By Gordan Nary
Gordon: In reflecting on your vocation, what were some of the factors that influenced your decision to become a priest?
Father Jake: Definitely my family. Both my grandmothers were incredibly devoted to their faiths and from the time I was very little, were teaching me about the God and the Church; it was nothing major, just here and there they would mention things, and they were always very willing to answer my questions about God, faith and the Church.
My parents also insisted I attend Mass every Sunday until I was 18, after that it was up to me. I also attended catechism class every week from pre-school until the 8th grade. Also, the Church was always seen as a place of support on many levels; when my father died when I was six, my family was able to turn to our local parish for support and resources. Throughout my childhood my local parish was always much more than just a place to go for Mass on Sundays. I was involved in various parish activities throughout my childhood.
But I think it was always there on some level, when I was very young I wanted to be a priest…sometimes…and then sometimes I wanted to be a writer, or a lawyer, but for a long time it was definitely on the list of possible things I wanted to do ‘when I grew up’.
Gordon: Why did you join the Society of Jesus?
Father Jake: That’s a good question because I was not taught by the Jesuits. My high school was run by the Irish Christian Brothers and I went to a state school for undergrad, so I had very little exposure to them growing up. However, I was taking a film class in undergrad and for the final paper we had to write about one film and the one I chose was The Exorcist because it frightened me so much as a child I could never watch the whole movie. Choosing the film as my final project meant I would have to conquer my fear as I would have to watch it several times and during the research on the film I learned about the Jesuits and thought they seemed pretty cool.
About six years later, when I began to discern a vocation to the priesthood I met with someone at the diocese in Chicago and as I explained to him what I was looking for, he suggested I look into some religious orders as that might fit my desire to live in community. The vocations guy at the diocese made a point of telling me not to get too involved in searching out the perfect order, but instead to just go investigate four or five congregations I knew off the top of my head. Well, I knew the Irish Christian Brothers, the Dominicans, the Franciscans and the Jesuits.
The Jesuits weren’t initially very high on my list, but after meeting with them for the first time it just felt right and I just went from there.
Gordon: Where did you attend seminary?
Father Jake: Jesuit formation takes a long time. I entered the Jesuits in 2004, and spent two years at our novitiate which at the time was in Detroit. I then went to do my Philosophy studies at Fordham in New York, I then worked for a three year period, which we call our Regency, and taught at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, , just north of Chicago. I then studied Theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, CA
Gordon: You teach Theology and have a strong interest in Theater. When and why did you initially become interested in Theater?
Father Jake: Actually, I did teach Theatre at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, IL. However, at the moment I am about to begin doctoral studies at Trinity College in Dublin.
With regards to Theatre, I was always a really talkative child and sort of a show-off, so my mom put me in kid’s drama classes when I was about eight or nine years old. When I went to college I wound up getting my BA in Theatre.
Gordon: Thank you for a great interview and I recommend that all of our viewers read your book What’s so Funny about Faith? A Memoir from the Intersection of Hilarious and Holy.
While you are in Dublin, have dinner at Patrick Guilbaud's restaurant. It is a religious experience.