Father Stephen Jones was hoping the “W” in EWTN stood for “Whataburger.”
Notwithstanding, the Texas native, roadside cuisine connoisseur, convert to Catholic Christianity and priest of the Jefferson City diocese has agreed to be featured on one of the EWTN global Catholic television and radio network’s most popular programs.
He flew to Nashport, Ohio, Aug. 13 to be interviewed for an installment of “The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi.”
The program is produced by The Coming Home Network (https://chnetwork.org), which is described as “a network of converts to Catholicism helping clergy and laity of other Christian traditions discover the truth and beauty of the Catholic Church and make the journey home.”
The program is tentatively scheduled to air at 7 p.m. central time on Monday, Sept. 24.
Fr. Jones grew up in the Anglican Communion in Fort Worth, Texas, and answered a call to the Priesthood.
He was married and had three young children when he realized that his belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist created a crisis for him and his family.
“I realized that I cannot celebrate Holy Communion outside of unity with the successor of Peter,” he stated.
He and his wife, Kerri, agreed that they needed to restore that unity for their family by entering the Roman Catholic Church.
Not knowing whether he would ever be able to serve as a priest, he decided to become Catholic along with his wife and family.
Starting a new life as a Catholic layman, he was confirmed the same day their third child was baptized.
A friend convinced Fr. Jones to seek Holy Orders under the Pastoral Provision Pope St. John Paul II had approved for ministers in the Anglican Communion who enter the Roman Catholic Church as married men.
Bishop John R. Gaydos, now retired, of Jefferson City accepted him as a candidate for Holy Orders in this diocese.
With approval from the Vatican, Bishop Gaydos ordained him to the Holy Priesthood on June 9, 2012.
Bishop Gaydos in 2013 appointed him president of Helias Catholic High School, where he continues to serve.
The school’s former chaplain, Father Anthony Viviano, wrote to The Coming Home Network several years ago, suggesting that Fr. Jones would make an interesting interview.
Mr. Grodi sent Fr. Jones a handful of forms to fill out, as well as a request for a spiritual biography.
Fr. Jones had forgotten about all of this by the time he got an email from the content editor for “The Journey Home,” requesting an in-studio interview.
“By the end of the day, I had a date set and plane tickets to go,” he said.
Before heading to Nashport, Fr. Jones said he hoped to emphasize throughout the interview God’s gift of the Priesthood to him as a bridge toward Christian unity.
“The only reason the Church makes an exception for guys like me is for the sake of unity, ‘that they all may be one,’ as Jesus said,” said Fr. Jones. “I don’t bring any exceptional holiness to the table. I’m not a great intellect. I’m by no means any sort of superstar.
“But because the Church, in order to fulfill Jesus’ desire that we may be one, has allowed guys like me to petition to receive ordination and be dispensed from priestly celibacy,” he said. “It’s a way for the Church to live out her mission of unity.”
He also planned to emphasize that he does not see himself as part of a vanguard of married priests in the Church.
“In fact, I hope to bolster the notion of priestly celibacy in an age that wants to see it go away,” he said. “The only reason a married priest should be allowed is for the sake of unity and to help lead our separated brethren into unity with the Church.”
That, he noted, is why it’s called the Pastoral Provision.
“‘Provision’ indicates that it’s not the norm,” he said. “The Church makes that provision in order to be pastoral and unitive.”
While preparing for the interview, Fr. Jones asked for prayers for all the people who are separated from the Church — either formally by Christian community or by having made a choice to be separated from the Church — to return to “the rock from which you were hewn” (Isaiah 51:1).
“At the end of the day, that is the calling for our separated brethren,” he said. “Keep praying for them, ‘that they may all be one.’”