Jim Coning, Father of Jeff Coning, Vocations Director of the Columbus Diocese, Parish Priest since 1997.
When asked about his son Jeff becoming a priest, Jim, a Presbyterian who converted to Catholicism, says,
“I couldn’t be happier.”
The Coning family lived in Worthington, Ohio and the Pontifical College Josephinum, where Jeff went to seminary, was only a few miles away. Jeff brought friends home to his parent’s house to visit and share a meal whenever he could.
“I benefited from Jeff being at the Josephinum for all 8 years,” said Jim. “He had wonderful friends and he brought them home and we loved getting to know them.”
Jim has a military background and never pushed Jeff to go into the military. Jim is also a convert to Catholicism.
“I come from a military family. We know service. Being a priest is the greatest service you can do. He can affect more people than all the military people in our family combined.”
Jim wants parents of seminarians to understand that becoming a priest doesn’t mean the young man has to change who he is or stop enjoying life.
“The best thing about Jeff is that Jeff loves life, beer, trucks, and Star Wars. People have to understand that priests are human beings and they have to have a full life.”
When asked about Jeff’s role in the family and the role, he said, “Jeff likes kids, but likes to send them home too. He dated. He was a normal high school kid. But he firmly believes in the need for celibacy in the priesthood. He works well with women, but doesn’t believe women should be priests.”
Jim and his wife Donna divorced about the time Jeff was being ordained to the priesthood. They loved and supported him throughout the divorce process.
Jim comments about how having a son who is a priest has changed him.
“I don’t see how anyone could be around a priest and not realize God is right there and there is a reason we don’t understand it all. I am spiritually greater because of him. Anita, my wife, loves Jeff too and believes in him and she is Lutheran. She loves talking to him about religion.”
About Jim’s spirituality:
“I firmly believe in God and pray every day. God has been with me in tough times and I know He is riding on my shoulder.”
Jim recommends a lot of understanding from a parent of a seminarian.
“Offer love, support and just listen. You don’t know what they are really going through, so just listen and let them talk to the professionals. When they come home from seminary, just let them relax, talk sports, and don’t push them. Let them decompress. You can empathize, but you can’t really understand what they’re going through.”
Jim tells parents that the seminarians can’t come home much, especially the first year, as they are so busy with their studies and other activities at the Josephinum.
“Jeff had wonderful priest mentors and professors at the Josephinum – just great role models.”
When asked about men quitting seminary with a degree in Philosophy, Jim said, “People never do what their degree is in. It is what you do with your life.”
When asked why he thinks men aren’t choosing the priesthood as often now, Jim replies:
“Because they don’t see they can have a normal life. But they can live and live very nicely.”
And Jim says, with great enthusiasm:
“I absolutely love the fact that Jeff is a priest.”