Father Jarrod Waugh seeks to preserve spiritual heritage of Sacred Heart
By Paul Dusseault
COLORADO SPRINGS. When Jarrod Waugh first offered his life to God in prayer, God said no.
“It’s kind of hard to explain,” said Father Waugh, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Colorado Springs. “But nearing the end of high school, I perceived that negative signal very clearly. God did not want me to enter the seminary at that time.”
This was from a young man who grew up in an observant Catholic family, openly admired seminarians, served as a Totus Tuus missionary, and professed to always be open to The Call.
“As kids we often played ‘mass,’” he recalled. “We did readings from my little sister’s Noah’s Ark Picture Bible and pressed hosts from slices of Wonder Bread with the rim of a coffee cup.”
The teenaged Jarrod even visited a Benedictine monastery. His take-away: “Monks are cool, but that life is not for me.”
In retrospect, Father Waugh sees God reserving a play for his college years.
“There were two Holy Cross priests who lived in my dormitory at Notre Dame, Peter Jarret and Mark Poorman. They were so welcoming and gracious to my family and me. And it was such an impressive experience interacting with priests not just sacramentally, but as human beings.” Waugh’s life with the Holy Cross order had begun.
Ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross (Latin: Congregatio a Sancta Cruce, or CSC) in 2013, Father Waugh was attracted by the comradery.
“When we’re together, we really are brothers,” he said. “We laugh, and discuss theology, and may smoke an occasional cigar, and actually live the admonition of our constitution: ‘Our mutual respect and shared undertaking should be a hopeful sign of the kingdom, and others can behold how we love one another.’ As a college student, I remember thinking: ‘I could enjoy eating dinner with these guys for the rest of my life.’”
Though the Colorado Springs contingent of Holy Cross fathers is smaller than at Father Waugh’s previous assignments — which include King’s College and Holy Family Parish in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; Christ the King Parish in South Bend, Indiana; and the Office of Vocations at the University of Notre Dame — he still shares that religious community with Holy Cross Father Randy Rentner, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart, and staff of the Holy Cross Novitiate in Cascade.
But dinner and cigars are the least of the order’s value to Father Waugh as a pastor.
“With a strong charism in education, many Holy Cross priests have deep academic backgrounds,” he said. “That makes for debates that are both lively and courageous. We’re not afraid of the hard questions. There’s very little censorious impulse to say, ‘I’m not sure we should be talking about that.’ And that attitude has helped me greatly in pastoral care where I may encounter a difficult situation that I can approach with some confidence, knowing that I recently argued the same point with my brothers. That makes a big difference. It keeps me sharp, and, I think, makes me a better pastor for our parishioners.”
And those parishioners can be as diverse geographically as they are spiritually. Through an agreement with the Diocese of Colorado Springs originally made by Bishop Emeritus Richard Hanifen, the Congregation of Holy Cross has pastoral responsibility not just for Sacred Heart Church, but also for Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Manitou Springs and Holy Rosary Chapel in Cascade.
Even though he grew up in Parsons, Kansas, Father Waugh said that he feels a personal connection to the Pikes Peak region. “Because our novitiate is just up the road, I took my first vows on the altar of Sacred Heart Church,” he recalled. “You live in these mountains for just a short time and they become part of you.”
Still, three locations create a lot of ground to cover. “It’s such a privilege to be entrusted with the architectural and historical care of these three parishes,” said Father Waugh, 38, who last year assumed pastoral duties from Holy Cross Father Ronald Raab, a long-serving and popular pastor.
“Our Lady of Perpetual Help is the oldest Catholic church in the diocese; Sacred Heart was designed by the famous architect Thomas MacLaren and recently has undergone a major restoration; Holy Rosary Chapel was built by the philanthropic Cusack family during the Hoover administration. We’re caretakers now of a rich and storied Colorado tradition of devotion and worship,” he said.
And like all earnest caretakers, Father Waugh cites the mission of continuing the positive momentum of his predecessor. “In keeping with the Holy Cross motto, ‘To make God known, loved, and served,’ Father Raab emphasized community, and we’ll keep that going,” he said.
First is community service. “Our food pantry (open two days a week) is now serving approximately 500 people each month. Our meeting facilities are in use by various neighborhood groups nearly every night of the week.” Second is community formation. “I’ve greenlighted men’s groups and women’s groups and youth groups devoted to various aspects of spirituality, all gearing up now.” Next is community extension. “We’re joining with other Christian churches and outreach organizations like Westside Cares to help deliver crisis intervention services for those in need.”
On the horizon is more and better events.
“Father Randy just returned from leading a Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain, which was very successful,” said Father Waugh, “and for an October trip I’m planning to Quebec we’re offering spots to Catholics from throughout the diocese.” On that itinerary are the tomb of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American saint, as well as The Oratory of St. Joseph, Canada’s largest church and a Roman Catholic minor basilica founded by St. Brother André Bessette, the so-called “miracle man of Montreal” and a hero of the Holy Cross order.
Regarding his own faith journey, Father Waugh still tries to make his annual religious retreat at a center managed and staffed by cloistered Benedictines.
“There’s nothing like a monastery to bring you out of the contemporary world and into a place of renewed spiritual peace,” he said.