Air Force veteran Thomas Jones ordained to priesthood May 22
Editor's note: This article was updated on June 3, 2021.
FORT WORTH — His eight years in the military trained Thomas Jones to expect the unexpected. COVID-19 hit the United States full force in March 2020, but the Air Force veteran began monitoring, and mentally preparing to help people cope with the global pandemic, months earlier.
Three tours of duty in the Middle East taught him that people respond to the reaction of others in a crisis.
“You have to maintain an ‘everything’s fine, everything’s okay’ appearance,” said the former staff sergeant, who grew up attending Mass at Holy Cross Parish in The Colony and St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Carrollton. “Maintaining stability for other people helped me maintain my own stability.”
The newly ordained priest hopes to bring a similar steadiness, leadership experience, and “be ready for anything” attitude to the people he serves as parochial vicar of St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Mansfield. Jones is one of six men Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson ordained to the priesthood on May 22 in Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Arlington.
Jones first began thinking about a vocation to the priesthood in high school. The military chaplains he met during his years in the Air Force reinforced the idea by their devotion to the men and women they served.
Two years after his August 2001 enlistment, the young Texan from Carrollton found himself in Qatar surrounded by desert sand, barbed wire, and an alien culture. Chaos and conflict weren’t far away.
“You couldn’t feel further from home, and there were always amazing chaplains there that were able to give some semblance of peace,” he said, recalling what it was like to be deployed overseas in a post-9/11 world.
As a priest unpacked his Mass kit, Jones would gather in the base conference room with other service members for worship.
“And there was home,” he remembered thoughtfully. “That was something that really struck me, and I wanted to bring that refuge to other people. It helped me pursue my call.”
Every Mass in the military ended with participants reciting the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel — patron of soldiers, mariners, and the police. It’s a practice Jones continues today.
“It’s not part of the liturgy, but it [the Mass] feels incomplete without it,” he conceded.
After 11 years in the seminary, the 38-year-old “good listener” is looking forward to hearing confessions and celebrating Mass as a priest. He spent his year as a transitional deacon completing coursework at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio and helping with Masses at nearby St. Gregory the Great Church. COVID restrictions curtailed other pastoral faculties that allow him to baptize and to officiate at a nuptial ceremony.
“There weren’t any weddings, and last weekend was my first Baptism,” Jones explained. “I really like connecting with people and that’s something I miss. Because of COVID, I haven’t been able to say hello and goodbye to people before and after Mass. The pastor I work with caught COVID, so we weren’t able to process in and out [of the church] until two weeks ago.”
As he prepared for the sacrament of Holy Orders, the son of the late Orion Jones and Kathryn and Will Rossman asked families in the Diocese of Fort Worth to pray for more vocations. Finding men willing to serve the Church is always a struggle.
“People already know to pray for vocations and encourage those around them but it’s important and worth saying again. Pray for more seminarians,” he urged. “Encourage young men in the diocese to join the seminary.”
Jones hopes to return to the military as a chaplain sometime in the future.
Sharing thoughts about his discernment and vocation, the priest said Christ doesn’t just call people to Himself. He calls them to the altar, “but then He sends us forth from there. He sends us into the world to serve. I’m grateful to people who helped me pursue this call so I can serve them one day.”
One of Fr. Jones' early acts of service was the celebration of his first Mass on May 23 at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Lewisville.