didn’t show up. Would I be willing to play? Before I could even think about it, I was walking up to the choir area. When I sat down at the piano, I thought, ‘What am I doing? I don’t even know if I know the hymns we’re doing.’ We couldn’t find music for the ‘Glory to God,’ so I sort of made it up as I went. In the end, I’m glad I was able to help the congregation worship and pray.”
This past summer presented Father Jones with the chance to walk the Camino de Santiago, also known as the “Way of St. James.” It is a network of trails across Europe that leads to the city of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, North West of Spain. At a final Mass he and fellow walkers attended, Father Jones was unexpectedly asked to be a celebrant at the Cathedral of Santiago.
“It was a wonderful ending to a wonderful journey, to be able to celebrate the Eucharist in the cathedral,” said Father Jones. “I was invited to pray part of the Eucharistic prayer in English. But the incredible part of the story came at the end. The main celebrant was a bishop from, as another priest told me before Mass, ‘somewhere” near Barcelona.’ After Mass, another priest put two and two together. I was a Marianist, and the bishop had three brothers who were Marianists—two whom I knew; one I had lived with in Rome! I was able to meet the bishop, and when he realized I was a Marianist, his face lit up. We talked for a while; luckily we both knew enough Italian to get by. As we were parting, I said something like, ‘This meeting was….’ and I didn’t have the words. The bishop simply said.
‘It was providential.’ He could have also said, ‘Joyful.’”
Father Jones uses his Camino and other life experiences, to spark joy in others, no matter the setting.
“Life can be difficult,” he said. “At times our world seems as if it is in shambles: war, polarization, climate change, racism, divisions, treating others with contempt; the list goes on and on. In the midst of all this, I think it’s good to remember that there are also many things to be joyful about, that God’s goodness can also be seen and felt, and that we can still remain hopeful.”
He continued, “I think the root of joy is to be found in God’s goodness and in hope. I also think that God calls us to joy. This doesn’t mean that we have to have a smile on our face all the time or always have that giddy, playful feeling. But, I think God calls us to a joy that is based on faith and trust in Him, that God is always with us no matter what, that God will never take away His love for us. This can sustain us, especially when life becomes overwhelming.”
This article appeared in the November 2022 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.