CUYAHOGA FALLS: At age 18, Jared Orndorff opted for culinary school because he didn’t think he was college material.
After he completed his associate degree at the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, he landed a job as a sous chef at the Hilton hotel in Canton. His professional life seemed to be on track. His personal life was going well; he had been dating a wonderful girl for five years.
But something didn’t feel right. Searching for an answer, he began to go to pray — in the wee hours of the morning, after leaving his job — at St. Augustine Church in Barberton. After stopping numerous times, he still hadn’t found an answer.
“I got up and started yelling at the Blessed Sacrament. I said, ‘I’m going to stop coming here, if you don’t tell me what’s wrong with me.’ All of a sudden, my eyes were drawn to a passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions that was written across the wall in the chapel: ‘Thou hast made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until it rests in thee.’
“Not sure what that meant, exactly, I called Uncle Bob, who said I needed to call the vocation’s director in the diocese,” said the now-Rev. Jared P. Orndorff, 34. The Akron native and Archbishop Hoban High School graduate was ordained a priest in 2008 in the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
On Aug. 1, he became pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Cuyahoga Falls, the second oldest parish in the diocese. He replaces the Rev. James Marsick, who now serves as chaplain at The Village of St. Edward in Fairlawn.
The “Uncle Bob” whom Orndorff called was the now-retired Rev. Robert Pfeiffer. He actually is the uncle of one of Orndorff’s close friends, the Rev. Matthew Pfeiffer, a fellow priest and Hoban classmate who serves as parochial vicar (associate pastor) at St. Augustine.
“He called and asked for my uncle’s number,” Matthew Pfeiffer said. “I had no idea what he wanted at that time. But I found myself making the same call to Uncle Bob a few years later — in a large part due to Jared.
“I had thought about being a priest when I was younger, but Jared brought it to the forefront of my mind again when he was in seminary,” Pfeiffer said. “He has a genuine love for Christ, for the church and for her people.
“He will be an energetic pastor. He is one who likes to keep busy. He likes to be doing things and serving people.”
The Rev. Kevin Estabrook, who along with Pfeiffer finished seminary a year after Orndorff, agrees that Orndorff is a “good and holy priest.”
Estabrook serves as parochial vicar at St. Angela Merici in Fairview Park.
“Father Orndorff is very well-disciplined in his prayer life and work ethic, which enables him to pour himself out in priestly service. He is great with children and elderly and everyone in between,” Estabrook said. “What makes him a good priest is his ability to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,’ meaning he can help someone who is struggling with their faith just as much as he can challenge someone who has grown complacent.”
Orndorff grew up in the Kenmore area of Akron and at Immaculate Conception Parish, where the now-retired Rev. Thomas McCann was pastor during his childhood.
“I have been influenced by a lot of good priests, and Sister Dorothy Mattingly, a Dominican, inspired me a lot,” Orndorff said. “I remember, as a child, watching Father McCann and saying, ‘I want to love like that guy.’ I’ve been blessed to have good people in my life who have helped keep me on the right track.”
‘A good pastor’
One of those people is the Rev. Michael B. Smith, pastor at Immaculate Conception, where Orndorff lived during his nine years in seminary. Smith said he is proud of Orndorff and is convinced he will be a good pastor.
“He’s a likable guy. He has an open personality. He’s cheerful. And he’s easy to get along with,” Smith said. “Jared enjoys being a priest and it shows. He’s a smart guy and a homilist who gets right to the point. And he doesn’t hesitate to consult when he needs to. He’s just a charming guy.”
Despite thinking he “wasn’t smart enough to go to college,” in addition to his degree in culinary arts, Orndorff earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy and history at John Carroll University in University Heights and a graduate degree in church history and a master’s of divinity at St. Mary’s Seminary and Graduate School of Theology in Wickliffe.
Before being assigned as pastor at St. Joseph’s, Orndorff served as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Parish in Chardon and St. John Vianney in Mentor.
“I wanted to come back to serve in the Akron area because this is home for me,” Orndorff said. “It’s great to be in a place where I want to be and doing what I love to do: minister to the people.”
Orndorff is still good friends with the girl he was dating before going to seminary. She is now married with two children who call him “Uncle Jared.”
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.