May 26, 2023

Deacon Wright’s path to the priesthood is marked by gifts—given, received and lasting

Transitional Deacon Jack Wright teaches a faith formation lesson concerning the Gospel of John at St. Boniface Parish in Fulda on April 20, 2022. He will be ordained a priest for the archdiocese on June 3. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

Transitional Deacon Jack Wright teaches a faith formation lesson concerning the Gospel of John at St. Boniface Parish in Fulda on April 20, 2022. He will be ordained a priest for the archdiocese on June 3. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

By John Shaughnessy

In all of our lives, there are gifts of experiences and people that eventually lead us to the place where we are supposed to be, to the person we are meant to be.

That’s certainly true of transitional Deacon Jack Wright as he prepares to be ordained a priest in the archdiocese by Archbishop Charles C. Thompson on June 3 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.

One of the defining experiences for Deacon Wright on his path to the priesthood occurred during a summer stint as a student chaplain at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital Indianapolis.

“The way I look at that summer was Jesus said we should visit the sick, and that was what I was doing,” he says. “It helped me to be comfortable to go up to people and start a conversation with them. That isn’t natural for me. In a parish, a priest needs to be able to approach people and talk with them. That’s how he gets to know people, and that’s how they get to see that he loves them.”

One specific moment from that summer showed him how the gifts of compassion and presence are needed in times of heartbreak for people.

“There was one time on a Saturday where I was on call, which meant I was the only chaplain in the hospital at that time. So if anything happens, they call you. There was a man and his wife who had just lost their daughter. I went and met them in the emergency room. We went into the room where their daughter was. I prayed with them. We went back into the lobby, and I talked with them.”

He stayed with them for a long time as they grieved.

“It was an experience of witnessing the grief of losing a child,” he says. “And being able to be present with them, pray with them and just be with them.”

Deacon Wright’s journey to becoming a priest has been marked by many gifts—some received, others given, and all lasting. Here are some of the other gifts that have impacted his path to the priesthood.

The gift of God’s patience

In preparation for his priesthood, Deacon Wright has inscribed the chalice he will use with this interpretation of the first two lines of Psalm 23: “The Lord ruleth me. And I shall want nothing.”

Deacon Wright’s embrace of that approach to life is in stark contrast to a moment during his sophomore year at Marian University in Indianapolis in 2009. In the middle of the night, he woke up in a panic—because he had a powerful awareness that God wanted him to be a priest. It was a prompting that he immediately rejected. And later, he even strayed from his faith.

It wouldn’t be until 2016—after graduating from Marian and working for five years for a chemical company in Indianapolis—that Deacon Wright opened his mind and his heart to becoming a priest.

It’s a vocation he completely embraces now, just as he does the words he had inscribed on his chalice.

“I think our Lord wants me to surrender myself to him, and that’s what I want to do,” he says. “That’s what I’m trying to do. And I know he’s leading me. I know he loves me. And I know he will support me in my priesthood.”

The gift of, well, a gift

Deacon Wright’s transition from rejecting God’s plan to embracing it was helped along by a gift from the grandfather he is named for, Jack Wesley Wright.

His grandfather has long been influential in Deacon Wright’s faith life, especially in passing along his devotion to—and his love for—the Blessed Mother.

As part of that shared love, his grandfather gave him the book, To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons.

“He told me I should read the book,” Deacon Wright says. “I pretty much put it on my bookshelf and didn’t really ever look at it until I was 24 or 25. I decided I might as well pick this up and start reading it.

“I think it was at a time in my life when I was searching for direction. I was searching for purpose and meaning. I started to come back to the faith and take my faith seriously again. And I always felt a connection to Our Lady. When I first decided I wanted to be a priest, she was really important for me. I really wanted to give my life to her and be a priest-son of her. It was really through that book that I finally found the meaning and the purpose I was looking for.”

On June 3, Deacon Wright will give his grandfather one of the great gifts of his life.

“To have a grandson who is going to be a priest—it doesn’t get any better than that,” the elder Jack Wright says. “The whole family is excited. We feel like we’re really blessed. We’re very proud of him. And I think Jack is going to be a good priest.”

The gift of example

Besides his grandfather, Deacon Wright focuses on two individuals who strongly impacted his faith life as he grew up in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond.

“First of all, it would be my dad,” says Deacon Wright, the second oldest of six children of John and Dotty Wright.

“When I was growing up, he would always pray with me and my sisters before we would go to sleep. We would say the rosary a lot together as a family. Driving in the car, we would pray the rosary or Divine Mercy Chaplet. I also went on retreats with my dad and sometimes my siblings. And he would take us to Mass before school on Tuesdays and Fridays.”

