Pastoral Year

Duwan Booker, St. Bartholomew Church, Little Rock

Attends Saint Meinrad Seminary in St. Meinrad, Indiana

I have always known that the Lord was calling me to a deep relationship with himself ever since I was a young child. I was exposed to the fruits of living in communion with God in contrast with the world's ways. I knew that, above all, if I made the conscious effort to remain faithful to Christ, He would remain faithful to me and shower me with the grace I needed to abide in him.

My biological father was incarcerated when I was at a very young age. I saw my mom and grandmother's sacrifices to protect and provide for my siblings and me. Their sacrifices enabled me to develop an interior disposition towards being in a better position to provide for my future family than my father was for my siblings and me.

Thankfully, the Lord gave me an outstanding example of Christian fatherhood in the instance of my stepdad. His example of hard work and dedication to his family, coupled with the tender love and care of my mom and grandmother, fostered the desire in my heart to be the best I could be in all that I endeavored.

My family primarily practices the Christian faith in the Baptist church. Furthermore, growing up, there were practically only two rules in my grandmother's house: We went to church on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. She instilled the faith in me that I still carry to this day. She taught me that, above all, we must strive to love and serve the Lord in all that we do.

Toward the end of high school, I received the opportunity to play football at Hendrix College in Conway. At Hendrix, I experienced a freedom that I had not previously enjoyed. Consequently, my faith waned as I became more interested in the partying culture and its lifestyle.

Several months later, a friend invited me to a student-led worship service held on the campus of UCA (University of Central Arkansas). There, I realized that both my life and my relationship with Christ were far from the faith I verbally proclaimed.

So, I re-dedicated my life to Christ and eagerly searched for a church in Conway that most resembled the one I grew up attending with my grandmother. After many Sundays, my search finally led me to Zion Temple Church of God in Christ, a Pentecostal church.

I started to experience the love and presence of God profoundly and was reminded of my childhood call to abide in him. I knew God was calling me to preach, and I felt most comfortable in the Pentecostal church. I made up my mind that I would become a Pentecostal preacher.

The following summer, a Catholic teammate and I attended a nine-week evangelical program that aimed to empower college students to live and proclaim the Gospel of Christ. I tried everything to convert my friend to Protestantism, for I thought Catholicism was not true Christianity, and he required salvation. We started studying Catholic philosophy, theology and Church history together.

In direly desiring truth, we finally believe we have found it. During Easter 2018, I said yes to God's call to enter his Church. I now realize that becoming Catholic was the best decision of my life.

Although the Church contrasts with many of my experiences as a kid and young adult, I believe it is the fullness of all I have ever hoped for in Christ. One day, while in the midst of prayer and study, the Lord reminded me that his call for me to shepherd his flock remained.

I believe that the words of C.S. Lewis profoundly embody my road to the Church: "When we want to be something other than (what) God wants us to be, we must be wanting what, in fact, will not make us happy." I can attest that through the gift of the Church and my vocation, Christ has transformed my heart and has given me great satisfaction in living my life as his priest.

I am the happiest that I have ever been. I am affirmed each day by the Lord that this is the life he has called me to live. He has given me every grace necessary to excel and grow more in likeness to him.

After completing my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) in Little Rock, I began my pastoral year at the Cathedral of St. Andrew, which is a remarkable community comprised of outstanding men and women. I am learning insightful lessons offering invaluable experience in parish ministry.

Please be assured of my prayers for the people of our diocese each day. With the combination of God's grace and your prayers, I am confident I will continue to grow in faith, holiness and charity as ordination quickly approaches. Thank you all for your support in enabling me to hear God's voice and to do his will.