Fr. Daniel Jones remembered as humble formator of countless priests

Fr. Jones’ impact felt throughout the entire archdiocese

DETROIT –– Fr. Daniel Jones, who passed away on the Feast of Pentecost, May 23, 2021, will be remembered as an exceptional formator of seminarians and a man of great humility and kindness, even under difficult circumstances.

Fr. Jones most notably served on the faculty of Sacred Heart Major Seminary from 2003 until his passing as a full-time associate professor, where he taught and formed priests and lay ministers for the Archdiocese of Detroit. 

“The goodness of very many parish priests is due in no small part to the ministry of Fr. Dan Jones at Sacred Heart Major Seminary,” Fr. Charlie Fox, a fellow Sacred Heart faculty member, told Detroit Catholic. “His ministry was not especially visible, but by forming an entire generation of priests, his love for the Lord and wisdom concerning the things of God has spread far and wide.”

Daniel Jones was born in 1953 in Detroit to Donald and Joan Jones, one of six children. After graduating from Detroit Catholic Central High School, he went on to earn a Bachelor’s from the University of Michigan in 1975 and lived as a member of the lay brotherhood, The Servants of the Word, for 17 years. 

He later earned a Master’s in English and Master’s in Education from Eastern Michigan University.  Fr. Jones read or understood seven languages, including Greek and German. 

Fr. Jones worked in European Missions in Brussels and London for five years and served as a middle school teacher at Huron Valley Catholic School in Ypsilanti. 

Feeling the call to the priesthood, Fr. Jones entered seminary in 1992 and received a Bachelor’s in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Adam J. Maida of Detroit in 1997, and went on to receive a Licentiate Degree in Sacred Theology and a Doctoral Degree in Sacred Theology and Patristic Sciences from the Augustinianum Patristics Institute, Rome.

Fr. Daniel Jones most recently served as Pastor of St. John Fisher Chapel University Parish, Auburn Hills and at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Detroit. He also served numerous parishes as a weekend associate, including: Divine Grace Parish, Carleton; Guardian Angels Parish, Clawson; St. Anthony Parish, Belleville; Sacred Heart Parish, Yale; Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Emmett; Sacred Heart Mission, Brown City; St. Margaret of Scotland Parish, St. Clair Shores; and St. Thomas More Parish, Troy. 

In addition to his duties at parishes all over the Archdiocese of Detroit and his service at the seminary, Fr. Jones served as moderator of the Detroit Oratory-in-Formation –– an emerging Oratory of St. Philip Neri –– and he also served on the Presbyteral Council. 

He served as a chaplain for the Courage and Encourage Apostolates and he offered Mass each week for the Missionaries of Charity in Detroit, spending his summers working in third-world countries alongside the sisters. 

Fr. Fox, who first had Fr. Jones as a professor in seminary and later as a spiritual director and colleague, said that Fr. Jones worked “with great charity, diligence, and humility.”

Furthermore, Fr. Fox said that Fr. Jones was utterly consecrated to Jesus Christ and His priesthood. 

“Father Jones was single-hearted in his pursuit of holiness and seeking to inspire in others an ardent desire for holiness,” Fr. Fox said. “He combined a strong sense of realism about the limitations of human nature and of life in this world with tremendous faith in the power of God's grace and abandonment to Divine Providence.”

Elizabeth Rzepka, a former student of Fr. Jones at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, remembers his classes as rigorous but said that he was always in pursuit of holiness.

“I remember in our Trinity class he said ‘this class will be of no value to you if you're not on your knees more than you're in your books,’” Rzepka said. 

While Fr. Jones is remembered for his intellect, Rzepka said that one of Fr. Jones’ greatest virtues was humility. 

“He was just so humble and so sincere,” Rzepka said. “Fr. Dan had no guile. He really stood apart particularly because of his humility.”

Fr. Marko Djonovic, pastor at St. Moses the Black Parish in Detroit, said that if a priest lives his vocation serving the sick and the poor, and his holy work remains unknown to the world, then he lived a great priestly life. This perfectly encapsulated Fr. Jones, he said. 

“He believed that pride was the greatest ill to the priestly soul,” Fr. Djonovic said. “If he saw me plunging toilets at Our Lady of the Rosary, he would smile. He said that's a good job; acts of humility were important to him.”

Ultimately, he shone most as a formator, Fr. Djonovic said, and by helping to form 15-20 priests each year starting in 2003, his impact is felt more greatly throughout the archdiocese than people may know.  

“I thank God for him, and I know many of us priests who are formed by him are very, very appreciative of him.”