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Celebrating our Chaplain this Advent Season

Wherever you find Notre Dame’s full-time Chaplain, Fr. Jason Parzynski, you can be sure he is making a difference in the Notre Dame community. On any given day, Fr. Jason could be celebrating Mass, exploring truth, reality and faith in the Philosophy course he teaches, laughing with students in the Campus Ministry Office or holding a Bible Study meeting in the Weight Room. He may be surrounded by a gaggle of students or quietly sitting with a single student.
Fr. Jason continues the rich tradition of spiritual guidance and education established by his predecessors, including beloved Chaplains, Monsignor William Capik, Monsignor Walter Nolan and Fr. Dennis Apoldite. Working closely with the administration, Fr. Jason helps to ensure that all aspects of Notre Dame continue to be rooted in Catholic tradition, values and spirituality. How fortunate ND is to, once again, have a full time Chaplain!

A Michigan native, Fr. Jason grew up in a devout Catholic family and was educated in the public school system of Shelby Township, MI. He attended Michigan State University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Pre-law. As an MSU student, Fr. Jason was active in Campus Ministry. It was there he realized his desire to help others grow in faith.

Fr. Jason’s formation for the priesthood began at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois, where he was awarded a Master of Divinity and Bachelor of Sacred Theology degree. He studied at the Pontifical North American College in Rome and following that time, he discerned with and entered the novitiate for a Cistercian community in Texas. While discerning his vocation, Fr. Jason gained parish experience working in St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Orland Park, IL. where he was a Pastoral Associate, Youth Minister and served on the Parish Committees for Information Technology and Liturgy. 

While studying in Rome, Fr. Jason learned about the Diocese of Trenton through fellow seminarian, Rev. Michael McClane, the current pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish in Hamilton Square. Fr. Jason later accepted a position as a Youth Minister in St. David the King Parish, West Windsor, and was also hired in the Diocesan Chancery as Associate Director in the Ministry of Catechesis and Evangelization. Fr. Jason worked in these two positions for about a year before he was asked to serve as Priest Secretary to Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.

In 2016, Bishop O’Connell appointed Fr. Jason part-time Chaplain for Notre Dame High School. During that time, he also served as Parochial Vicar at St. Gregory the Great Parish and St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish. On July 1, 2017, Bishop O’Connell named Fr. Jason full-time Chaplain, making Notre Dame the only school in the Diocese of Trenton with a full-time priest on staff. “Unlike a parish priest who is responsible for Catholics living in a particular territory (the parish boundaries), I minister to the spiritual needs of all those associated with the Notre Dame community, regardless of where they live or what faith they profess,” said Fr. Jason. In addition to celebrating our Monthly Liturgy and special Holy Day Masses, Father is available to offer the sacraments of Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick.

With Bishop O’Connell’s blessing, Father, along with Religion Department Member, Eileen Hart, began a RCIA program at ND for those students, faculty or staff who are looking to complete their Catholic Sacraments of Initiation. Students who are not Catholic can also learn about the Catholic faith, and whether God may be calling them to Catholicism.

Fr. Jason is present on a daily basis to raise awareness and cultivate spiritual devotions within the school community. Students have voiced how meaningful it is to them that he is present each school day. “Having Father Jason here every day has been greatly beneficial. It is comforting to know that I can always go to him at any point in the day. His additions of morning Mass and Adoration during Activity Period have allowed me to spend more time in the Chapel and have a deeper connection to my faith throughout the school week,” stated Senior, Christina Morris.

Father assists with the ongoing integration of faith across all areas of the curriculum and supports the many ministries within our Campus Ministry program. Through the Catholic Athletes for Christ (CAC), Father works closely with Strength and Conditioning Coach, John McKenna, to foster a stronger faith-based experience for our athletes. This includes team Bible Study meetings facilitated by Fr. Jason. His hope is that the athletes recognize the value of being a part of a team, both for their sport and as fellow Christians.

With the support and enthusiasm of Athletic Director, Mr. Richard Roche and Coach McKenna, Fr. Jason instituted the idea of seasonal sports Masses. The Fall Sports Mass, held in September, was a great success and enabled the athletes to begin their season grounded in faith. The Winter Sports Mass is scheduled for Sunday, December 16 at 10 a.m.

Father’s spiritual guidance is not limited simply to students or Catholics. He provides spiritual direction to both Catholic and non-Catholic students, faculty and staff. Fr. Jason creates opportunities for the faculty and staff to participate in annual Spiritual Formation experiences. “I also just started, with the tremendous support of a parent, a "Parent Prayer Group" that meets biweekly on Monday evenings to pray for the needs and intentions of the ND community, in particular the students,” said Fr. Jason. “The senior Kairos retreats are also something I look forward to all year; having been on 11 of them now I have to say it's inspirational to me to watch the teens encounter Christ, sometimes for the first time,” he continued.

Last year, Father joined the Religion Department as a faculty member. He developed and teaches a Philosophy course. “There is no surprise in me saying that I truly enjoy teaching! I have found teaching both Junior Religion (Morality and Social Justice) and now Philosophy, to be a real joy as well as a tremendous privilege,” Fr. Jason shared. Senior Kyle Dixon stated, “Having Fr. Jason around has been a great experience. It is always good to know that you can speak to him at any part of the school day. He loves what he does and loves being in the school. Having him as a teacher has been a different experience because I’ve never been taught by a priest before. But his fun and energetic teaching style has helped us develop a different way of thinking and has brought a different aspect to the curriculum.”

Fr. Jason adds, “Being a full time Chaplain provides me the opportunity to be truly present to the school community in a way I simply could not otherwise be. Having the flexibility in my schedule to attend sporting events and performances means a lot to the students, but also makes it possible to integrate into the overall community. Being full-time also means students and families know that if they ever have a need I am here for them.” According to Senior Megan Dee, “It’s been a blessing having Fr. Jason here at Notre Dame. He is the first priest I have ever bonded with and I feel comfortable around him. You can tell he loves what he does because he always has a smile on his face and knows how to put a smile on everyone else’s face.”

“All being said, it really is just that. Whether through teaching, celebrating the Mass or the Sacraments, facilitating a Bible Study or just hanging in the Campus Ministry Office or down in the Weight Room with the students, it's all about providing opportunities for the students, faculty and staff to encounter Christ in the ordinariness of our lives here at ND,” stated Fr. Jason.
 
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Notre Dame High School

Located on 100 beautiful acres in Central New Jersey, Notre Dame High School, founded in 1957, is a college preparatory school for grades 9 - 12, preparing young men and women for lives of purpose, built upon a foundation of Catholic faith, with a commitment to academics, co-curricular activities and service to others.