PYSK – Father Stephen Jones
Story by Jefferson City Magazine Staff | Oct 27, 2016
President of Helias Catholic High School
What do you do?
I am a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City, currently appointed to serve as president of Helias Catholic High School. I’ve served in that capacity since the 2013–2014 academic year.
Could you tell us about your family?
Obviously, most Catholic priests take a promise of celibacy and are not married. Since I am a convert from ordained ministry in the Episcopal Church, there is a process by which the Catholic Church gave me dispensation from the promise of celibacy. My wife Kerri and I have been married for sixteen years and we have four children — two daughters and two sons, ranging in age from 2 to 14.
What’s your educational background?
I have a BA from Texas Christian University in history and theology, a Master of Divinity from TCU, and a Master of Sacred Theology from Nashotah House Theological Seminary.
Favorite charitable organization?
There are just so many great options from which to choose. I am honored to serve on the boards of both the United Way and the YMCA, and those organizations do so much great work in our community. On top of that, our family likes to support Vitae, St. Raymond’s Society, and our parish, all of which work hard to minister on behalf of the sanctity of human life and the assistance of those who are in material need.
What are some of your goals as president of Helias?
I want Helias to be a school that helps students grow to the point where they achieve the top limit of their potential — whatever that level and limit may be — academically, athletically, and spiritually. Immediately, we have accomplished this through the establishment of our accommodations program, which assists students who struggle academically. Next, I hope to continually find ways to bolster the offerings we make available for our academically gifted students. Long-term or short term, I just want to see everyone involved with Helias — myself, our other administrators, our faculty, and our students — grow, improve, and reach our potential.
How do you hope to impact the community?
Graduates of Helias make up a significant portion of the Jefferson City community. I hope that my role as the institutional leader of Helias impacts our community by helping to produce citizens of this city and the wider community who are productive, successful, and generous with the gifts that they have been given.
What led you to pursue education?
I never really had any thought of pursuing the educational branch of ministry. I did, however, make a promise of obedience to my bishop and his successors. He felt like I would be a good fit for Helias and I agreed, so I accepted his appointment and here I am. Although I never would have imagined myself in this type of ministry, I have found that I really enjoy it and find it quite fulfilling.
Why are you passionate about your position?
Forming and educating young people is one of the most important things that a civilization can do. Unfortunately, much of our culture has abandoned this truth. Those of us who are in the business of education, whether that be parochial, private, or public, have an awesome and weighty responsibility. We better be passionate about it or get out of the game!
What makes Helias a good fit in Jefferson City?
It’s good for a community of our size to have options in education. Helias is a good fit for Jefferson City because we are a school community that is big, but not too big. We offer a faith-based education combined with a strong academic curriculum and full slate of extracurricular and co-curricular activities.
What lessons from your own schooling do you incorporate into teaching?
When I have the chance to walk around and observe classrooms — which is not as often as I would like — I often remember the teachers that I’ve had throughout my life who have had such a passion for their subject matter that they could not help but be infectious in their teaching. When I get to teach students, I want to have that same amount of love and passion for what it is that I am trying to convey to them.
What’s your favorite moment from your time at Helias?
It’s hard to pick just one. I would say that the yearly homecoming celebrations always stand out in my mind. Every year is different, but each one has the same amount of intensity and joy. It is an opportunity for the greater Helias community to rally around the school and rekindle their affection for this place. It is definitely a special time.
What’s the biggest career obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Well, being a priest is not really a career, but I would say that the transition my family undertook leaving the denomination in which I previously served and entering into full communion with the Catholic Church (all while moving from Texas to Missouri) was definitely a serious challenge filled with more than a few obstacles. While it indeed had its share of difficulty and uncertainty, we would not change anything.
What’s been the greatest personal challenge you’ve overcome?
I was not a very academically inclined young person. The combination of having both a diagnosed learning difference and a healthy dose of laziness resulted in some challenges for me growing up. Thankfully, I had teachers who held me accountable and parents who assisted me and pushed me until things “clicked,” and I discovered the beauty of education and academia.
Favorite place to spend an afternoon?
If I ever have a free afternoon, I really enjoy going to the movies. Sitting with some popcorn and a soda while watching a good film is always a lot of fun for me.
What’s the last book you read?
“Emperor: Field of Swords,” by Conn Iggulden. It is semi-historical fiction about the rise and fall of Julius Caesar.
Favorite TV show?
College football. Period. When that’s not on, I will watch other sports or just about anything on HGTV.
Favorite comfort food?
Tex-mex — which you really can’t find in mid-Missouri — and Chick-fil-A.
In no particular order: a beach, a hammock, the Caribbean Sea, an all you can eat buffet, a delicious beverage, and a Jimmy Buffet song.
What is something that has changed your life?
“The upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:14. Although I often do a pretty poor job of living that upward call, it has molded me into the person I am and prompts me toward the person I hope to become.
Do you have a secret aspiration?
To be invited to be the team chaplain for Coach Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs!
Who or what is your source of inspiration?
The men and women throughout history who have sought to be in such deep friendship with God that their lives became utterly conformed to his in every way. We call them saints, and their example and witness — their “yes” to God — inspires me daily.