Living the Dream

The priesthood allowed Fr. Jack to follow his passions

Fr. Jack Lombardi participates in the 100-mile walk from Baltimore to Philadelphia during the Apostolic visit of Pope Francis in 2015.

Fr. Jack Lombardi participates in the 100-mile walk from Baltimore to Philadelphia during the Apostolic visit of Pope Francis in 2015.

Fr. Jack Lombardi recently received a Gibson SG electric guitar as a gift from one of his parishioners. He also plays violin and banjo. He hikes. He plays sports, too. He is an avid author who covers topics like current events in the Church, faith, spirituality, prayer, theology, social issues and morality, Church Doctrine and the Sacraments.

As a student at Towson in the early 1980s, he enjoyed doing all of those things. It was life-changing when he realized all of those interests could be applied to the priesthood.

“It was challenging and engaging,” Fr. Lombardi said. “I thought, ‘I like all of these things; writing, music, being around people. A light bulb went off in my head. Priesthood would answer that! It was fun, exciting and a little scary.”

Fr. Lombardi wasn’t always interested in the Catholic faith. In fact, after Confirmation, he fell away from the Church, and didn’t give much thought to God, either. He “got involved on the wrong side of the street,” he said.

But that all changed during his second year of college, at Towson (then called Towson State). He found himself making friends with a group of evangelical Christians, who invited him to a bible study. He joined the protestant group “Campus Crusaders for Christ.” Then, he befriended a pair of college seminarians, who offered him a free parking pass at the campus Newman Center.

“That was a gold mine!” Fr. Lombardi said. “Hit me where it counts, you know? There was kind of a dovetail effect of people ganging up on me—in a nice way.”

That was when his heart started to drift back towards the Catholic Church. He got involved with music at the Mass and he found himself praying more and befriending priests. Ultimately it all led to thoughts of the priesthood.

“It was a perfect storm of things that were happening,” he said. “I visited a seminary or two, and that was the icing on the cake, the last straw on the camel’s back. I went to Catholic U and thought it was really cool. It was a big, well-known university, and the seminary was inside the university. I thought it would be a great place to go.”

He was sent there by the archdiocese after graduating from Towson with degrees in philosophy and journalism.

Discernment continued through seminary at Theological College at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The only moments of doubt in his vocation came when fellow seminarians would discern out, deciding they weren’t called to the priesthood.

“I remember when a guy left seminary for the first time, it was a shock,” he said. “Did a truck hit him or something? I was strong in resolve, but just that someone even could leave, it was unsettling. Through four years other guys left, and it got less shocking, but it still it makes you think, ‘Am I here for the right reason? Am I sure about my vocation?’ It doesn’t mean you’re off the tracks, and it’s a good, healthy challenge.”

Fr. Lombardi was ordained in 1988, and continues to pursue all of his interests. He puts his degree in journalism to good use, having written hundreds of articles throughout his priesthood. In short, the priesthood has allowed him to be himself.

“When you become a priest you’re not stuck in a sacristy in a cassock all day,” Fr. Lombardi said. “I play basketball, and we have football games and softball tournaments with our youth groups. Pilgrimages are great. We went to Ireland a couple of years ago, and when Pope Francis visited, we did a 100-mile walk from Baltimore to Philadelphia. God works through your personality. He doesn’t overrule it or make you a robot. I’m very thankful for that.”