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2018 — IV Theology

Dc. Jeff Hebert, Cathedral of St. Andrew, Little Rock

Attends Pontifical North American College, Rome

Several years ago, I was studying medicine at University of Arkansas Medical School (UAMS) in Little Rock. The men and women with whom I was studying have graduated and are continuing their medical training all over the country. They have just finished their intern year ... but me? I have just finished my second year of theological studies in Rome.

During medical school, I wanted to do more for the Church than just “showing up” for Mass. I decided that serving my parish as a 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 I became. Not only did I want to share the Gospel with the young people in my parish, I wanted to share it with everyone.

One evening, while adoring the Eucharist, Christ spoke to my heart and asked me to follow him in his priesthood. By his grace I said yes, withdrew from medical school, and have been trying to follow him ever since.

It has been four 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.

The first year challenged me constantly as I tried to adapt to life, prayer and studies in a new culture and new language, and he taught me the joy that comes with his faithful presence. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

Christ has taught me more and more that his is a joy that must be shared. I have encountered that joyful presence in the many pilgrims here in Rome. Once a week, I go to St. Peter’s Square to share Christ with the many pilgrims and tourists who pass through that place.

Millions of people come to the tomb of St. Peter for all sorts of reasons. On one occasion, a Russian woman pointing at St. Peter’s Basilica asked me, “What is inside that building?” She had heard about Jesus, but she knew nothing about him and certainly nothing about St. Peter. All I could say was, “Have I got a story to tell you!” There, in the shadow of St. Peter’s tomb, I shared the Gospel of Christ with a woman I just met.

Christ has also been present in the many letters, prayers and visits that Stephen Gadberry (now Father Stephen), Martin Amaro and I have received from the people of our diocese. You can hear all sorts of languages spoken here in Rome, but there are none quite as comforting as hearing a good Arkansan “y’all” among the buzzing pilgrims or seeing “AR” on a piece of mail.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. Rome is a beautiful and holy place, but Arkansas is still the Lord’s favorite part of the vineyard. I can’t wait to get back there to serve and to cultivate it.

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