Living the Story: Father Jaime Zarse enters role of pastor for Sabetha, Fidelity, Wetmore churches
“This is where faith becomes real.”
Among other messages, this stood out to Father Jaime Zarse as he learned he would be taking on his first assignment as pastor of a parish.
Growing up in cities his entire life, Zarse said he was accustomed only to the “rat race” of city life. In his new assignment as pastor of Sacred Heart in Sabetha, St. Augustine in Fidelity and St. James in Wetmore, Zarse is excited to “learn beautiful things from the people here,” such as how to be truly present and how to lay down deep roots.
Sacred Heart Parish is only Zarse’s second assignment, and his first as pastor. He comes here from Topeka where he was serving as parochial vicar at Christ the King Catholic Church; chaplain at Hayden High School; and chaplain at Topeka Correctional Facility, a maximum security prison for women.
“I feel like my life is a story someone else is writing, and that someone is Jesus,” Zarse said. “I am looking forward to what Jesus wants to teach me in this chapter.”
In his free time, Zarse enjoys spending quality time with friends, reading, hiking and exercising. He can often be found exercising downtown, running through the streets of town, or biking to and from Bern and “praying the whole way.”
Zarse is looking forward to attending school and community events in his parish communities, and hopes you will stop and talk to him if you see him.
Zarse is the oldest of five children, and his family moved all over the country when he was growing up — nine times before he was in high school, and as far away as New Milford, Conn. — though they settled in the Kansas City area in his high school years, and his parents still reside there.
Growing up, becoming a priest was never what Zarse had in mind.
“I was crazy about sports, crazy about girls,” Zarse said. “Becoming a priest was never something that entered my mind.”
Zarse graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in 2005, and went on to study and play soccer at Marquette University in Wisconsin for two years.
But when he was 21 years old, his whole world turned upside down — or as he now sees it, rightside up.
“When I was 21 years old, within seven days my college soccer coach told me that I was no longer wanted on the team, and the girl of my dreams ended our relationship,” Zarse said. “I see it now as God’s plan for my life.”
At that time, he made the hard decision to transfer to the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he encountered and grew close to a number of young Catholics who were practicing their faith — which he had not been doing for the past few years — and who brought out the best in him.
After a year at UMKC, Zarse felt called to look deeper into a possibility of priesthood. He then entered the seminary at Conception Seminary College near Maryville, Mo. Once at seminary, Zarse said, his path became clear and he knew becoming a priest was what he was meant to do all along. He was ordained a priest in 2014.
Zarse said his favorite aspects of being a priest are celebrating Mass, hearing confessions and engaging youth.
As a Catholic who had “fallen away” for a few years, Zarse said, the Mass and confession were both paramount in his life as he came back and grew strong in the faith.
In the Mass, he loves celebrating Christ’s presence in the Eucharist. In confession, he loves sharing the gospel in personal ways to each penitent in a way that is personal to his or her needs.
Zarse also loves connecting with young people, engaging them and walking beside them as they grow in faith.
“I want to light fires in our young people,” Zarse said.
Zarse shared three Bible verses that have proved most meaningful to him.
Psalm 23: “The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; My cup overflows. Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life, And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
2 Corinthians 12:9: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”