By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
CORSICANA — Father Jason Cargo complimented third-graders on the quality of their questions during one of his recent visits to James L. Collins Catholic School.
Students peppered him with questions about the priesthood, including whether he occasionally became nervous before celebrating Mass.
“Sometimes I get nervous if I’m going to be talking about something really tough,” said Father Cargo, pastor of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Corsicana. “Sometimes I talk about easy things, but sometimes I talk about really tough things.”
He never finds it tough to spend time with James L. Collins’ 170 students, and never leaves a classroom without customizing his blessings for each grade level.
“If I want to be lifted up, all I have to do is walk through the classes or walk through the playground,” Father Cargo said. “It is such a joy to be able to walk in and see how the children just long to be recognized. It’s great to be able at any time to go into classes and talk with the students about whatever.”
Father Cargo’s presence in the school has spurred students’ interest in religious vocations and inspired stimulating classroom discussions, said Renee Ozier, principal of James L. Collins.
Ozier grew acquainted with Father Cargo’s positive influence on students when she taught at St. Monica Catholic School and Father Cargo served in that parish.
She said that he delights the James L. Collins students with his discussions of the Gospels and his cheerful candor.
“He’s a rock star,” Ozier said. “Students say that they want to be priests like Father Jason. We have a number of students who are altar servers and very good candidates that I could see with a priestly vocation.”
She said that Father Cargo participates in school life in many ways.
“He is very involved with students, teachers and the school advisory board,” Ozier said. “He likes to come once a month to our religious faculty meeting. He celebrates a middle-school Mass each Wednesday and an all-school Mass each Friday.”
Kay Mousner said that Father Cargo reversed her daughter Caroline’s attitude toward school.
“When Caroline started at James L. Collins, we had been struggling,” Mousner said. “Caroline was dyslexic and had always hated school. The first day that she met Father Jason was the first time I saw Caroline come out of school with a smile on her face. She said, ‘Mama, God talked to me today.’ I asked her how that happened, and she said, ‘He brought us Father Jason.’ ”
Caroline, now a sixth-grader, said that Father Cargo inspired her to enter the Catholic faith, which her mother also did.
“He changed my life,” Caroline said. “He put Jesus in my life.”
Students wanted to know all sorts of things as Father Cargo moved among the classrooms on a recent morning.
“What inspired you to be a priest?” a sixth-grader asked.
“God did,” Father Cargo said with a smile.
“Are you inspired by Our Lady of Guadalupe?” another student asked.
“I’m inspired by all the different moments when Mary appeared in the world,” Father Cargo said. “Throughout time, God desires that Mary appear in the world to say, ‘Follow my son—Jesus is the real deal.’ ”
He fielded questions about a priest’s vestments for daily and Sunday Mass; the meaning of May Crownings; the nature of miracles, and his cooking preferences.
Some questions required multifaceted answers.
“Is it hard to be a priest?” a second-grader asked.
“That’s a great question,” Father Cargo said. “Sometimes it is really easy—all those times when people are joyful because of what God has done for them. I love it! But there have been times when somebody is in a tragedy and is really hurting, and whenever I see people in pain, it’s hard.”
Eighth-grader Matthew Herrera said that Father Cargo leaves no doubt that he cares deeply about the school.
“It inspires me to know that he cares for us like the shepherd cares for his sheep,” Herrera said. “I feel better throughout the whole day.”