Q&A: Father Aaron Williams

Top left, Father Aaron Williams waits to be called by name at his ordination Mass. At right, Father Williams with his neices, Hadley and Eva Williams. At bottom left, Father Williams celebrates his first Mass at the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle. (Photos by Maureen Smith and Tereza Ma)

Father Aaron Williams is a Jackson native who knew from his earliest memories that he wanted to be a priest. Chancellor Mary Woodward, who watched Father Williams grow up, allowed him to serve at a very young age. His family jokes that this was a way to make him sit still during Mass. He has one older brother, Matthew, and sister-in-law Marie, who have two girls, Ava and Hadley.
In addition to loving the liturgy, Father Williams is a life-long learner. “I attended St. Therese Catholic School for a few years and finished at St. Richard Catholic School. I did middle and high school at St. Joseph in Madison. After graduating from high school, I entered St. Joseph Seminary College in St. Benedict, Louisiana, where I earned a B.A. in Philosophy. From there I entered Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, where I earned an Masters in Divinity. I will complete the course requirements this summer to also earn a M.A. in Liturgical Studies from the Liturgical Institute in Mundelein, Illinois,” he said.
Father Williams will share his love of learning with the students at Greenville St. Joseph School, where he will teach fifth and sixth grade this fall as well as serving as parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish.
Father Williams’ mother, Julia is a long-time employee of the diocese, having worked at Madison St. Joseph School, the Cathedral of St. Peter the Apostle and now as the Human Resources coordinator for the Diocese of Jackson.

Home parish: The Cathedral of Saint Peter the Apostle
Favorite Saints and why?
Saint Philip Neri. He is a model of priestly zeal and joy. He was known both for his deep devotion to the Lord, but also the levity by which he handled himself. He was fiercely devoted to his friends, and sought to grow in love with the Lord by forming communities of other devoted persons around him who could work together in fraternity to spread the gospel message and offer fitting worship to God.
Do you have a favorite devotion, religious image or prayer and why?
I have a great love for the Divine Office. There are certain texts which pop up each year that I look forward to hearing again and again. My favorite prayer is the Suscipe of Saint Ignatius of Loyola — it entrusts the whole will to the Lord, confident that He will take care of us, and requests His grace as our only benefit. 

Who vested you at ordination and why?
Father Jeffrey Waldrep. He was my pastor when I entered seminary and provided me great help and encouragement in making that step.

Do you have any hobbies?
I am an organist and composer. I also enjoy reading theology and research, though I occasionally read or listen to a fictional book. Apart from that, I am a cyclist when time permits it and enjoy going out to see new movies.
In what parishes have you served?
St. Francis in Brookhaven, St. Mary’s in Yazoo and All Saints in Belzoni, St. Jude in Pearl, and St. Patrick and St. Joseph in Meridian.
Can you tell me a little about your vocation story ?
I’ve always wanted to be a priest. I began serving at the Cathedral when I was very young and began to love the Mass. This love was encouraged by my parents, pastors, members of the Cathedral, and my school teachers. Eventually I applied to the seminary in my senior year of high school.
Can you share something about yourself people may not know?
My first year at Notre Dame Seminary I published a volume containing English adaptations of the Gregorian Chants used for Vespers (Evening Prayer) on Sundays and Feasts during the academic year. It is the only book of it’s kind currently in existence. I have received multiple requests from religious communities and houses to finish the text to include the full liturgical year, but I have been unable to make time to respond to these requests.
What advice do you have for those discerning a vocation?
My generation has a tendency to see discernment (or all life decisions) as a sort of all-or-nothing consideration—one choice necessitates the closing of all other pathways. But, a true discernment is not a negative choice. We choose a certain path out of love for that life, and ultimately out of love for the Lord. Certainly there will be difficulties along the way, but love is powerful enough to drive us on despite the apparent sacrifices which will need to be made. But, we need not immediately consider all those sacrifices—they will come in time. Discernment in the present moment means to follow the movements of the heart, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. He will guide us into all truth, and we have no need to fear following Him wherever He leads.

Is there one part of priesthood in particular you are looking forward to?
I am looking forward to celebrating the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist and hearing confessions.
What are you looking forward to about your first parish assignment?
I have a great love of teaching and sharing the faith. My assignment in Greenville will have me directly teaching in the elementary school and continually present in the high school.