Deacon Alex Jones Jr., who led dozens of his former congregants into Catholic Church, dies at 75

Deacon Alex Jones Jr. (Courtesy of AlexJonesMinistries.com)

DETROIT — Deacon Alex Jones Jr., the former Pentecostal preacher whose dramatic conversion in the late 1990s led dozens of his Detroit-based congregation into the Catholic Church, died Jan. 14 at the age of 75.

Described by some as a “giant in evangelization,” Deacon Jones spent the better part of 25 years as a preacher and pastor of two prominent Detroit churches, Zion Congregational Church of Christ (1975-82) and Maranatha Christian Church (1982-2000), before discovering a calling to the Catholic Church while studying Scripture and Church history.

While reading the Church fathers in preparation for a Bible study in March 1998, Deacon Jones made a startling discovery: that the Church of the ancient Christians was less like the one he was leading and more like something resembling a Church he’d never expected — namely, one that was “charismatic/liturgical, hierarchical, and Eucharistic-centered.”

In other words, more Catholic.

“In light of that discovery, (my wife) Donna and I began a two-year journey into the Catholic Church that culminated in 54 members of my previous congregation, including 14 members of my family, entering the Catholic Church,” Deacon Jones wrote on his website, alexjonesministries.com.

That journey ended — or rather, began — with his confirmation and first Communion on April 14, 2001, during the Easter Vigil at St. Suzanne Parish in Detroit.

Steve Ray, an Ann Arbor-based Catholic apologist and Ave Maria Radio (990-AM WDEO) personality, was among the first to welcome the new convert.

In an online remembrance, Ray, a convert to the Church himself, recalled receiving a call out of the blue from a man thirsting to know more about the apostolic Church and its history.

“I ended up meeting Alex Jones by phone that night. We had lunch together on the following Wednesday,” Ray wrote. “He had heard that I had converted from Evangelical Protestantism to the Catholic Church. He said he didn’t know anyone else who had done that and wanted to talk with me.”

That phone call led to several months of lunch meetings at a local Big Boy, Ray said, in which Deacon Jones “peppered me with questions” about the Church.

“He had a love for the truth and a dedication to follow the truth no matter what,” Ray wrote. “That is why his book is entitled No Price Too High, and he did pay a big price to become Catholic.”

While that price included ostracization from friends, family and his former congregants, Deacon Jones wrote in his 2006 autobiography, it also included the great grace of leading many souls into the fullness of the faith.

Though his wife’s journey didn’t always match his, she eventually followed him into the Church, along with many of his own flock, influenced by the faith and courage of the man they trusted as their shepherd.

“It was so overpowering, but I think the most overpowering part of it was the first step,” Deacon Jones said later about his 2001 reception into the Catholic Church. “I had my granddaughter in my hand and my wife in my other hand, and to come before God and His Church as a family, it was just overpowering.”

Almost immediately after what he called “one of the greatest moments of my life,” Deacon Jones felt another calling: to continue on the path of ministry through service at the altar as a deacon.

After several years of preparation and study at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Deacon Jones was ordained Oct. 1, 2005, by Cardinal Adam J. Maida, and assigned as a permanent deacon to the parish that had first accepted him as a new Catholic: St. Suzanne/Our Lady Gate of Heaven Parish, as well as the neighboring parishes of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Mary of Redford (2005-10).

Recognizing his passion for evangelization, Cardinal Maida also assigned the new deacon as a coordinator in the archdiocesan evangelization office, a position he held for three years before retiring in 2007.

In 2010, Deacon Jones was asked to accept a role as pastoral associate at SS. Peter and Paul (Westside) Parish in Detroit, where he helped in the administration of the parish and in leading RCIA programs, in addition to his responsibilities as a deacon at St. Suzanne/Our Lady Gate of Heaven. He retired from both roles in 2013.

Since his conversion, Deacon Jones had been active as a sought-after speaker at missions, conferences and retreats across the U.S. and the world, speaking in places as far away as Africa and southeast Asia. He was a frequent radio guest and lecturer.

Born Sept. 19, 1941, Deacon Jones graduated from Wayne State University in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in art education and taught in Detroit Public Schools for 28 years.

Deacon Jones will lie in repose on Saturday, Jan. 21, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, 9844 Woodward Ave., Detroit, from 10 a.m. until the celebration of his funeral Mass at 11 a.m.

Deacon Jones is survived by his wife, Donna C. Jones; his sons, Joseph A. (Bianca) Jones, Sr., Benjamin C. (Tamela) Jones, and Marc (Caletha) Jones; his sister, Gwendolyn Stewart; 12 grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his parents, and by his brother, Harold Hamilton.

Condolences may be sent to Joseph Jones, Sr., c/o St. Augustine & St. Monica Parish, 4151 Seminole, Detroit 48214.