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Honoring Our Veterans 11/11/2015

Before entering the seminary, Jason Williams was part of the team that ran and maintained the nuclear reactor on a fast attack submarine.

“Even though all of the world looks the same from behind a control panel, it was still fascinating work. Yet as much as I enjoyed it, ultimately I felt a higher calling,” said the 33-year-old deacon studying to become a priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Jason and nine other seminarians are to be ordained in the spring of 2016, God willing.

“I never thought much about becoming a priest while growing up,” explained the native of Massillon, Ohio. “Right out of high school, I enlisted in the Navy because I wanted to do something different from the standard, go to college, go into debt, and get a job. Since I always liked math and science, I enlisted in one of the Navy’s engineering programs and spent four years working on a submarine. I figured it would be the beginning of a stunning military career; God had other plans.”

A close-knit community of 130 men shared small quarters and big responsibilities on the sub. Jason was sent to school for two years in Charleston, South Carolina, and then assigned as a reactor operator on the USS Hartford (SSN 768) stationed out of New London, Connecticut. During his four years as a crew member of the submarine, Jason participated in two major deployments. Through it all, Jason faithfully kept going to Mass on Sundays while in port and took advantage of the Catholic Communion Services while out to sea.

“People saw that going to Mass was important to me, so they started asking me questions about the faith,” he recalled. “I didn’t always know the answers, and I began reading. The more I read the more I fell in love with Christ and the Church.”

Then one day, a chaplain planted the seed of a vocation asking if Jason ever seriously considered the priesthood. The words took root. In November 2006, as his commitment was coming to its end, Jason thought about asking permission to leave the Navy to begin seminary studies that fall, but decided against it.

“I figured I'd have to wait until the following academic year to start seminary. I knew we were undermanned and that the officers would likely not grant the request to leave a few months before my enlistment officially ended. Then one night as I was praying the Rosary, I had the distinct feeling that I should go ahead and make the request. I told Mary that she'd have to pull some strings to make it work out.  I was completely surprised when my superiors gave me permission. I attribute it to Mary’s intercession; she's great at taking care of things like that.”

When asked which he found more difficult, life in the Navy or life in the seminary, Deacon Jason responded: “Maybe the military is more physically challenging, but overall the seminary has been more difficult. In the military my goal was to do a good job day in and day out, to be a good man. On the road to the priesthood, I am trying to conform my life to the life of Christ, the perfect man. That is much more demanding but also much more rewarding.” 

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