Father Jones credits vocation to family, SJV come-and-see weekend

| May 25, 2018 | 0 Comments

It was a Vianney Visit that tipped the scales for Father Colin Jones, motivating him to enter seminary. He had been thinking about the priesthood since he was a boy, but as college drew closer, he had pushed the idea aside, considering it too daunting. Then a friend invited the 17-year-old to accompany him for a weekend visit to St. John Vianney College Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, and he left the weekend feeling confident that he wanted to apply.

Father Colin Jones

The visit’s schedule included a 6:15 a.m. Holy Hour on Friday, and Father Jones remembered being struck by seeing the men at prayer at what he considered an early hour, and feeling at peace.

“It was kind of a life-changing event,” he said. “It wasn’t like a lightning bolt kind of thing, but it was really special. I think for the first time in my life, it showed me that I could be passionate about and something I could give myself to — namely, a life with the Lord and a life that’s sacrificial in some sense and dedicated to something higher.”

Although he had also been considering an engineering career, Father Jones’ decision to enter seminary wasn’t a surprise to his family or others who knew him. The oldest of Gavin and Meghan Jones’ six children, he became an altar server at his childhood parish, St. Charles Borromeo, while in fifth grade. (His family has since moved to Oak Grove, where they attend St. Patrick.) His dad later took him to Team Vianney events, which SJV hosted to encourage boys to consider the priesthood. People had told him they thought he might be called to priesthood, and he had thought maybe they were right.

“Big Catholic family, good Catholic parents, home-schooled — I mean, that’s kind of the recipe for thinking about vocations,” he said with a grin. “If people asked me, I would have probably said, ‘I want to be a priest when I grew up.’”

Those aspirations will be realized May 26 when Father Jones was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis during 10 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, along with three other men: Fathers Aric Aamodt, Peter Toulee Ly and Matthew Shireman.

Now 26, Father Jones was home-schooled through tenth grade through a ministry at St. Paul in Ham Lake, and then he started a Postsecondary Enrollment Options program, taking college courses at Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids. He described his PSEO years as “hinge years” that helped him take a step out of what he called a “home-school bubble,” and think about who he was and what he was going to do with his life.

He enrolled in SJV and St. Thomas, completing a triple major in philosophy, Catholic Studies and classical languages in 2014. Then he continued his seminary studies at the Pontifical North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome. He had spent a semester in Rome with the Catholic Studies program, and was grateful for the opportunity to return.

His forebears had said the experience would bring him close to the pope, the saints and the heart of the Church, but he didn’t know what that would mean for him. The four years he spent there have been rich, with challenges and consolations as he’s prepared for his priestly ordination.

In Rome, Father Jones studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University. His apostolates included visiting people, the elderly in particular, door-to-door in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood. That experience tested not only his Italian skills, but also his ability to listen and be present to others.

He also served for two years as a chaplain to students of Providence College in Rhode Island studying in Rome and spent one summer serving in a rural diocese in Tanzania. He spent the past two summers serving at Epiphany in Coon Rapids.

Living in Rome made it possible for Father Jones to meet seminarians from around the world, which deepened his sense of the Church’s universality, he said, noting that he now has good friend who will be ordained this year in Zambia. It also introduced him to the vast variety of religious communities and gave him an appreciation of their shared yet distinct callings.

Meanwhile, he also gained perspective on the U.S. Catholic Church, he said. About 100 dioceses send men to the PNAC, he said, so he’s befriended men from around the country.

“It’s kind of cool to build these lifelong friendships with these guys from the Southwest, New England, the Heartland, California, all those places,” he said. “You don’t get to be in America, but you get to see America through the eyes of these guys.”

Father Jones was ordained a deacon at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City last September. After his ordination to the priesthood, he’ll return to Rome for almost three weeks to take his final exams — six tests and a paper. Then, in the fall, he’ll go back for a final year to finish a degree in biblical theology.

Although deacons have authority to baptize and preside over funerals and weddings, while a deacon Father Jones had not done any of them, and he admits that he also has less preaching experience than his fellow ordinands who studied at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. As his priestly ordination approached, he wrestled with the realization that he has yet to figure it all out, and he’s not sure what being a priest will really be like.

A spiritual director encouraged him not to be discouraged about the unknown in his vocation. He asked him, “Colin, have you ever been a priest before?”

“No.”

“OK,” he said, “then why don’t you trust that the Lord does know, and he’s going to help you by taking you one day at a time?”

And, once a priest, that’s what Father Jones intends to do. He is most looking forward to having a “front row seat” to see what God is doing in people’s lives, he said, and he trusts that the Lord will show him how to be a priest.

“This isn’t about having it all figured out,” he said.

He takes heart in the encouragement of his friend, Father Spencer Howe, pastor of Holy Cross in northeast Minneapolis, who told him, “When you’re a priest, there’s always a word.”

“By that, he meant, whatever you do, wherever you go, whatever thing you’re helping out at, whatever dinner … there’s always something that the priest can just give,” he said. “It’s just a reminder that people want to be nourished and fed by the words of their shepherds.”

Father Jones is eager to return to living in the Twin Cities and the opportunity to dig into favorite pastimes such as hiking, skating and skiing, he said. He’s also an avid reader, and theology texts push him to fiction in his free time. He’s currently reading — slowly — the historical novel trilogy “Kristin Lavransdatter,” by Nobel laureate Sigrid Undset.

“I’ve been reading it for like a year,” he said, laughing.

Spending four years in Rome has deepened his appreciation of the Twin Cities and the archdiocese, he said. Once his studies are done, he’s also looking forward to building fraternity with his fellow priests.

Ordinands get a lot of advice, Father Jones said, but among the best he’s received is that the priesthood will be more difficult than he imagined, and it’s also going to be more joyful than he could imagine.

And, “just to let the Lord lead, and let the Lord dictate the terms and let him speak. It’s his priesthood that we participate in, so let him be in charge,” he added, “and when that happens, it’s amazing what kind of adventures the Lord lets us take with him and his people.”

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