By Jerry Duggan
Father Jason LaLonde, SJ, felt called to participate in God’s Church from a young age. Through career and vocational changes and moves across the country, LaLonde has retained one constant: an openness to whatever God is calling him to do.
A lifelong Catholic, LaLonde grew up with church connections that served as inspiration during his spiritual development. His aunt, who was also his godmother, was secretary at his parish school. He enjoyed lessons about Biblical stories and was inspired by his parish priests. He even felt a call to the priesthood stirring at the time of his first communion.
After graduating from Florida State University, LaLonde worked in arts administration in New Mexico for two years and then in his home state of Florida for a year. He then enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program at the University of Florida. He also began in earnest his discernment of his Jesuit vocation.
While an MBA student, LaLonde attended St. Augustine Catholic Church in Gainesville, Fla., where he got to know a Jesuit, Fr. José Luis Mesa, who was serving as a priest in residence at the time. Talking with Fr. Mesa piqued LaLonde’s interest in the Jesuits.
“Father Mesa was full of neat stories from his own experiences as a Jesuit,” LaLonde said. “He spent time as a missionary and an educator in Chad and hearing about that gave me a sense of the kind of work Jesuits do.”
He also was a sounding board for LaLonde’s questions and concerns about religious life. Eventually, LaLonde got connected with the vocation promotion office of the former New Orleans Province. After another year of discernment, he entered the novitiate in fall 2007.
After completing first studies at Fordham University, regency at Jesuit High School in New Orleans and theology studies at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, LaLonde was ordained a priest in 2018. He cites as a highlight of his formation process a trip to Brazil for World Youth Day in 2013 and service trip to Panama in 2015 with students from Jesuit New Orleans.
“In addition to the joy of being in the presence of Pope Francis, what made the pilgrimage to Rio de Janeiro so special for me was sharing the experience with our amazing group of students and chaperones,” he said. That group included the late Father Raymond Fitzgerald, who was then-president of Jesuit New Orleans, and John Guerra, S.J., who was about to begin his senior year at JHS and is now in first studies at Saint Louis University.
Following his ordination, Fr. LaLonde served as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception Church in Albuquerque, N.M. This assignment brought Fr. LaLonde a sense of fulfillment.
“Being able to support the pastor by helping in sacramental ministry to the wonderful parish community was a real blessing,” he said. “I also enjoyed getting to interact with the children and families of our parish school, St. Mary’s.”
As rewarding as Fr. LaLonde found his time in parish ministry, for his next assignment, he felt called to do something a little different.
In fall 2020, Fr. LaLonde enrolled in the doctoral program in theology at the University of Notre Dame.
“I hope the program will form me so that I will be able to teach and support the intellectual life of the Church,” he said.
As always, Fr. LaLonde plans to let God guide his next steps. “Ultimately, as a Jesuit, I want to be free to respond to God’s call,” he said. “I’m thankful that God opened a path for me to come to Notre Dame, and in the future I hope to continue to be open and ready to serve however He calls me.”