Letters from Seminary: Hebert

My heart moved in seminary formation, not in med school

Published: July 29, 2017

By Deacon Jeff Hebert
Diocesan Seminarian

The Lord spoke through the prophet Jeremiah, “I will give you shepherds after my own heart.” These words lie at the root of seminary formation.

Through five years of that formation, I have come closer to understanding the depth of the Lord’s words. Jesus has a divinely human heart. His heart is moved at the sight of the poor and the sinner. He does not ignore his heart’s movements.

He grows angry and shows it. He feels compassion for his people. He even weeps. He allows his heart to speak amidst human suffering even while he acts to redeem it. Jesus’ sacred heart moves freely.

Seminary forms our hearts to move like Christ’s. As this is my first "Letter from Seminary," I thought I would share a bit about how my heart was moving when I first answered the Lord’s call. Several years ago, I was studying medicine at University of Arkansas Medical School in Little Rock, and I had not been allowing my heart to say very much.

During an ice storm that shut down most of the city, the Lord spoke up in my heart’s place. He called me to adoration that night where he began to strengthen my heart’s voice. I soon wanted to do more for the Church than just “showing up” for Mass.

I decided that serving my parish as a Sunday school teacher was the “more” I could do. Surprisingly, my heart began to change. As I put more of my energy and care into teaching the class, the more free, faithful and joyful my heart became. Not only did I want to share the Gospel with the young people in my parish, the Cathedral of St. Andrew, I wanted to share it with everyone.

As I began to discern a calling to the priesthood, our vocations director, Msgr. Scott Friend, asked me to pray with Matthew 14:14. Here, Jesus looks at the vast crowd before feeding all 5,000 of them. “His heart was moved with pity for them and he cured their sick.”

That night, the Lord called me to adoration again. In prayer, Christ spoke to my heart and asked me to follow him in his priesthood. Jesus asked me to bring him whatever was in my heart, and he would make it sufficient to feed his people. By his grace I said yes, withdrew from medical school and have been trying to give my heart ever since.

It has been five years since that day. I spent the first two years learning philosophy, virtue and the grace of hospitality from the Benedictines at St. Meinrad Seminary. Then I followed Christ across the Atlantic to the North American College in Rome.

From there I will continue to write to you in the future. Now, I am serving for the summer as a transitional deacon at St. Joseph in Conway. There is no better place for a heart to be formed than within the heart of a parish. It is a seminary unto itself.

From the joys of baptism to the mourning of burial, the Lord’s heart moves in tandem with the people of God. There, in those moments of the parish, he heals all of our wounded hearts, and he makes them to share in his divine joy. It is still the summer, but my seminary formation continues through the hearts of God’s people.

Deacon Jeff Hebert is a seminarian for the Diocese of Little Rock, studying at the North American College in Rome. He is scheduled to be ordained a priest in May 2018.