October 21, 2005

Legion of Christ priest returns to
his home parish for the first time

By Sean Gallagher

On the weekend of Sept. 24-25, members of St. Nicholas Parish in Ripley County celebrated the homecoming of one of its sons who was ordained to the priesthood late last year.

Legionary of Christ Father Jason Clark, 36, was the principal celebrant for the parish Masses that weekend. He grew up in the southeastern Indiana parish, and is the son of Catherine Clark and the late Charles Clark.

Father Jason entered the Legion of Christ in 1994 and was ordained to the priesthood with nearly 60 other members of his order on Nov. 25 of last year at St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome on the 60th anniversary of the ordination of Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of his religious community.

Father Jason now serves as a chaplain at Oaklawn Academy, a Legion-run school in Edgerton, Wis., in the Diocese of Madison. This is his first pastoral assignment.

In a recent interview, Father Jason pointed to several facets of the life of his home parish as factors that fostered his priestly vocation.

Its liturgical and devotional life had a significant impact upon him.

He also credited the examples of Msgr. Bernard Schmitz, former St. Nicholas pastor and current pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Morris and administrator of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Milan and St. Pius Parish in Ripley County, and of retired Father Richard Terrill, former pastor of St. Nicholas Parish.

Although influenced by these two diocesan priests, Father Jason said that he always felt a call to religious life.

“When I tried to imagine myself as a priest, I always felt a call to a religious order,” he said. “It would have been logical for me to consider the diocesan priesthood since these were the only priests I knew, yet God had other plans for me.”

After spending so many years away from his home parish, he showed in his homily at the parish’s 10:15 a.m. Mass on Sept. 25 that it was still close to his heart.

Father Jason especially thanked the parishioners for their prayers that he credited for giving him the grace to persevere through the difficult times of his religious and priestly formation.

“We’re not always sure where those graces come from, but I think I know,” he said. “And it’s from people like yourselves who pray for vocations. And so for that I want to thank you for all your prayers because you’ve been a help to me … in my journey toward the priesthood.”

In an interview before the weekend, Catherine Clark expressed her happiness about her son’s vocation and its relationship to his family.

“I [am] thrilled for his vocation,” she said. “A vocation to the priesthood is a family vocation. It’s very beautiful. And for the Lord to bless our family with such a thing is just wonderful.”

Still in the first months in his life and ministry as a priest, Father Jason spoke in his interview about his hope to bring those to whom he ministers closer to Christ.

“I hope that through my priesthood I can help men and women to experience the personal love that Jesus Christ has for them,” he said, “and to go more deeply in this love, helping them realize that they can do great things for Christ if they are generous.”

Father Jason offered words of advice for young men and women who are still discerning their vocation, encouraging them to be active in their parishes, pray before the Blessed Sacrament and to “speak with Jesus from the bottom of their hearts about the possible plans that he has for their lives.” †

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