November 5, 2021

2021 Vocations Awareness Supplement

Seminarian looks to the guidance of Mary in his journey to the priesthood

Holding a rosary, seminarian Jack Wright stands before a statue of Mary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Monte Cassino in St. Meinrad. A member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond, Wright credits Mary with guiding him to his priestly vocation. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

Holding a rosary, seminarian Jack Wright stands before a statue of Mary at the Shrine of Our Lady of Monte Cassino in St. Meinrad. A member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond, Wright credits Mary with guiding him to his priestly vocation. (Photo courtesy of Saint Meinrad Archabbey)

By Sean Gallagher

ST. MEINRAD—Through four years of priestly formation, seminarian Jack Wright has never wavered in his conviction that God is calling him to be a priest.

God willing, he’ll take a significant step toward the fulfillment of that goal next spring, when he is scheduled to be ordained a transitional deacon.

A member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond, Wright, 31, has known of God’s call in his life for 12 years.

But he had a hard time accepting his vocation during much of that time—so much so that he actually stopped practicing his faith for some years.

What led him not only back to the Church, but even further to a firm embrace of his vocation?

Wright credits it all to a relationship he began to nurture with the Blessed Virgin Mary with the help of a book about her that his grandfather had given him at a time when he had not darkened the doors of a church for years.

“One of the reasons that I’ve felt so solid in my vocation is because of my relationship with her,” he said. “As I’ve been in seminary, I’ve trusted that she’s leading me and that my life is in her hands. She’s acquiring the graces for me that I need to become the priest that God wants me to be.”

‘I didn’t want to do it’

As Wright grew up, the Catholic faith gradually took on a more prominent role in the life of his family. By the time he was in high school, he asked God daily what he should do with his life.

For years, the answer to those prayers remained hidden—until his sophomore year at Marian University in Indianapolis.

His awareness of God’s answer came to him rather suddenly in 2009, but in a way that disturbed him.

“I woke up at like three or four in the morning,” Wright recalled. “For some reason, I had this overwhelming awareness that I was supposed to be a priest. That was what God wanted me to do.

“I got up and started walking around campus and was just crying my eyes out, crying like I had never cried before. It wasn’t a joyful cry. It was a cry of misery. I didn’t want to do it.”

This clear awareness of God’s call and his clear resistance to it led him to walk away from the faith.

Most of Wright’s friends didn’t go to Mass. And with conflict about his vocation in his heart, he stopped going to Mass, too.

“Once you skip one week, it’s easier to skip the next week,” he said. “Before long, I stopped going.”

And it was all rooted in God’s answer to Wright’s prayer—an answer he turned his back on.

“God had shown me what he wanted—which was what I was asking him in prayer to do—and I rejected it,” Wright said. “So, he said, ‘OK. I’ll let you go your way.’ That’s really what happened.

“At that point, God wiped the thought of [the priesthood] from my mind. I never thought about it again until 2016, many years later.”

‘That’s when our Lady entered my life’

In the interim, Wright graduated from Marian in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and worked for five years for a small chemical company in Indianapolis.

While living on his own in an apartment on the northwest side of the city, Wright decided to pick up and read a book his grandfather had given him years earlier by an Italian priest with a deep devotion to Mary. The book, titled To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, included messages that the Blessed Mother had spoken to the priest in his heart.

“I finally picked up the book and started reading it,” Wright recalled. “Something about our Lady’s messages in that

book really touched my heart, I guess. I think that it was at that point when I really made the decision to start practicing my faith again and to take it seriously.”

Looking back on it, Wright sees that moment as a turning point in his life.

“That’s when our Lady entered my life,” he said. “I had prayed the rosary before, and I always felt a kind of vague connection to our Lady. But that’s when she really took over. It started from that book.”

Wright began going to Mass, praying before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration chapels and praying the rosary daily.

In 2016, he had a conversation with a retired priest from the Cincinnati Archdiocese who lived near Richmond who had been a spiritual director for his grandfather.

“He told me that I shouldn’t be afraid to become a priest, to say ‘yes’ to the calling to the priesthood,” Wright recalled. “That was a big moment. I realized that this whole time I think I had just been afraid. It was out of fear that I was saying ‘no’ to the priesthood.”

That message opened a door to a possible vocation to the priesthood that Wright had closed so firmly seven years earlier.

“Gradually the desire to become a priest began to grow in me,” he said. “Before, in college, I wanted nothing to do with it. Now, I really started to desire it. I just started praying to our Lady every day just to get me into the seminary.”

By the spring of 2017, Wright was in contact with then-archdiocesan vocations director Father Eric Augenstein and began the process to become an archdiocesan seminarian.

He was accepted and by August of 2017, Wright had quit his job and enrolled at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad.

‘His leadership is quiet and effective’

Wright’s relationship with Mary during his four years of priestly formation has led him to have a desire to give of himself in service to others—something he began to recognize when he spent Christmas break at his parish a couple of years ago.

“I really started feeling myself loving the people of my parish like I hadn’t before,” he said. “I really wanted to give my life to the people of my parish. I think my love for our Lady is evolving into a love for and desire to give myself to my future parishioners and the Church.”

Benedictine Father Tobias Colgan, Saint Meinrad’s vice rector, sees Wright’s self-giving in his life at the southern Indiana seminary.

“He is well known in the seminary for his quiet outreach to anyone in need, and has been especially attentive to the international seminarians as they continue their process of enculturation,” said Father Tobias.

This leadership in service comes forth from Wright in a variety of ways, from being the liaison between the seminarian community and the seminary’s physical facilities staff, to serving as the grand knight of Saint Meinrad’s Knights of Columbus council.

“His leadership is quiet and effective,” Father Tobias said. “Jack has a very gentle manner and excellent listening skills. People who are hurting or in need, especially, will find Jack to be an outstanding person from whom to seek advice or spiritual counsel.

“Jack has a heart for ministry and will, I think, be especially attentive to the disadvantaged and the marginalized. I cannot wait to see him ordained and out in the field.”

Neither can seminarian Tyler Huber, a classmate of Wright and a member of St. Mary-of-the-Knobs Parish in Floyd County. Their friendship deepened over the summer as both were student chaplains at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, together with their third classmate, seminarian Jose Neri.

“I am really looking forward to the day we are brother priests,” Huber said. “I really appreciated getting to know Jack better and to see him in the chaplain role at the hospital. He was a natural at it, and he will be a great brother priest one day.”

When asked to give a word of encouragement to young men considering a possible priestly vocation, Wright naturally thought of Mary.

“Grow closer to our Lady,” he said. “Give your future to her. Allow her to lead you in whatever direction she wants to.”
 

(To learn more about a vocation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, visit www.HearGodsCall.com.)


About Jack Wright

Age: 31

Parents: John and Dotty Wright

Home Parish: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond

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

Favorite Scripture passage: Psalm 23

Favorite saint: St. Francis of Assisi

Favorite prayer or devotion: The Rosary

Favorite book: New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton

Favorite movie: Into the Wild

Hobbies: Reading and playing basketball

 

 

 

 

 

 

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