The Light of the Moon
Father Maurice Moon, the chaplain of Nolan Catholic High School, keeps two items on his desk within easy reach: his stole for hearing confessions and his baseball glove for team practice.
The stole helps him accomplish priority number one — the salvation of souls. “If I can get people to go to confession regularly, to have devotion to the Eucharist, to have a daily prayer life, that’s going to help a lot in that end goal,” he said.
And the baseball glove helps, too. He’s found “kids sitting in the classroom are a little depressed and unresponsive. But, when kids run around, they have their heart rate going and they’re just more talkative. It’s a great time to talk with them and see how things are going. We have really good conversations.”
Fr. Moon’s appointment at the Fort Worth school began in July 2018, shortly after his May 19 ordination. The assignment was unexpected, but welcome.
“Usually, priests are assigned to a parish for a year or two as an associate pastor or parochial vicar, so it was big to learn I was coming here right off the bat.
“I had a strong desire to help these kids come to know Jesus and His love and remain a Catholic after high school. I was worried that I would not do a good job,” said the priest, remembering his first thoughts on being Nolan’s chaplain. “There’s a lot of responsibility, but I just trust in God’s grace, and God’s grace has done a lot through me. I’m really grateful for that.”/p>
Fr. Moon has built on the good foundation established by Father Matthew Tatyrek, who served as Nolan’s chaplain during the 2017-18 school year.
Students, staff, and parents have ample access to the sacraments — daily Mass at 7 a.m., a weekly all-school Mass, First Friday Masses followed by Eucharistic Adoration, and twice-weekly scheduled Reconciliation. Plus, Fr. Moon maintains his door is always open for the penitential sacrament.
“It’s a great opportunity to restore that friendship [with God] again, and to receive the graces to get stronger against those temptations that might come up in the future. We receive great healing in the sacrament and I encourage the kids to come frequently,” the priest said.
He installed a drape for those who prefer to confess anonymously, explaining, “It gives kids confidence. They are already a little uncomfortable about having to confess their sins. Why not make it easier?”
Olga Watson, director of campus ministry, has seen a line of kids stretch down the hall for Reconciliation on First Friday. “The students like being around him and like him as a confessor. They encourage their friends to go,” she explained.
Fr. Moon fondly remembers a First Friday where he heard confessions for 6.5 hours straight.
Reconciliation is critical to Fr. Moon’s second priority: helping students discern their calling.
He said, “If you’re in a state of grace, praying every day, and having that relationship with God, it just becomes easier to know your calling.” Retreats, visits with seminarians, and consistent prayer help students consider a religious vocation.
When Fr. Moon’s not absolving teens, he might be hitting grounders to them, dropping by rehearsal, or leading his discipleship group or philosophy club.
Fr. Moon admitted it can be a challenge to determine “Where am I most needed? Am I in the exact spot God wants me to be? There are so many different things I can get plugged into.”
But his “all-access pass” approach to being the chaplain helps the priest build relationships with the students.
Watson has observed that the students are “comfortable with him being around. They talk to him just like a normal person,” said the campus ministry director and mother to three students at the school.
According to Watson, the students’ trust in Fr. Moon has made them receptive to his invitations, from becoming an altar server to playing pick-up basketball.
Fr. Moon admitted that he has been a little surprised by how receptive students are, despite the normal difficulties of the teenage years and the values of society. “They want to have conversations and figure out ways to help their spiritual life and to grow in love of Christ.
“God is working in people’s lives, especially the youth. No matter all the craziness in the Church right now, no matter all the crazy messages in the world, people will still hear Christ’s voice and be inspired by Him and want to live a life for Him,” said the 33-year-old.
The sports-loving priest helped train the fall baseball team. Baseball coach and business teacher Joe Weik noticed his impact. Prayer said before and after practice grew more mindful, and “the boys began to play for each other, instead of just playing for themselves,” said the coach, who graduated from Nolan in 2006.
Plus, the coach recalled, the left-handed priest would occasionally take batting practice and swing for the fence. “So I’d tell the boys, ‘Take a big swing like Fr. Moon!’”
With the schoolyear drawing to a close, Fr. Moon reflected on his “joy-filled and busy” year at Nolan. He credited advice from Fr. Tatyrek, Nolan administrators, and Bishop Olson has helped him move toward his mission — “to help this school be Catholic, and be fervently Catholic.”
Listen to Fr. Moon's vocation story: