Vocations director shares his story and advice
Father Jarrod Waugh, CSC, Associate Director of Vocations, is in his fourth year with the Office of Vocations. Fr. Waugh was ordained in April 2013 and first provided sacramental assistance at Christ the King Parish in South Bend, where he also served as a transitional deacon. Fr. Waugh grew up in Edna, Kansas, and he now lives in residence in Dillon Hall. The Rover recently had the opportunity to speak to Fr. Waugh about his work with vocations and his own story.
The Irish Rover: What is your personal vocation story?
Father Waugh: Well, I’m originally from a very rural area of about 500 people near Wichita, Kansas. My home parish is St. Patrick’s, in a town called Parsons (about 10,000 people). Both of my parents, Jerry and Carolyn, are from the same small town in Labette County. I’m the oldest of three and most of my family attended Pittsburg State, a big Division 2 sports school in Kansas. I’m the only one who didn’t go there.
I had been discerning the possibility of the priesthood even in high school through a summer youth program called Totus Tuus, founded in Wichita. Some of my good friends were thinking about entering formation as sisters or priests, and as much as I respected that, something never quite fit with me, so I didn’t pursue a diocesan vocation, as much as I really love my home diocese of Wichita.
I would credit my formation and discernment to the intercession of St. Thomas Aquinas. When I was being confirmed in high school, I was a pretty good student who wanted to go somewhere else for college. I chose St. Thomas because he was the patron saint for students. Then I decided I should probably learn something about him. I bought a copy of Dr. Peter Kreeft’s book, The Summa of the Summa. I didn’t understand most of it, but I understood enough to know I wanted to go to a Catholic school and study philosophy. So the first time I had ever been on a plane, we flew into Chicago and visited Loyola before seeing Notre Dame here. I just remember feeling this really strong sense of homecoming when I got to this campus, even though I’d never been there before.
So I came in the fall of 2004 and lived in Keough Hall for two years. I double majored in philosophy and theology, and I was really involved in Campus Ministry and the Knights of Columbus, where I was an officer all four years. After two years of being in Keough and meeting other priests around campus, I felt this strong desire to be a part of a religious community. I really had no exposure to male religious before my time in Keough. I was so impressed with my priests-in-residence, Fr. Pete Jarret and Fr. Mark Poorman. They weren’t just coworkers, but they were family. After two years in Keough I applied to join Old College, and I started formation in Holy Cross in 2006.
What were some of the highlights of your Holy Cross formation? Were there any challenges?
When I was a postulant, going on a pilgrimage to Montreal to St. Joseph’s Oratory and the tomb of St. Andre Bessette, that was huge for me. It really developed my devotion to Br. Andre and further develop my devotion to St. Joseph, as well as an appreciation for the Holy Cross brothers and the way they seek to imitate St. Joseph. I’ve been one of the chaplains who leads that pilgrimage with Campus Ministry now.
As far the biggest challenge, there are a lot of feelings of unworthiness, and you don’t feel worthy to minister at the altar. This is pretty common and born out by my experience in the vocations office. You have a keen sense of your own sinfulness, that you aren’t perfect and you aren’t as holy as you want to be to give honor to God’s name. But I think the example of the Apostles in Scripture is a great comfort. Peter, and Paul in a way but especially Peter. Jesus knew exactly who he had called, and he didn’t call Peter by accident. The answer to that question of feeling unworthy is a little paradoxical because it’s “you’re right, you aren’t!” None of us are even worthy to receive the Blessed Sacrament, but God is the one who makes us worthy. We would never dare to do that unless we were sure that he wanted us to—in fact, he commanded us to. Discernment to holy orders has a lot of similarities to that. You would never presume that you were worthy, but through years of prayer and discernment you become confident that it is God’s will that you do this. Not that you are going to be this great person by any of your own merits, but that this is possible because it’s God’s will. It’s very humbling, but I think that’s kind of the point.
What’s been the most challenging part of living out your vocation since then?
Moving away from Kansas and being away from family—my parents, my siblings, and now my two young nephews. I just don’t get to see them as much as I wish that I could. But I also know that if I had majored in something else or hadn’t joined the seminary, realistically I wasn’t going to move back to Edna after my education. I’m not away from my family because I’m a Holy Cross priest; I was probably not going to return regardless. But a week or more of home leave allows me to spend time at home, so I normally go back around New Year’s for that time. The community is very generous in providing guest rooms for family and friends who can come visit us at any time.
What have you learned from your time at the Office of Vocations?
While it’s true that there is a “shortage” of priests, the numbers in the seminary almost everywhere, though certainly not everywhere, are up. Numbers are up for lots of places, and that includes the United States Province of Holy Cross. At the beginning of this year, we had over 50 men in formation. One of the things I’ve learned that’s given me hope is that the Holy Spirit is continuing to call talented, hard-working, humble, passionate young people to live this life. The Holy Spirit is not done with the Congregation of Holy Cross. If there are still these talented and prayerful men who are joining the order, that’s evidence that Holy Cross’ mission to educate hearts and minds here and around the world isn’t finished.
What advice would you give to college students discerning their own vocation?
I would say that if you have asked yourself that question more than twice, then you should probably go and visit. As Catholics we have this incredibly beautiful but also incredibly humbling mechanism that discernment of priesthood or religious life is not a solitary exercise. You turn over part of that discernment to a group who will help you discern. That is such a beautiful, Catholic way to understand discernment. It’s not just my call; it’s a call that comes through the Church. The Church has people to help you navigate that. Why not take advantage of those incredible resources? Visiting a community or visiting a seminary does not mean that you’re joining it. Visiting is visiting. Go and visit and pray with them. You’ll likely find out more from them in 48 hours of a visit than you’ll get from months of private thoughts and prayer.
Maureen Schweninger is a sophomore living in Pasquerilla East and studying theology and sociology. She loves families, laundry rooms, and green bananas. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.