Another strong influence was a priest who was a friend of his grandfather—Father Charles Caserta from the nearby Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

“He would come over to Richmond and help out at our parish. My family got to know him really well. He was just full of joy, and also very devoted to Mary and the Eucharist. He was the best priest friend I had growing up.

“When I first started to think about becoming a priest, I told my grandpa, and we went over to Father Caserta’s house. Father Caserta told me I was just afraid of doing it, and what was holding me back was fear. When he said that, it made a lot of sense to me. It wasn’t long after that that I entered the seminary.”

Father Caserta has died, but Deacon Wright expects to feel his presence during his ordination—and into his priesthood.

“I’ll be thanking him for his influence in my life and the life of my family. I think he’ll be happy to see me get ordained. I hope to bring joy to people like he did.”

The gift of friendship

There are lessons to be learned about people in the friends they make and the friendships they continue to nurture. The friendship between Deacon Wright and transitional Deacon Hung Van Tran is enlightening about both of them.

They met six years ago as they started their priestly formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad—one from the heartland of the United States and the other from the Diocese of Hanoi in Vietnam.

“He’s a very gentle man, kind and a very devout man,” Deacon Van Tran says about Deacon Wright. “He’s a cheerful man. Welcoming. I could see that with the international students. He spends much time to talk with international students. His heart is very big.

“I have been with him for six years. In the first years, my English was not that good. He helped me a lot with English. I was assigned with him to do ministry at

St. Boniface [Parish in Fulda.] Every Wednesday, he would drive me. He taught me a lot while driving with me.”

Amid all the sincere compliments, Deacon Van Tran also has a joy in his voice as he talks about another quality of their friendship.

“We make fun of each other quite often,” he says with a laugh. “He’s a funny person to live with. Sarcastic sometimes. He mimics me and makes fun of me at times, and I make fun of him as well.”

Asked to sum up their friendship, Deacon Van Tran says it is hard to describe it in a few words. Then he does.

“It’s very precious. I treasure our friendship,” Deacon Van Tran says. “I firmly believe he will be a good priest. He’s a very prayerful man, and with prayer he will be able to conquer every unexpectancy.”

The gift of sharing joy and faith

When Deacon Wright served last summer at St. Joseph Parish in Shelbyville, he was thrilled to see how active and faith-filled the youths of the parish are.

“That was really good for me because I hadn’t been able to have that experience so much in my time at seminary,” he says.

He also enjoyed the opportunity to connect with the Hispanic members of the parish, proclaiming the Gospel and preaching in Spanish during Masses—and visiting families in their homes with Father Michael Keucher, the parish’s pastor.

Seeing Deacon Wright in all his capacities at the parish has left Father Keucher convinced about the difference his friend will make as a priest, starting with his first assignment at St. Monica Parish in Indianapolis.

“He is a prayerful, humble, joyful man, and that is the recipe for a good priest in my book,” says Father Keucher, who is also director of vocations for the archdiocese. “He exudes those qualities, and that’s why people love being around him so much. As a priest, those qualities will be a great bridge between people and God. 

“He also has an incredible gift when it comes to preaching. He preaches from the heart, and to the heart of the people. His homilies make people want to be holier—and they teach them how.” 

They’re all among the gifts that Deacon Wright hopes to bring to his priesthood—the vocation where he now knows he is meant to be, where God wants him to be.

“Simplicity is important to me. Humility, too. And excitement for the faith,” Deacon Wright says. “I hope that people can see that I’m happy as a priest.

“I want to be as available as I can to my people. I want them to know that my priesthood is for them, my life is for them.”

(The public is invited to attend the priestly ordination of transitional Deacon Jack Wright and Deacon José Neri, which will be at 10 a.m. on June 3 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, 1347 N. Meridian St., in Indianapolis. For more information on a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit

About Transitional Deacon Jack Wright

Age: 33

Parents: John and Dotty Wright

Home Parish: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond

Education: Centerville High School in Centerville, Ind.; Marian University in Indianapolis; Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad

Favorite Scripture passage: Psalm 23

Favorite saints: St. Joseph and St. Teresa of Calcutta. “St. Teresa has such a love for the unloved, and that’s something else I hope to bring to my priesthood—having an eye for the unloved and paying special attention to them and caring for them.”

Favorite prayer or devotion: The Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet

Favorite book: The Reed of God by Caryll Houselander

Favorite movie: Into the Wild

Hobbies: Reading, walking outside and playing basketball

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