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Turn to Jesus (Article)

A Call to Serve and Give Glory to God
Fr. Jason Adams Mitchell

Fr.  Jason Adams Mitchell
Fr. Jason Adams Mitchell

As I look back over the years and try to put down on paper how God has acted in my life, my eyes immediately fill with tears of gratitude. I thank God, above all, for the wonderful Catholic family he has given me and for having chosen me to be his priest. Both are unmerited gifts.

From One Place to Another

I am the oldest of ten children and my brother, Michael, is also a Legionary. My dad served in the Air Force for seventeen years and was stationed at Chanute Air Force Base in Rantoul, Illinois when I was born on August 25, 1978, a day before the election of Pope John Paul I. Military life meant moving from one airbase to another quite frequently. Through it all, and over time and with each move, my family grew more deeply in the Catholic faith and in recognizing the primacy of God in our lives.

A couple weeks after I was born, my family moved to Cabot, Arkansas, where we lived for six years. I finished first grade, in the spring of 1985, in Austintown, Ohio at my first Catholic school: Immaculate Heart of Mary. In the fall of that year, my family moved to Riverside, California. There, I made my first communion at Saint Catherine. One of my memories includes talking about the homilies each week on the long drive back from mass. The first time I thought of being a priest, though, happened when I was ten years old. While serving mass at Saint Luke Parish in Beavercreek, Ohio I thought to myself, “I could do what the priest does one day”. I also wanted to play golf and thought that as a priest I would have time to get a few rounds in each week. The desire to play golf faded away quickly; the desire to be a priest remained.

The First Signs

A few years later, when I was in seventh grade and while living near Tarsus, Turkey, I was one of the only altar servers for a time. Each week I helped out the Air Force chaplains at mass at the chapel on Incirlik Air Force Base. That weekly experience, coupled with the example of holiness and of joy set by a local Capuchin priest, Father Vincenzo Succi, were important milestones in my vocational discernment. It was Father Vincenzo who prepared me to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. Since we were close to Tarsus, I took the name, “Paul”, in honor of the Apostle to the Gentiles.

In the fall of 1992, my Dad was sent to Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York. On Saturday mornings I worked at Saint Peter’s rectory, usually serving two or three weddings on the side. Father Philip Hearn was the pastor and set an example for me of priestly humility and fervor. At the time, my mom was very interested in the messages coming from Medjugorje and other places. Apart from the apocalyptic curiosity that some of the messages fostered, I was left with two important convictions: the importance of defending the Church through fidelity to the Pope’s teachings and the centrality of the Sacraments and devotion to Mary. By my junior year, then, I knew what type of priest I would be if I were called: a holy priest on the frontlines of the Church, a priest centered on Christ in the Eucharist, a priest who loved Mary, a priest faithful to the Pope.

I finished high school near Franklin, Pennsylvania, close to where my family is now settled. During the year and a half at Venango Catholic High School, I met several exemplary priests of the Diocese of Erie. In particular, I came into contact with Father Edward Lohse, who was the vocation director of the diocese. In February 1996, he invited me and thirty other young men to come and see the seminary. What most impacted me was meeting the seminarians, six normal young men like myself. I could see myself as one of them, yet for some reason the next step in my life wasn’t clear. Part of me was still set on going to the Franciscan University of Steubenville and starting a family.

The Final Invitation

Things, though, came together in March, when I went on a retreat with the Legionaries of Christ in Cheshire, Connecticut. It was there that the style of priesthood, discerned in my mind and heart, became a reality. I met a congregation of priests centered on the Eucharist, devoted to Mary, faithful to the Holy Father and dedicated to extending Christ’s Kingdom. Towards the end of the three day retreat, Father Owen Kearns gave us a talk on the situation of the Church, the culture of death and the problem
Fr.  Jason Adams Mitchell
Fr Jason Mitchell greets the Holy Father after having worked as an interpreter in some Vatican meetings.
of euthanasia. I was impressed by his talk and felt called to take part in the mission of the Legion within the Church. I concluded my retreat with a request to Jesus: “Lord, if you want me to be a priest, I want to be a Legionary”.

The three months between my retreat and entry into the candidacy program in June were not easy. I was the rich young man of the Gospel. I was in my senior year and had everything at my fingertips: I did well at sports; I was named the Salutatorian of my senior class; I received the Headmaster’s Award for character; I had an offer from a teacher to get into contact with Chase-Manhattan to start a career in banking; I could have chosen the girl of my dreams to start a family and so on. The horizon seemed limitless. Like the rich young man, I also had my priorities straight. God would be first in my life. I would follow his commandments. I would seek eternal life. I would dedicate my life to serving and defending the Church. However, there was one thought that came back to me over and over again: “Lord, I want to do your will, and I want to do it as soon as possible”. That thought was confirmed later in Saint Paul’s letters: “Your holiness is God’s will”. In the beginning, “God’s will” was somewhat abstract, but little-by-little it became the simple consequence of loving him. I saw clearly that His will was that I be His priest. The talents and limits He gave me would all be given back and used to extend His kingdom, His reign in the hearts of men. I would renounce what the world offered and choose Christ.

Above all, I felt the radical call to holiness. I believe that the foundations of my religious and priestly vocation are in the words of our Lord to the rich young man, which He also directed to me in my senior year of high-school: “If you want to be perfect, go sell what you own and give to the poor and come follow me”. The seeds for that call were planted years before when I was thirteen years old and read the biography of Saint Dominic Savio. His story resonated in my soul. I wanted what he had: death, rather than sin; love for Christ; eyes set on eternity. I don’t imagine life as a stint just to do the minimum to get to heaven. No, I see life as that period of time we have to grow in our relationship with God and bring others to know and love Him. Each day is an opportunity to respond to God’s love and grace. Each day we can love God more. My glory is to be His creature and do His will.

Be Not Afraid

I tried to convey those thoughts in my Salutatorian speech at graduation from Venango Catholic High School. I quoted both John Paul II’s call to “Be not afraid” and Mother Teresa’s simple way: “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.” After the speech a man came up to me and said that people would pay to go to speeches like the one I gave. That would be one more talent placed at God’s service.

The three months of vocational discernment with the Legionaries in the summer of 1996, were a confirmation of what I experienced on my March retreat. There was a “style” of priesthood that involved discipline, a desire to be on the front-lines with my brother Legionaries. Pope Benedict recently singled out the militant spirit of the Legion of Christ as central to its charism and apostolic spirit. Every kingdom has soldiers. May we be soldiers of love, brave and courageous, ready to give our lives in testimony to Christ’s resurrection.

I really enjoyed everything during those three months: playing soccer and basketball, hiking, studying the Catechism and the Pope’s Encyclical Veritatis Splendor, receiving the sacraments frequently, learning to pray, growing in my spiritual life. About mid-July, I wrote to the Franciscan University of Steubenville and told them that I would not be attending the fall of 1996. I don’t remember any dramatic vocational struggles or discernment problems. I just lived each day fully in love with God’s call.

I became a novice in the fall of that year, made my first profession two years later and studied classical humanities from 1998 to 2000. I went to Rome to study philosophy in the fall of the Jubilee Year. Towards the end of my second year in Rome, I had the grace of serving the Easter Vigil Mass in 2002 for Blessed Pope John Paul II. I worked with at the Legion’s Territorial Directorate in Thornwood, New York for three years, returned to Rome in 2005, and successively earned a Master’s degree and doctorate in philosophy and a Bachelor’s degree in theology.

On finishing my doctoral studies, I began teaching philosophy at our Pontifical University here in Rome. On the one hand, it gives me an immense joy to be forming future priests and helping them laying the groundwork for their theological studies. On the other, I look forward to engaging the world and contributing to the discussions involving faith and reason, science and philosophy. I teach a discipline called “Philosophical Theology” and deal frequently with rational arguments for God’s existence, creation, divine providence and his eternal law. It is a continual return to the principle and foundation of our lives. God created me out of love, he predestined me in his Son to be holy, he redeemed me, he sanctifies me, he sustains me, he enters into a covenant with me and he awaits me.

Every priestly and religious vocation is a gift and a mystery. It is a gift that God freely offers and man freely accepts. The mystery stems in part from the interplay of divine freedom with human freedom. Only in heaven will we understand that mystery and encounter face-to-face the Love that calls us into communion. I pray that I be faithful to God’s will, that I be an instrument of his grace and that at the end of my life I hear the words: “Welcome into my Kingdom, good and faithful soldier”.


FR JASON ADAMS MITCHELL was born on August 25, 1978. He is from Cranberry, Pennsylvania and the oldest of ten children. He entered the Legionaries of Christ in 1996. He studied classical humanities in Cheshire, Connecticut. He worked three years in the territorial direction of the Legion of Christ in New York. He earned his PhD from the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical College in Rome, Italy, where he now teaches philosophy. He is the author of Being and Participation.

Los testimonios vocacionales de los legionarios de Cristo que recibieron la ordenación sacerdotal en el año 2011 han sido publicados en el libro "Dios lo da todo".



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