Jon was always strong in his faith. That probably was instilled into him when he was a toddler and Geralyn served as the Coordinator of Youth Ministry at St. Patrick Church of Merna from the time he was 3 years old. Jon would accompany his mother up to her office at the church and open the mail with Fr. Larry and take his naps in Sr. Rita Ann’s office.

When Jon got older, he became very active with the Bloomington/Normal Teens Encounter Christ program. Through TEC, he met several young men and women from various schools who stayed in the area to attend ISU.

Although St. Patrick’s of Merna remained his family’s parish, Jon began attending Sunday night Mass at the St. John Paul II Newman Center at ISU. After a short while, Jon became more active at the Newman Center, staying after Mass on Sundays for fellowship and games. He began attending Wednesday night group get togethers. And traveled to Washington, DC using his tip money from Chuck E Cheese to attend the Right to Life March in 2012 with his friends from the Newman Center.

After several months of missing Jon on Sunday nights, we asked him if the Newman Center realized that he was not a student at ISU. He said that they did not seem to mind. He played his guitar, had Nerf wars at his weekend Koinonia and especially looked forward to ping pong.

One night he came home a little late from the Newman Center and came up to our room, where we were already asleep. He tapped Geralyn on the shoulder to wake her and with all sincerity, asked “Will I go to hell for beating a nun?” Now that we were fully awake he told us that Sister Clara had NEVER lost a ping pong match and he had beat her! As the year rolled by Jon took great delight in remembering he had become a legend at the Newman Center!

Father Peter shared with us that he and Jon had many LONG discussions about comic books and Power Rangers. While many of Jon’s friends were off at college, the Newman Center, with the wonderful sisters and Fr. Peter, gave Jon the only college experience that he would ever know.

For the gift of inclusion and heartfelt spiritual passion for Christ, the H.E.A.L. Foundation is proud to present this year’s Hero Award to the St. John Paul II Catholic Newman Center.