JEFFERSON — Jonah Lynch had no intention of becoming a priest. From about age 15, he wanted nothing to do with churches at all.
God, however, had a different plan.
So on Saturday, the Turner boy who grew up singing hymns in Jefferson’s St. Thomas Catholic Church was back — this time as the newly
ordained Father Jonah.
“This is where I grew up,” said Lynch, who celebrated Mass on Saturday for more than 100 friends and family, a brief visit before he returns to Rome. “These are the people who accompanied me in prayer the last six years of seminary.”
They’re also the people, Lynch said, who knew the teenager who first questioned, then rejected, a God who could allow an evil world. Their prayers, he said, sustained his family and even himself, though he didn’t know it at the time.
Lynch grew up in Turner, the oldest son of Stephen and Elise Lynch. He graduated in 1996 from Cascade High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in physics four years later at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
The sciences, Lynch believed, would teach him the truth about humanity. But he took a few philosophy courses along the way and was deeply impressed by one of his professors.
The professor, a Catholic, talked with him about his questions. He didn’t provide answers, Lynch said, but he listened — listened in such a way that Lynch began to see his questions differently.
Then Lynch met a priest from Siberia who had come to Montreal to raise money for an orphanage he was building there. The priest spoke Italian, which was translated into French for his presentation.
Lynch spoke neither, but he responded to the intensity and purity of purpose he could see shining in the priest’s eyes.
“I turned to the guy next to me and said, ‘I want to live like that,’” Lynch recalled.
Even then, Lynch was wary of the church. He had a girlfriend he believed he would marry, with whom he wanted to raise a family.
But when the friend sitting next to him put him in touch with a priest, Lynch agreed to a visit. And another. And as his friendship with the priests of the church began to grow, he began to feel a distance in his relationship with his girlfriend and a growing awareness that a life in the church was what he needed to be happy.
It wasn’t an easy choice, he noted, just an inevitable one; as inescapable as the fate of his namesake, who also once refused God.
Well at least he didn’t have to take up temporary residence in a whale first.