Total freedom to say ‘yes’

First slide

"Let's go."

That brief phrase sums up Deacon Jason Weber's feelings as he prepares for his ordination to the priesthood June 12.

The 28-year-old deacon has known the priesthood was for him since his senior year at the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, and he credits and thanks his parents, Bill and Susan Weber, for giving him a strong foundation in his Catholic faith as he grew up.

Deacon Weber was born Dec. 31, 1981, in Long Island, N.Y., the youngest of three boys. In 1985, his family moved to Clifton, where they attended St. Andrew the Apostle Church. His first inkling of priestly vocation came while attending Catholic high school at Shoreless Lake School in New Jersey, when a priest challenged him to be another Christ in the world. But that idea was shelved as other career paths, such as a professional soccer player or a physicist, crept into prominence.

After finishing high school at Bishop O'Connell in Arlington, Deacon Weber headed to UVA, where, during his freshman year, he put a lot of thought into what role he wanted the Faith to play in his life. At the end of that year, he decided to make it a No. 1 priority. He re-committed himself to attending daily Mass and he became involved with Catholic Student Ministries, for which he served as justice and peace chair and coordinated liturgies.

In 2002, between his sophomore and junior years at UVA, Deacon Weber attended World Youth Day in Toronto. The time was both frustration- and joy-filled as he strived to open his heart to Christ. For the first time in many years, thoughts of the priesthood resurfaced in his mind.

Back at UVA, he began a monthly trip to Northern Virginia for spiritual direction with Father Terry Specht, pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Annandale. For the young man, Father Specht was an authority figure who didn't try to tell him what to do.

"He never talked to me about the priesthood," Deacon Weber said. "He taught me how to pray."

During Deacon Weber's senior year of college, he began waking up early to pray for an hour at the start of the day. On the first weekend of Lent, he attended a retreat where God "spoke to my heart quite perfectly."

"I felt no pressure. I felt no angst about going to seminary," Deacon Weber said. "I just felt invited. I felt total freedom to say 'no,' but total freedom to say 'yes.'"

That weekend, his mind was made up.

"I said 'I trust You. I'm gonna go,'" he said.

After five years at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., Deacon Weber sits ready to be ordained in a matter of days. His last year of preparation was spent in diaconate service at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, where he will soon receive the sacrament of holy orders.

The generosity and friendship of cathedral parishioners is not something he'll soon forget.

"Their initial reaction just across the board is, 'Welcome, we love you, we hope you do great,'" he said. "That's awesome. How encouraging is that?"

Fingers crossed, head bent and looking at the floor, Deacon Weber spoke gently of what he looks forward to most about being a priest: the gift of celebrating the Mass - "the source and summit of everything." He sees the priesthood as "a great adventure" - and one on which he can't wait to start. And he hopes that when people approach him, they will not be focused on Deacon Weber, but on encountering the Living God.

Father Specht said that Deacon Weber encompasses a "zeal, enthusiasm and real love of the Faith.

"It's contagious," said the priest, who has known Deacon Weber since he was 12. "People feel the Faith is vital to who he is. That witness and his love for Christ and the Church will serve the diocese very well."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010