Joseph Block’s first assignment after graduating from West Point was at an Army base in Hawaii. He described his life at the time as enjoyable but lacking in virtue. However, Joe said he had no idea that God was about to start working in his life and change it forever. He says God’s grace broke down his walls and prepared him for a spiritual journey centered on the study of Scripture.
Joe explains that he first felt God’s call to enter into a relationship with Him when he was stationed at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii in 2008. He said one day when he was tired of the beach, he randomly picked up a book his father had given him about Solanus Casey, a priest known for his humility and generous love for and service toward God and neighbor. Joe says this holy man’s story impelled him to turn toward God’s love, and that the Holy Spirit then rushed into his life.
Joe says the next few years were a whirlwind of change and growth for him. His faith developed as a few Catholics took him under their wings, introduced him to daily Mass and adoration, and asked him to help with Youth Group activities. Soon, Joe said he began discerning the priesthood and entered the Mundelein Seminary in 2010 after serving as an Army Officer for three years. However, after two years of pre-theology instruction, he realized he was called to marriage. After some more discernment, Joe says he also realized that despite his engineering degree, he would not be satisfied doing anything except serving God directly in his Church, like Solanus Casey.
Following this realization, Joe says he began searching for a deeply Catholic Masters’ Program that would prepare him for teaching religion or working in faith formation. He explains that he was specifically craving a program that would emphasize Scripture, saying, “As a former seminarian, I had been absolutely intrigued by Scripture and found it to be very ‘life giving’ in my spiritual life.” He says JPCatholic’s online MA in Biblical Theology program struck him because it both emphasized Biblical Theology and would allow him to get his MA while working full-time in the Army. The best part, Joe explains, was that JPCatholic truly prioritized its online program, which made him confident that he would still get a great education, even while off-campus.
Through the JPCatholic program, Joe says he learned how to read and study Scripture. He describes this time as “The beginning of a ‘love affair’ of sorts with the Word of God.” Joe says one of the highlights of the MA program was studying Scripture in the light of Sacred Tradition guided by the Catholic Church’s Magisterium. Another highlight, he says, was that the professors emphasized holiness in tandem with academic scholarship, reminding the students to do theology on their knees. Joe says his professors, Dr. Barber and Dr. Kincaid, were knowledgeable, competent, and humble and Jackie Wakelin, the director of the program, kept everything well-organized, which allowed him to get the most out of the online program.
Joe looks back upon his studies as a very formative time, both spiritually and personally. He says that the MA program at JPCatholic made him a better Christian, husband, and father by deepening his spiritual life and faith in God. Joe says the program also gave him the tools to confidently teach adults and children the Catholic Faith as a faith formation minister at St. John’s Church of Little Canada in Minnesota, where he now lives with his new wife and son. In conclusion, Joe says he’s deeply grateful for the program because it “bore copious fruit within my mind, heart, and soul.”