Serving in the Peace Corps led Jesuit Jason Welle to the certainty that he was being called to the priesthood. What he wasn’t so sure of was what sort of priest he wanted to be.
To begin his vocational discernment process, Welle took to the Internet. The more research he did online, the clearer it became that he belonged with the Jesuits.
“I knew the Jesuits by reputation only, mainly for their commitment to social justice,” says Welle, who currently serves as program coordinator for Seattle University’s Education Abroad Office. “And I knew I wanted to do something that combined my interest in international development with a deep spirituality and service as a priest. I could see myself fulfilling both of those desires as a Jesuit.”
Entering the priesthood was not a foreign concept for Welle. He attended a high school seminary, but left to enroll at the University of California, Santa Cruz. After earning a degree in community studies, Welle worked as a travel agent and as a flight attendant. He loved traveling for work, but it soon became mundane. He decided to engage the world in a deeper way by joining the Peace Corps, where he was placed in Malawi.
“The Peace Corps is really where I discovered my vocation to enter the Society,” says Welle, who joined the Jesuits in 2006. “Getting out of the U.S. fish bowl gave me a new perspective on the world and America’s place in it.”
Welle was in Malawi for 9/11, an experience that he says completely reshaped his view of the world. “I was living in a country where 3,000 people died every week from HIV and AIDS — that’s about what the death toll was in the towers. People there were living at a level of poverty that we just don’t know in the same way here in the U.S. They had hardly even seen a two- or three-story building, much less a 150-story tower. It was just beyond their worldview. 9/11 just sort of awakened me out of a slumber or a complacency about America’s role and my own place in the world.”
The Peace Corps was transformative for Welle in other important ways. “There’s a lot of downtime, especially in Malawi, where there’s 12 hours of night, without a television and not much radio. I became very introspective. I think, without realizing it, I was praying, really yearning to understand who I was.”
Read more about Welle at the Seattle University website.