2018 — IV Theology

Dc. Stephen Elser, Christ the King Church, Little Rock

Attends St. Meinrad Seminary, Indiana

Whenever people ask me when I first felt the call to the priesthood, I always think back to the second grade, when I made my first reconciliation and my first holy Communion. These two sacraments, along with the example of the many priests who were and are present in my life, helped to lay the foundation for my vocation.

Of course, even before then, my family was integral in teaching me the basics of the faith and in being open to God's will. As I progressed through grade school, the seed of my vocation began to grow, even if I did not always realize it. Some of the most important people who helped nourish that seed were my teachers at Christ the King School.

When I entered high school, I decided I had my own plans for my life, wanting to study medicine. But, as I progressed through high school I came to realize, through prayer and with the help of many priests and lay people, that God had different plans for me. Thus, at the conclusion of my senior year I became a seminarian for our diocese and I began my journey towards the priesthood at Holy Trinity Seminary.

After two years at Holy Trinity, the diocese asked me if I wanted to pursue further studies in philosophy at the Catholic University of America (CUA). Through much prayer and discernment, I felt that God was calling me to pursue this opportunity. As such, I left Holy Trinity and studied at CUA for three years, earning a licentiate in philosophy.

After graduation, the diocese asked me to attend St. Meinrad Seminary. I could not be happier. It has been such a blessing to be with my fellow seminarians from Arkansas in a place that cares deeply for the formation of our future priests.

As I look back on this year, I have definitely felt much stronger about my vocation to the priesthood. I deeply desire to serve God and his Church through this vocation. One of the most powerful experiences that strengthened my vocation this past year was during my retreat in January.

During this retreat, I came to understand more deeply Christ's love for me and for his Church, and how I must return that love to him by being a bridge between him and his people (to use Pope Benedict XVI's language). 

I could not be where I am today without the people of the diocese. I am grateful for all who have supported me during this journey, from the classroom full of kids to the adults in my summer assignments, to the elderly and shut-ins I have visited to those whom I have never met who still pray for me.

It is because of your prayers and faith that I am excited to one day be a priest for the Diocese of Little Rock. God Bless!

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