Jason Kelly Johnston was born and raised in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He credits his parents, Dinnie and the late Sydney Johnston, for establishing his love of the Catholic faith from an early age by taking him and his brothers to Sunday Mass, instilling family prayer, celebrating the sacraments, and sending him to Catholic schools.
Johnston began hearing God’s quiet call to the priesthood while he was a student at Vicksburg St. Aloysius School, but he kept busy with his school work, football and track. As a teenager, he was also involved in the Boy Scouts – obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout– the Knights of Columbus Columbian Squires, and performed in plays in the local theater.
After high school, he attended Mississippi State University and graduated with a master of professional accountancy. Although he worked as an auditor for the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor, he continued hearing God’s quiet call.
This call became louder during a Cursillo weekend, in which Johnston was blessed to meet other men who were living their lives as authentic Christians by praying and openly discussing their faith.
While working on a Cursillo Rollo team, he began attending daily Mass, praying the rosary, and making small sacrifices. During this time, he began to feel a strong sense of peace, which he attributed as being a gift from God. Finally, in 2010, he left his job as an auditor and joined the seminary.
Home Parish: My home parish is St. Paul in Vicksburg.
Favorite Saints and why?
St. John the Baptist – I love John’s humility, his prayer life, his calling us all to conversion, and his defense of marriage (at the cost of his own life).
The Blessed Mother (of course!) and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. I love St. Thérèse’s Little Way, her love for the faith and her description of her own vocation: “At last I have found my vocation. In the heart of the church, I will be Love!”
Do you have a favorite devotion, religious image or prayer and why?
Since the Source and Summit of the Christian life is the Eucharist, I am a huge fan of Eucharistic adoration. I love the rosary and any devotion to Our Lady. This being the Year of Mercy – The Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Can you tell me a little about your vocation story – when you felt called and how you responded?
I began considering a call to priesthood when I was in high school, but I ignored it for a while when I went to college. While I was at Mississippi State University Father Jeffrey Waldrep had a discernment group of young men who were considering going to the seminary.
I did not have anything to do with it – but at the time, I felt I should have been. A few years later, I was getting more involved at St. Richard Parish in Jackson and the voice of the call became stronger. So, I ended up leaving my job and going to seminary in 2010.
Who vested you at ordination and why?
Msgr. Patrick Farrell. He was my pastor for 10 years in Vicksburg. When I was considering entering seminary I saw his example as one of great compassion. While he was in Vicksburg he got to know my family and he was a great pastor to me and my family at significant moments in my life.
Can you share something about yourself people may not know?
I went to Mississippi State and I graduated in accounting. I also worked for the State of Mississippi for two years before I left for seminary.
What advice do you have for those discerning a vocation?
I would recommend finding a priest or spiritual director who can help you as you discern the call to a vocation. I would read as much about vocations as I could.
There are plenty of great resources available like Father Brett Brannen’s “To Save a Thousand Souls.” I would also recommend they also speak with the diocese’s vocation director, Father José de Jesús Sánchez, 601-960-8484, or email@example.com
In what parishes have you served?
I’ve been at Our Lady of Victories in Cleveland, St. Joseph in Starkville, Holy Savior in Clinton and St. Joseph and St. Patrick in Meridian as a deacon.
Is there one part of priesthood in particular you are looking forward to?
I am very much looking forward to celebrating Mass, absolving sins, and living among a community of people in the parish as a priest.
What are you looking forward to about teaching and interacting with students at St. Joe?
I am looking forward to the adventure. I have never taught before in a professional sense, but I am looking forward to working with young people and taking part in the handing on of the faith.
Can you share details on your first Mass: Sunday, May 15, 10:30 a.m. St. Paul’s in Vicksburg.
The First Mass of Thanksgiving was at my home parish, where I grew up and went to Mass with my family every Sunday. It is going to be on Pentecost Sunday. I am very much looking forward to that occasion.