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Patron Stories: Father Jamie

Father Jamie at our 2017 St. Lucy Mass reading braille

Father Jamie is a priest in the Diocese of Owensboro, Kentucky who also happens to be blind. He receives our braille materials and uses the Propers of the Sunday Mass to celebrate Mass every Sunday in his parish. He has celebrated our St. Lucy Mass in honor of the patron saint of the blind every year on December 13th since 2016. He has also been featured in various publications across the country which you can check out here. Here is a little more about Father Jamie:

What services do you get from Xavier Society for the Blind? Does it help you with your ministry?
The services that I use from XSB are the Sunday Propers for the Mass. I prefer to use braille, so these publications of the readings and Mass prayers enables me to use braille exclusively when I celebrate Sunday Masses and higher feast days.  I also have the basic book which has the prayers from the old Latin Mass, which eventually I plan on learning how to do as a priest.

At what age did you feel the calling to be a priest?
I felt the calling to be a priest probably as early as 8 years old, since I used to play Mass outside on a hay bale, using a dog dish and a coffee can.  Interestingly enough, the only words that I had memorized from Mass were the words of consecration from the Eucharistic Prayer. I did not have the move to answer the call until I began college at Brescia University.  It was at Brescia that I was able to go to daily Mass…on my own, so that’s what I did.

Do you have any siblings? If so, are they sighted?
I have two siblings, a brother and sister, who are 18 years older than me.  I am the only blind person in my family.

What’s your favorite part about being a priest? What has been the most rewarding part?
My favorite part of being a priest is celebrating Mass and giving Jesus to his people in the Eucharist.  I love giving people the comfort of Jesus that he gives me in the Sacraments and in his Gospel.  Sometimes it takes a wounded healer to bring healing.

What has been the most challenging part about being a priest?
Before I was ordained, I feared that there would be difficulties because of my blindness, and that was what I was continuously told by the seminary, but that has proven to not be true.  To the people that I serve, blindness is not an issue.  The only slight issue I have experienced is from those who frown on traditional practices and this is an issue that several priests and young people of my generation are having.  Some view our love of traditional practices as an unhealthy love of the nostalgic.  What some people forget is that my generation and the ones behind mine are in a world of broken families and chaotic times.  Traditional practices in the Church give us a feeling of stability and sacredness that the world does not have.  I am not saying that I think Mass should be in Latin only, much to the contrary, but I am for celebrating the current Mass in a style of what was considered the norm before Vatican II.  Needless to say, I chant most of the Mass parts, not just because I prefer chant, but when I am reading braille, which is a second language to me, the chant helps me to flow and not stumble.  Those who don’t understand us who like traditional practices forget, it’s not about being nostalgic, but this is how we pray.

Who is the greatest influence in your life?
I would say my mom and dad have been the greatest influence in my life.  They have always supported me and been there for me.  They did not hand me over to a school for the blind to raise, but they made the sacrifices to keep me in regular school and fought for my right to do so.  My mom and dad, James and Ain Dennis are my biggest fans.

If you could spend an hour one-on-one with anyone in history, who would it be and why? What would you ask him or her?
Someone who I admire is St. Harvey, who was a monk of the 500’s.  He was born blind in Europe and was known to be a great teacher and healer.  He was approached by a bishop who wanted to ordain him, but he refused.  I would have liked to ask him why he did not want to be ordained.  He was also known to be a singer and had a wolf as a companion.