PROVIDENCE — Shortly after hosting its first ever virtual degree conferral ceremony, the Providence College community has experienced another milestone: the school was the site of the first ordination held at St. Dominic Chapel.
Brother Jordan Zajac was ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, May 23, in a ceremony celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Robert Evans and live streamed on PC's website.
Father Zajac was born and raised in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he, his parents Peter and Judith Zajac, and younger sister Christina were active parishioners at St. James Church.
Although Father Zajac was ordained a priest on Saturday, one might say that he was already a “Friar” even before his ordination: he graduated summa cum laude in 2004 from Providence College, where he majored in English and minored in Political Science.
Having fallen in love with the intellectual life he experienced at PC, he went on to the University of Virginia for a master’s degree in English. He then earned a doctorate from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, specializing in Shakespearean Drama.
For the past year, as a deacon, he has served as assistant chaplain on the Providence College campus.
His duties included running the RCIA program, where he ministered to nearly 40 students preparing to receive the sacraments, and working with student ministers organizing programs for Campus Ministry Multicultural Outreach.
“When I was a student here, my goal was to find a school like this where I could teach and study Shakespeare,” Father Zajac recounted in an interview with Rhode Island Catholic.
“At the time, I had actually imagined that I'd be doing that with a wife and family, but it seems that God got me here in his own way.”
The ceremony was originally scheduled to take place at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., where men of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph are typically ordained. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, however, then-Brother Zajac and the other new priests were forced to make alternative arrangements.
“We felt that if we had to shelter in place, we may as well ordain in place,” he explains. “So we had a total of three ceremonies all occurring at the same time: one in Washington, another in New York City, and then one here in Providence.”
Due to social distancing guidelines, the only members of Father Zajac's family able to attend the ordination were his parents.
“Other than them and the representatives from the diocese, it was just our own Dominican community that could be present,” Father Zajac said.
The moment was also special for Bishop Evans, who joked that he felt as though he had been called “out of retirement” after several months of social distancing.
Bishop Evans expressed his gratitude at being invited to participate in the ordination of a Dominican Friar, and advised Father Zajac that his vocation means that he “has been set apart – not to be before others, or even to be a man like others, but rather to be a man for others.”
In the fall, Father Zajac will begin his work as a professor with the English Department at Providence College. Although the COVID pandemic means that plans are still tentative, he expects that his first semester will be spent teaching courses related to PC's well-known Western Civilization curriculum.
Footage of the ordination, and more information about Father Zajac, can be found here: