Great opportunities: Father Jonathan Wallis appointed vicar general, director of TCU Newman Center

by Juan Guajardo

North Texas Catholic

May 21, 2020

Father Wallis prays during the Liturgy of the EucharistFather Jonathan Wallis prays during liturgy of the eucharist
Father Jonathan Wallis concelebrates Mass in this 2017 photo. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

FORT WORTH — After five years in Louisiana, Father Jonathan Wallis looks forward to returning not only to his home diocese and “being able to serve in a brand-new way” but also to his alma mater, Texas Christian University.

On May 18, Fr. Wallis, dean of students at St. Joseph Abbey and Seminary College in Covington, La., was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese of Fort Worth. The Missouri native and priest of 13 years will begin that assignment July 1 and will concurrently serve as the chaplain and director of the TCU Catholic campus ministry.

 “Fr. Wallis is a fundamentally a good priest of prayerful and trustworthy character,” Bishop Michael Olson told the NTC. “He will serve well as vicar general because he is known and very much respected by his peers, the priests.”

While never having served in either of those roles before, Fr. Wallis’ vast and varied ministerial background has given him experience that will be valuable in both campus ministry and as vicar general.

Since his ordination in 2007, Fr. Wallis served as parochial vicar at St. Matthew Parish in Arlington; earned his licentiate in sacred theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome; rode the circuit for the western parishes in Strawn, Cisco, Eastland, and Ranger; served as diocesan Director of Catechesis for about a year; worked as the diocesan vocation director — also for a year; and served at Holy Trinity Seminary in Irving, before becoming assistant dean, and later, dean, at St. Joseph Seminary.

“Fr. Wallis has acquired much wisdom through these experiences in his life as a man and as a priest,” Bishop Olson said.

In the vicar general role, Fr. Wallis will succeed Monsignor Juan Rivero, who served in the role for the past four years. As vicar general, he will act as “second-in-command” to Bishop Michael Olson in diocesan executive matters.

Typically, each diocese has only one vicar general, said Sara Paglialunga, JCD, rotal lawyer for the diocesan tribunal.

“A vicar general, who is provided with ordinary power, is to assist [the bishop] in the governance of the whole diocese,” she said, both in administrative and pastoral matters.

“Ordinary” in that context means the vicar general is vested with the “same executive power as the bishop, but should not exercise it in a way that the bishop would not,” explained Father Timothy Thompson, JCL, judicial vicar for the diocesan tribunal and pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Denton.

At Bishop Olson’s discretion, the vicar general can act in place of the bishop in carrying out many duties across the diocese, such as dispensations and permissions, he added.

When notified of the appointment, Fr. Wallis felt both grateful and “that the Lord is calling me to something new and I’ll really do the best I can through His grace.”

Father Jonathan Wallis
Father Jonathan Wallis

Fr. Wallis said his appointment as chaplain and director of the Newman Center at TCU was slightly surprising — but pleasantly so. An Episcopalian at the time, Fr. Wallis graduated from TCU with his bachelor’s degree in music education in 1996.

More significantly, the aspiring choir director received his first taste of Catholicism during his time at the university — through friendships, research on St. John Paul II and the Eucharist, and attending Mass for the first time. Fr. Wallis explained, “I really do feel that I was drawn into the Catholic Church. It’s not something I went looking for — just looking at my personal history, I was called into the Catholic Church and I’m very appreciative of that call and grateful for it.

“The people I met by going to TCU were the ones who were instrumental [in my conversion] …. So those four-and-a-half years at TCU were very integral in setting my path. I had made my life in Fort Worth, and this is where I felt called to stay. I became a Catholic in Fort Worth. I lived in Fort Worth three years after graduation, and this is where I wanted to stay and serve and become a diocesan priest and serve the people of Fort Worth.”

Now, Fr. Wallis looks forward to helping college students grow in their Catholic faith. “To be able to go back to TCU almost 30 years later, as the chaplain of the Newman Center, shows that God has amazing things in store and that you really have no idea where your life is going to go.”

He will miss the seminary and Benedictine abbey where he took pride in helping many 18- to 22-year-old seminarians discern what God wants for their lives and encouraging them to “become friends with Jesus Christ — to know Jesus, and to serve and love Him.” But the five years he spent working with those young men will be helpful as he embarks on a new adventure.

“It’ll be the same age group, although some of the challenges and opportunities will be a little bit different at a university,” he explained. “But I also think some of the questions will be the same — like people stepping out on their own for their first time in life and finding a way to really take on the Catholic faith and identity in a more intentional way. To be involved in their life at the university, I think it’s a great, great opportunity.”

“My desire is to do what I can to serve the diocese to the best of my ability,” Fr. Wallis said.

Father Jonathan Wallis at the 50th anniversary Mass

FORT WORTH — After five years in Louisiana, Father Jonathan Wallis looks forward to returning not only to his home diocese and “being able to serve in a brand-new way” but also to his alma mater, Texas Christian University.

Published (until 5/21/2038)