Rev. Richard Jasper: “Be one with”

By Rev. Richard Jasper
November 17, 2023

Rev. Richard Jasper at Saint John The Beloved Parish in Wilmington Delaware. Photo courtesy of Rev. Richard Jasper.
Rev. Richard Jasper at Saint John The Beloved Parish in Wilmington Delaware. Photo courtesy of Rev. Richard Jasper.

On the Top 40 radio stations and local TV commercial breaks of the early 1990s, the perky cheerleader voice repeatedly sang, “At Cabrini College you can stand out from the crowd. Cabrini – Stand out.” Looking back on it, it was a cheesy advertising slogan that ultimately had its desired effect: once it became an ear worm, it wouldn’t let go of the listener.  

The only problem was, I didn’t stand out here.

Like most college students of Generation X trying to find their way, their identity, and their passion, I was one who didn’t make waves on campus. I showed up for class, I occasionally attended campus activities (I was a commuter student), and I was the copy editor for the Loquitur in the final two years before my graduation.

I may have met the college president in passing once, and I can’t honestly say if I ever stepped inside the Mansion. Ever.

But there’s something to be said about that, too, something that gets at the heart of the mission of Mother Cabrini and the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart: the mission to be one with.”

Finding my mantra

Rev. Jasper pictured with fellow class of 1996 Cabrini alumni Valerie Mackner Collins (L) and Edith Lamberti (R). Photo courtesy of Rev. Rich Jasper.

Time and again, that theme would arise: in Dr. McGuinness’ course on Heroes of Christian Conscience, in the conferences of servant-leadership held on Founder’s Day, and in the retreat reflections offered on road trips to West Virginia with Project Appalachia: “Be One With.”  That focus on faith and social justice – on being the voice for the voiceless and seeing the ones that no one else takes the time to notice – stirred something in me that left a profound impact on where the journey of life led me. I have no doubt that the seeds of my vocation as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church were nurtured and watered on this very campus for the four years I didn’t stand out here.

Funny, isn’t it? By not standing out from the crowd, I found who I really am.Perhaps, then, this is the lasting legacy of Cabrini University that I will carry with me: when we aren’t afraid to reach out to others in mercy and compassion, we find both the way to God and the person each of us is called to be. By being “one with,” we discover the real blessing and gift of grace in action.

The influence of Mother Cabrini

I’ve been reading much about Mother Cabrini’s life ever since I heard of the university’s final days; I am sorry to admit that I never took the time to learn more about her while I was a student here.  What I am discovering now, though, is this incredible boldness of spirit and heart coming from a woman who wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty in countries and cities she was unfamiliar with. She was a woman who would only take “no” for an answer if it came from God’s Providence, and a woman who knew that to help build a kingdom of justice here on Earth, she had to include others in that very mission.Mother Cabrini never made the journey about her. She never wanted to stand out from the crowd.  Rather, she helped the crowd stand up in order to find healing, hope and light. 

Rev. Jasper pictured with his family after his first mass at Saint Mary Magdalen Church in Wilmington Delaware. Photo courtesy of Rev. Rich Jasper.

I have been a priest now in the Diocese of Wilmington, Del. for almost seven years, after spending 12 years as a teacher of middle school students in Delaware County, Pa. I hope in my own Cabrini-inspired way that I instilled in future generations and current parishioners the passion for living the Gospel in the way Mother Cabrini herself did: serving the least, feeding the hungry in the variety of ways it manifests itself, helping the lost and lonely know respect and love.

A mission of love

For truly, I can think of no greater call: to remind the world that the mission and message of Jesus Christ is one of sacrifice and of laying down one’s life for others. It is a mission of loving others, no matter who they are and no matter how they enter our lives. It is a love that says, “I see you and I will walk with you in mercy and compassion, no exceptions.”

It’s not about standing out, after all. It’s about entering into the human heart with the Heart of Christ. That’s the legacy of Cabrini University. I have no doubt Mother Cabrini and Mother Ursula would be pleased knowing we poured out our lives here in service to that mission since its founding in 1957 – by being “one with.”


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Rev. Richard Jasper

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