By Susan Thies
What makes a young man want to study to be a priest? To find out, we did a Questions and Answer interview with Jason Lee, 22, a former Waukee graduate now attending St. Thomas University in St. Paul, Minnesota. This is a follow up article to the one we did a few years ago.
Q. What prompted you to change from the United Methodist Church to Catholicism?
A. I became Catholic because I saw contradictions in the doctrine of my Methodist Church and other Protestant churches. My journey towards the Catholic faith began with a desire to find the Church that Jesus Christ and the Apostles established. It was during this time that I encountered the Rosary from a classmate at Waukee High School. As I began praying the Rosary, the Blessed Virgin Mary worked on my heart and pointed me towards her Son, Jesus in the Eucharist. It was through prayer and study that the Lord showed me that the Catholic Church is “The Church” established by Jesus and the Apostles. I was convinced of this Truth because of Jesus’ Real Presence in the Eucharist. I chose St. Boniface because it was the parish of my hometown, Waukee.
Q. What did you learn from RCIA?
A. During RCIA, I remember learning about the Seven Sacraments and the saints. I was most intrigued by the saints and saint relics. As a Methodist, I had the impression that Catholics “prayed” to the saints. In RCIA, this myth was busted. I began to understand that as Catholics, we ask the saints to pray FOR us. The saint relics are interesting to me because I couldn’t wrap my head around the tradition of venerating the bones of the saints. It made more sense once I realized that the angels and saints are present at every Mass. This is particularly seen in the fact that we place relics in the altar of each church.
Q. When did you first fee the calling to be a priest?
A. I felt “called” at the age of 15. I was 18 when I felt the Lord calling me to His priesthood. Shortly after deciding to join RCIA, I began thinking about the priesthood. I call it a “conversion of vocation”.
Q. How did that calling affect your higher education choices?
A. As a recent convert, I couldn’t enter the seminary for two years according to Church law. This law is in place so as to prevent a recent convert from making a rash decision on a particular vocation. In light of this, I attended Iowa State University with the intention of earning a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a minor in Chinese. After my freshman year, I transferred to the University of St. Thomas to study Philosophy and minor in Catholic Studies. We are required to have an undergraduate degree in philosophy and Master’s Degree in Divinity/Theology in order to become ordained priests.
Q. How did your calling affect your higher education choices?
A. Yes. Since leaving Iowa State, I have remained in contact with friends from the Catholic Student Center and have chosen to distance myself from a friend who had a negative influence on me. In the seminary and at St. Thomas, I have made many good friends. These friends strive to follow Jesus and grow in holiness. I am blessed to have them as friends because they help make me the person God desires me to be.
Q. How does your curriculum differ than that of other students?
A. My curriculum isn’t much different than other students. I am attending classes with other students. There are general education requirements like Math, Science, and English. My major is Philosophy. The only difference is that the seminary requires we take a class on the Catechism of the Catholic Church taught by our rector, Fr. Michael Becker and Fr. Steve Borrello. It is a normal liberal arts curriculum.
Q. What are your future aspirations?
A. I have one undergraduate semester remaining and eight semesters for my Master’s in Divinity/Theology. My aspirations are to do God’s will and be a simple, holy parish priest in the Des Moines Diocese.
Q. Can you share a story to five us a glimpse of what it’s like being a seminary college student?
A. There was one time when my friend and I were walking back to the seminary after having a Eucharistic Procession on St. Thomas’ campus. We had our cassocks on with our collars popped in. As we were walking in to the St. Thomas Student Center, we came across an event with a cake walk and headed in to see if we could win a cake wearing our clergy attire. There were only two cakes left. We walked around once and neither of us won. The second round commenced and we walked with the music playing. STOP! Lo and behold, my number was called! In God’ Providence, we left victorious with our cake and shared it with our brother seminarians.
Q. Our country is experiencing turbulent times. What advice would give us?
A. This year 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of last apparition of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917, soon after, WWI ended. It is at Fatima that Mary promised Her children, “In the end, My Immaculate Heart will Triumph.” On October 7, 2017, the Polish laity of the Catholic Church organized the faithful to go to the Poland borders to pray the Rosary. Millions showed up to pray for Europe and Poland. It was the second largest prayer event just behind World Youth Day in Poland 2016. The Sacred of Heart of Jesus will triumph alongside the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Pray the Rosary daily as a Church, with family and friends for the triumph of the Immaculate Heart in the United States.