Just one door opens to a fulfilling life

| May 25, 2011 | 0 Comments

Deacon Kelly

Deacon Jonathan Kelly, center, stands with Bishop Mariano Parra, right, bishop of Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, and altar server Guillermo Mego during a youth Mass at the church of Jesucristo Recusitado in San Felix, Venezuela, an archdiocesan mission parish where Deacon Kelly served last summer. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Deacon Jonathan Kelly’s journey toward ordination was filled with invitations.

“I think the Lord was gentle, in that he didn’t reveal things all at once,” he said.

Although Deacon Kelly had fleeting thoughts of priesthood as a youth, he didn’t seriously consider a vocation until he was older. The youngest of seven children, Deacon Kelly said his dad, Richard, who was an attorney and judge, has had a great influence in his life and is supportive of his vocation.

After graduating from Georgetown Prep Jesuit high school in Washington, D.C., where he spent weekends with his sisters who lived in the area, Deacon Kelly returned to the Twin Cities to get a degree in finance at the University of Minnesota. He worked four years at Piper Jaffray in Minneapolis, before spending two years with MidMark Capital in Morristown, N.J.

“I liked what I did and had the great fortune of working with people of great integrity,” he said. “But I felt a sense of growing unfulfillment in the work. So I started asking deeper questions.”

Searching for fulfillment

He was reading “The Seven Storey Mountain” by Trappist Father Thomas Merton and regularly attending Mass at Our Lady of Czestochowa in Jersey City, which was housed in a row-house-style building.

“There was only one exit,” Deacon Kelly said. “With this one exit, I was forced to go out and see the priest (Father Tom Iwanowski) every time. The second time I was there, he grabbed me . . . and began talking to me. Six weeks later, he got me registered in the parish and he got me on the finance council and involved in other activities. The seeds, you can see, were being planted.”

About a year after beginning his search for “some orientation” in his life, Deacon Kelly’s brother in Minnesota invited him to go on a five-day retreat in Croatia that was also attended by Father Michael Becker, then-pastor of St. Michael in St. Michael. Father Becker is now serving as rector of St. John Vianney College Seminary.

“It was in the silence that the Lord spoke to me. I was 30 years old at the time,” Deacon Kelly said.

“I quit my job six weeks later,” he said, and moved back to the Twin Cities. “I continued to speak with Father Becker about what was happening to me and he invited me to live with him for the summer at the rectory, where there were three other priests and a deacon. I was drawn by the life immediately. So, I applied to the seminary for the fall.”

Acceptance brings graces

After the first few months in the seminary, Deacon Kelly felt that his discernment was over, and he told his family and friends that he believed that God was calling him to be a priest.

“As soon as I gave myself completely to the formation program, the doors opened up and more graces came,” he said.

There were times that he wanted to move along more quickly from studying philosophy to studying theology, but he said he’s grateful for the formation he received at the St. Paul Seminary.

“We have various experiences of learning a new language, working in a hospital, and I had a chance to do a 30-day retreat and be in a parish, and we got to travel to places like Rome and Jerusalem. All those experiences have prepared us so well,” he said. “The formation program does work and I’m grateful for the enthusiasm of Msgr. [Aloysius] Callaghan [seminary rector].”

While serving a summer at the archdiocesan mission parish in Venezuela, Deacon Kelly learned about flexibility and the joy of Christ in the poor.

While in his teaching parish in New Brighton, he enjoyed the lessons he learned by preparing to preach and the joy of bringing a new life into the church during a baptism.

When people ask Deacon Kelly what they can do to encourage vocations, he tells them to attend an ordination.

“Let the power and beauty and richness of the rite speak for itself,” he said. “That is my encouragement to all the readers of The Catholic Spirit: Come to the ordination for the enrichment of your own faith and bring those people who may have a vocation to the religious life.”

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Category: Ordinations