Dear Parishioners of Corpus Christi,
I first want to thank all of you for so warmly welcoming me into your parish; it has been a great joy to be here. So many people approach me and tell me what a great joy it is to see me here, but I know that the blessings are coming abundantly more from you, rather than the other way around!
I recently had the great joy of being present at the ordination masses of the transitional deacons as well as for our newest priests! This is a special time for the whole diocese, but in a unique way for the priests and the seminarians. Our Lord speaks in profound ways to us in these masses; he graces us in a way that is so difficult to explain! By God’s grace that could be me in 6-7 years!
Before I go much further, I just want to recap my story. I was born and raised in Southern California, but moved to Arizona for college in 2008 to study at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. During my time in Prescott, I really took the faith on as my own, growing in a deep intellectual knowledge of Christ. As my college years were drawing to a close, I became involved with Youth Ministry at Sacred Heart Parish, in Prescott. This is where I really encountered the living God in a genuine way, like I never had before. When I finally left Prescott in 2015, my eyes were set skyward. I came to Prescott to be a pilot, and I left searching out a flying job. I found success in the aviation industry, but I was constantly being drawn to the priesthood. Every second that I was not being actively distracted by something else, my thoughts would go to priestly things. This of course reminded me of a 17-year-old-Jeff, who, in a memorial service, had a God encounter — a feeling that God could be calling me to lay down my life as a priest. I was unprepared at 17, but now I was ready to say, “YES!” However, I love flying and was afraid to leave this career which I worked so hard for and spent so much money on. I had a friend in college who had negative experiences with student debt blocking his entry into formation, so I made a very “logical” decision: I will go be an airline pilot for a few years, pay off my debt, and then go apply. I started at the airlines in February of 2017 and by October, I was back in Phoenix emailing Fr. Paul Sullivan, the vocation director, because I heard God whisper in my heart, “What are you waiting for?” How could I resist such an invitation? After being accepted, Fr. Paul, invited me to return to Phoenix to reacquaint myself with the people whom I would one day serve in the diocese. Fast forward to a year and a half later and I am sitting in the sanctuary at Corpus Christi as a seminarian for the Diocese of Phoenix.
Because of my education, I still have a large amount of student debt, which I have been paying down, but it’s blocking me from entering formation. I am not alone, almost half of the men and women that discern a vocation every year are blocked by student loan debt. The shortage of priests and religious will continue to erode our churches, schools, and communities, but there is hope!
For me and many others, the Labouré Society provides that hope. It is a Catholic lay apostolate whose sole purpose is to deliver vocations to the church. In January and July each year, men and women from across the U.S. form a class of aspirants, whose new mission in life is to get our fellow classmates into formation. We work together to raise funds to pay off our student loan debt and get us into formation as soon as possible. Labouré provides tools and guidelines for faith-based fundraising and financial management through a network of hard-working volunteers. To date, over 290 young people have been helped and hundreds more are striving for their miracle right now. For that to be possible we need your help. Please consider making a donation to the Labouré society in my honor today.
Learn more about Labouré by talking to me or by visiting Labouresociety.org/Jeffrey-Pooley.
By God’s Grace,