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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Seventeen years ago, I was 20 years old and had just gotten my first restaurant gig. Working full-time in the service industry had never crossed my mind. It was only intended to be a pit stop until I moved on to a bigger, brighter career.
Ultimately, I teamed up with two of my brothers and we opened our own place in Fayetteville. For the past 13 years, I have been one of the owners/operators of Feltner Brothers. In the beginning, I wanted financial success, material rewards, community recognition and the young ladies to take notice.
In the end, these motivations did not satisfy. Where I truly found satisfaction was simply in serving others; in bringing families and friends together for a meal. I found it in giving back to those in the community who were in need. I like to think these years of service will contribute significantly to my formation.
When we started the business, I knew nothing about formation or a vocation. Less than a year after opening our doors, I found myself in prayer and confession at St. Joseph in Fayetteville. During a difficult time, turning to the Lord was the only place I could think to go. I was sad, and my heart ached for someone I loved.
I wanted their suffering to be mine and not their own. I said, “Lord, if it happens to me, I will be your priest.” This offer seemed to come out of nowhere. Surely the Lord was not going to take my prayer seriously, or was he?
Even though I made that prayer, priesthood was not really open for discussion, and I intended to keep it that way. However, the thoughts of being a priest gradually grew. Even so, I continued living my life how I saw fit. I did not want to be a priest.
A few years later, I received that very suffering I had prayed for. Even so, I remained steadfast. I still had no intention of upholding my end of the bargain by becoming a priest. I was confused So, for years, I buried it and moved on.
Eventually, I told someone. I once mentioned it to my mother while enjoying a friend's wedding reception. Only this time, when the words came out, I broke. The tears and emotion flooded my entire being. Even more terrifying, my girlfriend at the time was there to witness it all. I regained my composure, got back to the festivities and assured her the next day it was never going to happen. Buried again.
A few years later, I had had enough. I needed to talk to someone, and I needed a priest. So, I reached out to Father Andrew Hart at my parish. After a couple visits, he informed me it was something I needed to take seriously. This time around, I knew I needed to fully embrace what I was experiencing, so I jumped right in. I took Father Andrew's advice and did everything he encouraged me to do to discern. Everything except go to the seminary.
For the next five years, I locked myself into this battle. All I needed to do was go to the seminary to continue my discernment, but I hesitated and never made a firm decision. That is, until now. My answer is yes, an emphatic yes to the seminary. I am extremely grateful to those who have influenced me, been patient with me and supported me through the uncertainty.
I have spent much of my life trying to be in control. Today, I want to be a priest. I want to give up control, stop denying the call to priesthood and follow Jesus. I want to give him my yes, know him, encounter him and love him more than anything. I want to love and serve the holy Catholic Church and its people. I want to do whatever it is our Lord is asking me to do. Jesus, I trust in you!