St. Mary recently named John Compton the new Director of Adult Faith Formation. His role is to spread the Gospel by developing, implementing, and maintaining faith formation initiatives. He will provide leadership in helping the parish shape its goals and strategies for adult faith formation.
John’s most immediate responsibility is for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program at St. Mary. Besides that, he will be spending time discovering the current ministries and meeting with the volunteers that run them. This will help determine ways to better support the volunteers while enhancing their ministries.
Get to know John better by checking out our interview with him below.
What is your background?
“I grew up in Oak Park as one of eight kids and attended Ascension Catholic Church. I went to college at the University of Illinois at Chicago and got a degree in Mathematics for Secondary Education. Although I started my career as a teacher at Brother Rice High School, I quickly switched to the corporate world becoming a consultant for large companies providing human resources and payroll business systems solutions for 35 years.
“Before taking this current role at St. Mary, I was a Senior Lead Consultant at ADP Payroll Services, where I helped large companies migrate from their legacy system solution to the ADP product offerings. I am currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Theology from the Augustine Institute. My current home parish is St. George in Tinley Park.”
Given your extensive corporate background, how and why did you switch to working for a parish?
I like to say that God hit me over the head with a two-by-four to call me back to the Catholic faith. Although I grew up Catholic and never formally left the church, I had stopped being actively involved. I went to weekly Mass and not much else.
“Then, during one Lent about 20 years ago I felt lost, that I was not becoming the man that God wanted me to be. I wanted for that Lent to be a time of penance with hope of real change for the better. Looking back, I don’t remember whether I gave up chocolates, coffee, or something else but I do remember feeling discouraged that I wasn’t feeling anything different even as Lent was nearing an end.
“When Palm Sunday arrived, in desperation I began to pray fervently; ‘God please help me!’ This is the point where God hit me over the head with a two-by-four. I suddenly heard very clearly God instruct me to go to daily Mass every day during Holy Week. Not having a true love for Mass, my reaction was that this was a just penance. Holy Monday morning arrived and I was not looking forward to going to mass. However, I accepted God’s will for me to go, and from the moment the Mass began, the whole experience was incredibly different from anything I experienced before. From the moment I entered the church, everything felt different. Maybe it was because I saw the simple beauty of the Mass without all the music and extras of Sunday worship.
“During the Consecration, as the priest lifted the bread and said the words ‘This is my body,’ for the first time I saw Christ in the Eucharist and it was powerfully overwhelming. I felt His full mercy and grace come over me. I suddenly realized that Christ died on the cross for my sins and my emotions led me to literally break down and cry. This experience grew all Holy Week, into the Triduum, and all the way through Easter. The whole experience poured forth the Lord’s mercy and grace upon me. It was bittersweet but ultimately it was such a joyful moment that, from then on, I made the decision to attend daily Mass every day.
This inspired me to discern other ways to live out my faith; especially in my family by becoming a better husband and father. Then I began to feel God calling me to something different or more in my work life too. After great discernment, I finally entered the graduate program at the Augustine Institute for a Master’s in Theology. I was convinced that God wanted me to become a high school Theology teacher. Although that didn’t work out, while searching for opportunities I eventually came across this Director of Adult Faith Formation role at St. Mary. During the interview process, seeing the campus and meeting the gifted staff, I felt that I was home. I truly knew this is where God wanted me to be.
“In short, me leaving the corporate world didn’t happen overnight. God had subtly been working in my life for years, and I eventually realized I wanted to make living out my faith a priority. I like to call this my ‘re-version’ to Catholicism.”
How did you reconcile your switch from the corporate to nonprofit sectors financially?
“It’s no secret that parish jobs pay less than corporate jobs, and I struggled with that fact for a long time before making my switch, especially since I valued being a provider for my family. But you just have to put all your trust in Jesus and know that He’ll take care of it. I like to say: ‘God, this is where you want me, so we’ll have to figure it out. I’m giving up all the salary for this ministry, and you will see it through.’”
Has your corporate experience prepared you at all for this faith-centered position?
“In general, God is always working with us. He’s always trying to refine us. I was a client-facing person and enjoyed showing people how to use business systems to make a better life for themselves. My job was to migrate people from a legacy system to a state-of-the-art system. I think of this adult faith position in the same way. Essentially, I’m meeting people in their legacy faith life and taking them to a state-of-the-art faith life. I want to help them walk with Christ, but first I have to learn where they’re at today to guide them toward something better.”
What role has the Catholic faith played in your life?
“Growing up in a Catholic family and the example of my parents laid the foundation for my future faith life and eventual re-version. As an adult, I made two very important promises to God. One was at the altar of Marriage to my wife. The other promise was at the Baptismal font where I promised to be the primary provider of the faith for my kids. As I reflected, I realized these are promises to God and started taking them very seriously. I wanted to be right with God and to attain salvation for myself and my loved ones, so living out my faith became a priority.”
What are some things you hope to accomplish at St. Mary?
“Ultimately, I want God’s will to be done in St. Mary. I strongly believe in the ‘New Evangelization’ set forth by St. Pope John Paul II. It’s not only about going out to convert non-Catholics. Rather, our own Catholic population needs to be renewed. They’ve been baptized but are not growing in the faith. We have to go back to our own communities and make faith the centerpiece of people’s lives. I hope to have programs that will do that at St. Mary. Our whole life is a faith journey—from Baptism, to Marriage, to raising our kids in the faith—and integrating all these steps is my vision here at St. Mary.”
How will you do that specifically?
“Initially, my job focuses on adult faith formation. But my plan is to better integrate it with youth ministry, R.E. and the other faith formation ministries because it’s all one journey. Today’s kids are tomorrow’s adults. We need to reiterate that faith formation is a lifelong process, from childhood to adulthood. The faith should become part of everyday life instead of just being a checkbox of Sacraments.”
Can you talk about your family?
“I’ve been married for 34 years and have three adult children and two grandchildren. I like to think of myself as a regular guy called to holiness. I viewed myself as the primary educator of the faith for my family. When my kids were growing up, we would share the faith with each other by praying the Rosary as a family and reading the Gospel readings for the next Mass. By doing this, I started introducing the idea to my kids that faith was important. Today, my oldest daughter does the same for her kids, so it has come full circle.”
What are your favorite hobbies and spiritual activities?
“I used to have more hobbies, but life got in the way. I really want to get back to them, though. When you stop doing hobbies, it’s a time to reflect because it often means you are too caught up in worldly things. I love outdoor photography, golf, and hiking. My wife and I also enjoyed going to $5 movie nights at Marcus on Tuesdays or other simple date night ideas.
“In my spiritual life, I like to go to Adoration weekly. I also love reading theology books such as The Confessions of St. Augustine, The Story of a Soul by St. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and more. They’re so thought-provoking.”
How was your first week at St. Mary?
“I’m very excited about the ministry but also about the St. Mary culture, and I can feel the awesome energy emanating from everybody here. Father Dindo is fantastic, and it’s great to know he always has an open door. Everything feels great! I really do think I am home!”