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Josh Jones ’10 spoke at St. Norbert Abbey on April 1, 2023, as part of a Lenten young-adult speaker series offered by the Norbertine Center for Spirituality.

A Vocation by Association: “I Found My Place and Made the Most of It”

Among the requisite stationery, paper clips and Post-it notes inside the desk drawer of Stephenson, Mich., K-12 assistant principal Josh Jones ’10, one would find cherished mementos given to him by former pupils. 

Personal connections with students are part of the spirit of communio that inspires Jones in his vocation as an associate of St. Norbert Abbey – a spirit that helped him build a life filled with meaning and purpose after a game-changing twist in his path.

Jones was a student at St. Norbert College when he made the decision to become a Norbertine associate, committing to a life of prayer, service and community. As an athletic kid from Menominee, Mich., he had originally planned to attend SNC as a football player. But a diving accident left him with a broken neck and permanent paralysis.

“The injury didn’t change who I was. It just changed the way I go about doing things,” he says. Jones adapted to life in a wheelchair and became deeply involved in campus life. He felt the pull toward the Norbertine community after he befriended the Rev. John Bostwick ’68, who was serving as advisor for the independent social organization Admar, and the Rev. Jim Baraniak ’88. He began joining the Norbertines for morning and evening prayer at the parish oratory, teaching religious education classes and volunteering. “I found my place and made the most of it,” says Jones.

During his junior year of college, Jones chose to enter the yearlong formation process for the Norbertine associate program. He learned more about the rich history of the Norbertines, founded by St. Norbert in 1121, and the expectations of the associates’ vocation. “We’re there to support the community, the abbey and its mission,” Jones explains. “It’s a way, as a layperson, to maintain a formal, deeper level of connection to the Norbertine community and their way of life. We’re an extension of the mission in the communities we’re a part of, wherever we find ourselves.”

Today, Jones primarily extends the abbey’s mission through his work in education and public service in his local community in Menominee, Mich., although he also enjoys returning to St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere for regular associate meetings and special events. He has a page-long résumé of local government service and other civic-leadership posts, and is currently a city councilman and deputy mayor in Menominee. He also has influenced the lives of countless young students in his school by showing them the radical hospitality he learned from the Norbertines.

Jones recalls one student he taught, for example, who confided in him about a difficult home life. Jones gave him extra encouragement and attention, including special lunch outings. “You can’t solve all the issues they have going on, but we have the opportunity to make one part of their life not as chaotic, a place where they feel welcome, appreciated and some semblance of success.”

For Jones, this approach to life – prioritizing service to others – is his way of living out the promises he renews each year with his fellow St. Norbert Abbey associates. “We’re carrying out those virtues and commitments we make to prayer, service, community and doing our part,” he says. “Regardless of where we are or what our roles are, we all have that ability to make an impact. It doesn’t have to be some grand, elaborate thing. It could be something simple – even just the way we interact with someone. It’s on us to see what those opportunities are and take advantage of them. You certainly won’t regret it. And you never know where it might lead you.”

June 8, 2023