Jones ordination 6/24
From the June 23 edition of The Lumen
By KATIE BORKOWSKI
Deacon Zach Jones of St. Joseph Parish in Milford will become the newest priest in the Diocese of Sioux City after the laying on of hands by Bishop Walker Nickless.
The priestly ordination of Deacon Jones will be on June 24 at Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City.
Deacon Jones completed his bachelor’s in theology last year at Gregorian University in Rome. Prior to his time in Rome, he spent two years at Kenrick Glennon Seminary in St. Louis, Mo.
Before returning to Pontifical North American College in Rome for a year of graduate school, Deacon Jones will spend his summer at Webster County Holy Trinity Parish.
When he returns to the diocese in 2023, Deacon Jones will have completed studies for a licentiate in moral theology with an emphasis in bioethics, from the Angelicum in Rome.
Call to the priesthood
Deacon Jones was “born and raised Catholic at St. Joe’s” in Milford.
“It was pretty typical growing up (including) Mass every Sunday,” he said. “I was pretty active in the youth group. I was interested in the service aspect (of the youth group). I wouldn’t say I had an overly devout prayer life at that point. I definitely felt a connection with the church.”
When Deacon Jones was looking for colleges, he wanted to go to a Catholic college. He ended up attending a “nice Lutheran school,” Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D.
“I continued to go to Mass on and off on Sundays, as most college students do,” he said. “I made a good connection with the priest on campus there, Father Kevin Odell. A lot of his witness to the priesthood and the way he lived – very sacrificial, loving and joyful – as a priest, I was like this doesn’t look so bad. This could be something I could be interested in.”
Father Tom Flanagan was the pastor at St. Joseph in Milford when Deacon Jones was in high school.
“He was the first one who asked me pretty directly if I ever thought about being a priest,” said Deacon Jones. “It was actually right after a confession when I was in high school.”
The deacon recalled Father Flanagan saying, “Zach, have you ever thought about being a priest?”
“No,” said Deacon Jones, who then left Father Flanagan’s office.
“You could say I wasn’t overly open to the call at that point,” he said. “I always joke with him that he was the first one who planted the seed, even if I wasn’t ready to receive it. I was more receptive to it later on.”
Father Flanagan was in Rome for Deacon Zach’s transitional diaconate ordination and was able to vest him. Father Odell will vest Deacon Zach at his priestly ordination.
Deacon Jones acknowledged the witness of those two priests played “a huge role in my calling for sure.”
Deacon Jones participated in Totus Tuus for a summer in Sioux Falls when he was in college there, which got him “engaged in a daily prayer life, daily Mass, fraternity with other people and striving for holiness.”
“Then the priesthood really started coming into the picture,” he said. “That first summer, they had eight seminarians that were doing it (Totus Tuus). That was the first time I had ever seen young, Catholic men who were going to be priests. Most of my priests growing up had gray hair or no hair at all.”
Looking back at the witness of those young men in Totus Tuus, Deacon Jones said, “was very impactful.”
Deacon Jones shared a few of the things he learned during his seminary studies that he will carry with him into priesthood.
“Fundamentally, the priesthood is a relationship with Christ and a relationship through prayer,” he said. “Without that, the priesthood is an occupation or a job. When it is truly a relationship, it is a vocation, a calling. It is what we are made for.”
He also learned the importance of prayer and the necessity for prayer.
“The priesthood is an utter dependence on the Lord’s grace working through us,” said Deacon Jones. “One of the biggest things I’ve learned is my strengths and weaknesses, knowing who I am. As you go out and start doing some of these things, you realize some of your pitfalls or shortcomings very quickly as well as the way the Lord has graced you and given you talents. Self-knowledge is huge, especially finding that identity based in Christ.”
The fraternity aspect of the seminary and religious of the Christian life, he said, “is vital. It is very difficult to do it by yourself.”
“That is one thing I am continually thankful for – the other men who have been placed in my life in the last six years,” said Deacon Jones. “I have very close friends – some who are already priests, some who are going to be priests, some who have left the seminary. It is so much easier when you have good, faithful friends around you.”
Fulfilling the call
Once he is ordained, Deacon Jones is looking forward to administering the sacraments, “the most tangible ways we experience God’s grace and receive God’s grace.”
“To be that instrument administering the sacraments to the people of God in those truly tangible ways – (distributing) the Eucharist, forgiving sins, anointing the sick,” he said. “These are pivotal moments in people’s lives sometimes, especially when you talk about baptism, marriage and anointing. These are intimate times when you get to go and offer God’s grace to people in a real way.”
After being “stuck in books,” Deacon Jones is looking forward to being with the people of God.
“It is always a blessing to be back home with the people I am called to minister to,” he said. “That is one thing I have learned in Rome – I am called to northwest Iowa. I miss it a lot when I am over there. Pope Francis is fond of saying, ‘Smell like the sheep.’ I enjoy that smell, so I can’t wait to be with the people, the flock.”
Soon-to-be Father Jones will be assigned to a parish when he is back in the diocese next summer.
For now, Deacon Jones wants the people of the diocese to know he is “overcome with gratitude” for their prayers.
“The prayers they have offered for my vocation, other vocations and for the diocese in general are bearing fruit,” he said. “The fact that they were able to pray me to the priesthood is a huge sign of that. The Holy Spirit is definitely working. Continue to pray for vocations, the diocese, our priests, our bishop and our next bishop, whoever that might be.”
Mass information and livestreaming
Friday, June 24 at 5 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Epiphany in Sioux City
All are welcome to attend or watch the livestreaming on the Diocese of Sioux City YouTube channel.