As a young boy, Destrehan-native Jared Rodrigue’s family was close with Father John Phuc, who was a pastor at St. Charles Borromeo Church.
"He was close friends with my parents and we used to go fishing with him all of the time. At a very young age he used to tell me about the priesthood and ask me what I wanted to do with my life. He would tell me how much he enjoyed being a priest and said he saw some of those qualities in me," he said.
When Father John died in a drowning incident while fishing when Jared was in fifth grade, he said it stirred something in him.
"It was very hard for me and my family because we were all close to him, but at his funeral I remember all the kids lined up when they were going to bury him and something sparked in my heart that somebody needs to care for these kids," Jared said. "I was only in fifth grade and the need for each person to have a spiritual father was something pressed on me very early."
Jared’s mother, Janeen, said Father John played a large part in her son’s life and his death sparked his interest in the priesthood.
"He has been saying he wanted to be a priest since he was a young, young boy," she said. "I think that had a large part to do with it."
However, after graduating from Jesuit in 2009 Jared did not immediately follow the path towards priesthood.
"Honestly I ran away from it. Once you get into girls it gets hard so I kind of ran away from it then," he said.
For two years he attended Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio when he again felt called to serve.
After going on mission trips to an orphanage in Mexico, Jared joined a Salesian seminary in New Jersey with the hope of traveling around the world and serving international communities.
After two years with the Salesians, Jared decided to move on and leave the seminary. After undergoing a change of heart about what his mission in life was, he decided to join Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.
"One of the reasons I felt called to this mission was because it was here with my own people and where I grew up," he said. "It definitely makes you think twice about serving and saving others abroad when you can serve your own kind and your family here."
Jared has just begun the first out of four years he is to spend studying at the seminary.
Now 23 years old and embarking on a life in the priesthood, he said he feels like his life is not dissimilar to other young men his age.
"I guess I wouldn’t say I am much different than most people that I grew up with," he said. "I would say it is more that I put an emphasis on what I see as my major calling of life. A lot of my friends pray in church, whereas I see that as my entire life. I wouldn’t say it was a difference, but more of an emphasis."
As far as the sacrifice he is making by not being allowed to have a family, Jared said his family is the congregation and it is worth it.
"There is always going to be that difficult thought. Was this the right choice? There is always a ‘what if,’ but at the end of the day its living in prayer," he said. "It’s a day by day thing and of course it is a long process too. So I guess you have all that to think about and contemplate as well."
|Jared and Fr. John Phuc at Jared's First Communion back when he was in 2nd grade. Fr. John was the pastor at St. Charles Borromeo for 13 years and Jared's greatest influence in life. He drowned on a fishing trip in December 2001.|