II Philosophy

James Freeman, St. John Church, Russellville

Attends the House of Formation in Little Rock

Dear fellow brothers and sisters in Christ,

I first want to thank all of you who have been praying for me on my journey into seminary this past year. Since entering seminary, my call to further explore the life of a priest has ever deepened. During the 2020-2021 school year, I had the opportunity to co-teach a confirmation class with one of my brother seminarians.

This experience reinvigorated my spirit when sharing with these students Christ’s love and forgiveness. In this ministry role I realized how often the students actually taught and showed me my relationship with God and reminded me of moments when I clearly and powerfully felt his love.

They do not know they did this for me, though. Yet, unknowingly, my students helped me to even more deeply cherish the grace God has given to me, as well as realize the parts of me that I need to further seek God’s grace in.

It is not just these moments in the classroom that my vocation calling is increasing and changing me. Living in Little Rock, in an impoverished and underprivileged neighborhood, I have seen much in terms of homeless persons and those who feel forgotten. In moments I’m at the gas station, in a store parking lot, or walking on the sidewalks I get to often see these people.

I have the choice to walk by them or acknowledge them. These moments can be difficult as oftentimes I can tell they want to ask for money or food. Using right judgment, I help when I can. I have learned, though, that oftentimes these people are really just yearning and seeking love, care and compassion. I was surprised many times this past semester when these people (for whatever reason living on the streets) would only ask for spare change or $1.

If I told them I didn't have spare change, they would ask if I could instead get them a bottle of water, a bag of chips or a granola bar. I would always see a flicker of disgust in their eyes from having to ask me for something that many of us consider commonplace, not a luxury. These weary souls have been forced to humble themselves into begging. I will never forget the pain and despair in some of their eyes.

When I would meet them again, leaving the store or gas station, the gratefulness they expressed made me appalled at my own categorizations of “needs.” So often I have taken for granted having clothes that are warm, a bed to sleep in and food to eat. These people have helped me to see how blessed I truly am, not just for having all my material needs taken care of but also for having people who love me and care about me.

I would always try to stand or sit with these people I met. In talking with them, I realized how much they just wanted someone to listen to them, to see them, to acknowledge them as human beings. They would often tell me how they ended up on the streets. Yes, there were some who made wrong choices, lost money, lost jobs, lost family and lost their identity all because of addictions they struggled with.

There were others who seemed to have never had a chance, while some were on the streets out of no control they had (laid off, house repossessed, house burned down, rent increased, repair bills too high, etc.) Yet, common among all these people was a lack of hope; a lack of feeling that there was someone else who believed in them.

This is where I have felt so clearly, a special calling of me. I feel Christ challenging me to not only love these people myself but to try and help them see that there is someone even greater than I or 100 others, that loves them.

Christ is challenging me to live a life that points others to him and leads them to the altar: the banquet table that will give them food unlike any they are begging for on the streets. The homeless are so often not just without a house to live in, but also homeless in the expression of having no place they feel loved or wanted. Our churches are and can be a home for them.

Through my interactions with these people, I see how God is further calling me deeper into love of him, as well as how he’s calling me in a special way to serve not only the youth in schools and the homeless on the street but all of God’s people. Moving forward, in this calling, I ask you to pray for me to become more humble like the homeless, more open to learning about myself and God like my students, and to be a mirror that reflects the love of Christ to all I meet.

Please pray that I open myself further to the grace and will of our God. As I study in school and pray, I hope to see values and principles I can put into practice, so that I can further build his kingdom with you all.

I hope all of you know my great appreciation for your support. Thank you for your prayers. Throughout my second year in seminary, I hope to unite my sacrifices and prayers with yours, so that God and his love may be seen as accessible and acceptable by all. I hope for all people of the Diocese of Little Rock to have good health, as I send my love!

James Wyatt Freeman
Seminarian in the Catholic Diocese of Little Rock

If you wish to contact James Freeman, please e-mail Georgina Pena in the Vocations Office or call her at (501) 664-0340. This article was published Oct. 11, 2021. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.