Jason Sharbaugh was a rebellious teen who got expelled from Subiaco Academy in the 11th grade. Priesthood was the last vocation his peers would have imagined for him. Even now, some still "don't buy it," he said.
Sharbaugh is not surprised people feel that way. Even when he started going to daily Mass and visiting adoration chapels in college, the last thing he would have said about himself was that he was close to God.
Rather "I felt my thoughts and the restlessness of my life were put at ease whenever I was at Mass," he said. Being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament gave him a "sense of peace" he did not find elsewhere.
Sharbaugh was born in Chester, Pa. in 1976, but moved to Morrilton with his mother, Mary Elizabeth Sharbaugh, after his parents divorced when he was 2. His parents were not practicing Catholics, but his maternal grandmother, Mary Burn, was. She took her grandson to Mass at Sacred Heart Church.
Later, at Sacred Heart School, Sharbaugh learned to love being an altar server and remembers thinking about priesthood then.
In the 10th grade Sharbaugh transferred to Subiaco Academy where he met Father Gregory Pilcher, OSB, then a dean at the all-boys school. In the 11th grade the priest expelled him and he returned to Sacred Heart School where he graduated in 1994.
Sharbaugh went on to the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville where he struggled to find his place. Over time he settled down and got involved with UA's campus ministry program, went to confession, Mass and adoration regularly, and discovered through mission trips that he found happiness in helping others.
He also made peace with Father Pilcher. In high school Sharbaugh said he respected the priest, "even though, at the time, I couldn't stand him." A few years later, he apologized and they started anew. Over time, they developed a strong friendship unlike any he ever had with a priest before.
In time, his desire to grow in relationship with God and his discernment of priesthood became one in the same in his mind. "The manner with which you live out the Gospel life is really what your vocation call is," he said.
In the end, he chose to attend law school at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock after graduating college in 2002. Midway through his first year, however, he wished he had gone to seminary instead. By the spring of 2004, the 28 year old was accepted as a diocesan seminarian and that fall he entered St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana. After earning a master's degree in philosophy, he went on to St. Mary Seminary in Houston in 2007.
In seminary the service he did for others confirmed he was in the right place. "It's very easy to be lost when you're alone, and you're kind of saved when you're in communion with God and other people," he said.
Reflecting on his ordination, Sharbaugh said he feels a sense of awe and humility that God chose him. "I just feel such a sense of thankfulness that I can make myself present to God and be used in some holy way," he said.
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