Meet Joshua Fons. Josh is one of the Diocese of Lansing’s 31 seminarians with that number including last year’s largest single influx of new recruits in over a decade. Deo gratias.
That significant spike in the number of seminarians, though, also brings with it a significant spike in the costs of seminary education for the Diocese of Lansing.
That’s where contributions to the Diocesan Services Appeal, launched this week, provide such a crucial source of funding to help Josh, and his brother seminarians, along the path to the sacred priesthood. Deo volente.
“I have been blessed to experience the generosity and joy of the people of the diocese firsthand,” says Josh who studies at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit.
“Seminary is preparing my brothers and I to make a gift of our lives, to communicate the reality of the love of Jesus Christ. Please keep us in your prayers.”
To know more about the Diocesan Services Appeal, go to: https://www.dioceseoflansing.org/DSA. Meanwhile, here is Josh’s story in full as told to Cari DeLamielleure-Scott of FAITH Magazine, the official publication of the Diocese of Lansing.
• Seminarians Prepare to Serve and Communicate the Love of Jesus, FAITH Magazine, March 2021:
As Catholics, one of the most important choices we can make in life is to trust and follow God’s will – something that Joshua Fons has been trying to do since his childhood.
Josh grew up with his two siblings in an environment of faith with people who dedicated their lives to the Lord. A Catholic community was important to his parents, Michael and Ann. While both were from other states, after attending the University of Michigan they decided to stay in Ann Arbor and find God in the community of Christ the King Parish.
“My parents were willing to make sacrifices to send us to Catholic school. We didn’t have fancy things, but we had a Catholic education. They also drove us across town to visit our friends who were Catholic so we could grow in the faith together. I can’t express enough the gratitude I have for that,” Josh says.
Josh attended Huron Valley Catholic School in Ypsilanti and Father Gabriel Richard High School. Surrounded by what he calls a “cloud of witnesses,” his family, teachers, friends and priests guided him in following God.
Josh first encountered the Lord at a Christian summer camp in middle school. Bringing that experience into high school, he prayed, attended daily Mass and got involved in parish and youth activities. Becoming a priest wasn’t on his radar, but it was a familiar vocation because his brother, Father David Fons, was attending St. John Vianney College Seminary in Minnesota at the time. Father David now serves as the pastor of St. Mary Church in Williamston.
By Josh’s junior year, however, the priesthood popped into his mind during class.
“I knew there were a lot of things I could do with my life and different careers I could pursue, but what else would I want to do but seek to make the Lord known,” he says.
Josh was uncertain if he was being called to the seminary, but the thoughts continued. At the end of the school year, he felt God speaking to him directly through a priest’s homily.
“[The priest] said, ‘A man should become a priest for the same reason God became man – to bring others to the Father. That struck my heart. I felt like he was speaking directly to me,” Josh recalls.
His third encounter with God was the following summer during silent prayer at a leadership retreat. He opened his Bible to one of his favorite passages, 1 Corinthians 9:24: “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.”
“I probably had read it dozens of times before, but in this moment, God was speaking to me. He said I have a competitive heart and want to be the best, but he didn’t want me to compare my story to others and try to be the ‘best Christian.’ He just wanted me to be his,” Josh says. “I knew I had to follow him wherever he was leading me.”
Like his brother, Josh followed God to St. John Vianney College Seminary. In 2016, at the end of his four years, however, he felt a new calling.
“I had been looking forward to moving on to major seminary but in prayer, I had a clear sense from the Lord that he had something else in store for the next chapter, and that I wasn’t quite ready to take the next step towards priesthood,” Josh says.
Soon after, a friend introduced Josh to FOCUS, a Catholic collegiate outreach organization. When Josh researched the organization, it was clear that this was the next invitation from the Lord to follow him down the missionary path.
Josh spent two years at North Dakota State University as a missionary and then transferred into a leadership role at the University of Minnesota Duluth working alongside Father Mike Schmitz.
“He is an incredible witness of the priesthood and being a spiritual father. I have been blessed with so many examples of great priests in my life,” Josh says.
Josh’s father passed away around Christmas in 2019. It was about that time that Josh felt a renewed call to the priesthood. Now, finally at Sacred Heart Major Seminary – eight years after beginning the journey – he jokes that he is taking the scenic road to the priesthood, but it’s what he needed.
“Returning to the brotherhood of seminary has been a great gift. I realize now that God had been growing my vocation under the surface,” Josh says. “He was using my time as a missionary to prepare my heart to be open to the call of spiritual fatherhood.”
The Diocese of Lansing has 31 seminarians enrolled this year. The remarkable increase in the number of seminarians has resulted in substantial increase in cost to the diocese for seminarian education and formation. DSA contributions are an important source of support for the increased costs.
“Just like my parents sacrificed to give us what they knew was most important, there are those in this diocese who are making sacrifices to support me and my seminarian brothers,” Josh says. “I have been blessed to experience the generosity and joy of the people of the diocese firsthand. Seminary is preparing my brothers and I to make a gift of our lives, to communicate the reality of the love of Jesus Christ. Please keep us in your prayers.”
• Words by Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | Photography by Tom Gennara | FAITH Magazine, March 2021 | https://faithmag.com/