By Starrla Cray
WINSTED, MN With a degree in international business and a dream job at a multinational company, Winsted native Jason Hertzog didn’t seem to be a likely candidate for the priesthood but then, the unexpected happened.
“God intervened in my life and changed all my plans,” Hertzog noted. “I came to understand that the life God has entrusted to me is both a gift and a loan, and since I’ve started to live for Him life has been much better (and more interesting).”
Hertzog grew up on Grass Lake Road just south of town, with seven brothers and two sisters. When he graduated from Lester Prairie High School in 1995, Hertzog moved to the East Coast to study at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. During that time, he also lived, worked, and studied abroad in Italy and Germany.
“I’ve always enjoyed the company of good friends, the outdoors, traveling, and studying foreign languages,” said Hertzog, the son of Terri Hertzog Wiederholt and the late Reginald Hertzog.
Following his faith
After college, Hertzog joined a company where he had the opportunity to work in financial controlling and human resources in various European countries. Things were going well, but Hertzog felt that God had a different plan for his life.
“It was at this point, for the first time, that I began to own my faith,” Hertzog said, explaining that he wanted to live a life totally consecrated to God to thank Him for everything he has done.
To see if priesthood was the path he should pursue, Hertzog joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Bolivia, South America to work with the poor.
“My two and a half years with the Peace Corps lived up to its motto, ‘The toughest job you’ll ever love,’” Hertzog said. “My desire to become a priest was cemented, and with the help of a spiritual director I met the Order of Preachers, commonly known as the Dominicans, after our founder, St. Dominic.”
After being accepted into the Order, Hertzog received a religious name (Joseph-Mary), and made vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Dominican friar (brother). He was ordained as a priest in May 2014.
Trained in truth
As a priest, Hertzog said he is trained to look for truth in everything.
“You might say that a Dominican is trained to recognize and to be on the lookout for whatever is true, whatever is good, and whatever is beautiful, to know why it is so and to draw others to it,” he said. “This has given me a freedom and confidence that I had never known before.”
An important element of being a Dominican is serving others. Each summer, the brothers are assigned to different parts of the northeastern US to work in parishes, colleges, hospitals, soup kitchens, prisons, and many other settings.
“This past summer, I worked with our brothers in Cúcuta, Colombia,” Hertzog noted. “All the amazing people I have met has truly been a blessing.”
After he finishes his teaching degree in theology later this year, Hertzog will be assigned to one of the Dominican’s ministerial commitments.
“We have a mission in Kenya, Africa and I have volunteered to go, but our vow of obedience means we go wherever we are sent,” Hertzog said. “Whatever God has planned for me in my future, I trust that it will be better than anything I would have chosen for myself. God is never outdone in generosity.”