by Gordon Nary
Gordon: What interested you in attending Franciscan University of Steubenville to study Theology?
Jonathan: I had my conversion towards the end of my Senior Year of High School and applied to Franciscan at the last possible moment you could. When I started there in the fall, I was actually a double major in Business Marketing and Computer Science. Being so new to the intellectual side of my faith, and taking some intro level Theology classes my Freshman year really sparked something inside me. This was such a huge spark that by the end of my Sophomore year I was a triple major: Theology, Religious Education and Business Marketing. (Religious Education eventually became the Catechetics program). So, to sum it up, I’d say that my initial conversion is what lead me to Franciscan in the first place, as I was seeking a place that this newfound love could grow, and as it grew, I knew that I wanted to do more with my faith than I could have ever dreamed.
Gordon: What was the challenging course that you took and why?
Jonathan: The most challenging course I took was probably Principal of Biblical Studies with Dr. Bergsma. This also happened to be one of my most loved courses by the time it played out. It was mostly difficult because I had not yet become accustomed to the intellectual and spiritual depth of mining through scripture. This was definitely a skill that took me some time to learn considering when I entered the University I didn’t even know what a catechism was, none the less what ever “Exegesis” was! However, Dr. Bergsma was a fantastic leader and professor and was able to make extremely difficult ideas and practices more easily understandable to the student because he always took his time to hear you out, point out a way of succeeding, and encouraging you along the way.
Gordon: What were you responsibilities as Young Apostle Captain for Franciscan Youth Conferences?
Jonathan: These weeks were the highlight of most of my summers while I was in college. Basically, 4 or 5 college students or Youth Ministers would lead a group of 20-30 youth on a leadership retreat prior to the steubenville conferences. They would have in depth catechesis, prayer experiences, and small group time so that during the conference they would be prepared to experience it in a new way and be able to further lead their peers in small groups. I would give a variety of talks and sometimes lead worship for the weeks. The program has since evolved into a terrific experience for youth called LEAD week. I highly encourage youth ministers to consider sending their kids to these weeks as they have been known to transform youth and help guide them in their journey with Christ.
Gordon: Share with out readers an overview of your visit to Ghana, in 2009
Jonathan: This is a difficult question! I feel like there was so much that happened that week, and it was definitely one of the more powerful spiritual experiences in my life. I’ll share with you two specific experiences from this trip to save your readers some time. :) The first experience is the introduction to missionary living. Up until this point in my life, I had never been on a mission trip. During the course of my week there, although we had a schedule and plan, I learned one of the most valuable things in my life: missionary living has no beginning and end - it just is! Each day the children from the neighborhood we were staying in would come and visit us and play, excited to make new friends from the US. Walking through towns it was clear to everyone that we were foreigners so they would approach us and as why on earth we would visit them. Praying with the community during mass as new and exciting, and the witness of the faith of the people there was truly inspiring. The second is a bit more specific. We had spent all week promoting a night of prayer for the youth at weeks end. I was to lead a time of Worship and Adoration for the night, and although I had some experience, I really was nervous. In a better effort to engage the community, I translated a simple worship song into Ghanian. As the night went on, Adoration began and I started the song in english then transitioned into Ghanian. Once that happened the whole community erupted into prayer and then two guys just walked up and began playing the bass guitar and drums to the song. We ended up singing the song, and loudly I might add, for like 10 minutes. Afterwards we had a huge dance party celebrating all that God had done that night. It was crazy!
Gordon: As President of Adore Ministries, what are your primary responsibilities?
Jonathan: There is no denying that the world today is troubling, divisive and disconnected. We at Adore, through docility to the Holy Spirit and dependency on the Risen Lord, believe that through radical accompaniment we can help foster a spirit of transformation in the Church and the world. So, as president, I do all I can to help further that mission by focusing on what exactly the Lord is calling us to do. Right now that means continuing to grow our missional presence at parishes in Youth Discipleship, growing our missional presence through our weekly family dinner gatherings, and growing our participants at our annual Steubenville Encounter Conference (registration is already open by the way). We’re always looking for more mission minded individuals who want to serve in an exciting radical way. I focus a lot of my time on making sure that our missionaries personal, profession and spiritual health is in order, as well as making sure our executive staff are equipped to lead their teams on the ground and on mission. I also sometimes am primarily responsible for feeding our staff because I love bbq!
Gordon: What are the primary moral challenges that young people face today in an increasing secular society?
Jonathan: I think I would identify two challenges, one moral and one not. The moral challenge I think young people face is living a life of virtue. It’s becoming harder and harder to live a life of virtue, or even be lead to believe that virtue is something that is attainable and necessary for healthy, holy living. We could easily identify other aspects that youth face (sexuality, addiction, etc…) but at the heart of it, I believe is a lost trust and faith in what it means to be virtuous. I would have to say that the second challenge that young people experience is that of being disconnected. We live in a time where we are over connected on the things that don’t matter, and disconnected from real life human interaction. I think that’s why I love my company so much, because nothing beats being face to face with someone, walking with them, and seeing life through their eyes. I think the youth need more spiritual and practical mentorship (some would say discipleship) in order to grow in their faith, not only another program but a person to guide them.
Gordon: In your option, what roles can young people have in combating the political divisiveness on the United States?
Jonathan: Again, another difficult question! I think this is difficult because I don’t even really know what older people can do to help combat political divisiveness! If I had to take a stab at it I would say this: grow in their love of Jesus Christ. I know it sounds simple but essentially the Life of Christ is what’s needed today. When integrating one’s life with Christ, all of our thoughts and actions are directed towards Him, and thus all of our ideas and political view points should also align with Him. I think the way to combat division is through unity, and when we have unity with Christ, we seek unity in this world.
Gordon: How can the life of St. Francis inspire us today?
Jonathan: Simplicity. The life of St. Francis was simple, radical and revolutionary. We all know that the world would say “more more more” and the example of St. Francis is “Less”. Through detachment to this world we are able to live our faith more radically. Through radical faith comes a revolutionary lifestyle that is attractive. There’s a reason so many young adults are venturing more towards traditional types of worship in the church, and that’s because when we are surrounded by noise and things that compromise beauty, and the church offers silence and beautiful music and art, it certainly speaks volumes to the heart.
Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.