With the enthusiasm of a high school football season’s last touchdown, Catholic High students jumped up, hollering, hands furiously clapping for their fellow classmate Aubrey Volpert.
For Volpert, it was more than a quarterback moment — it was the first step in his journey to the priesthood. The 17-year-old senior at Catholic High School in Little Rock signed a letter of intent to join the diocese’s House of Formation as a seminarian in the fall and will take classes from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and St. Gregory University in Shawnee, Okla.
“Real faith is not just something you believe, it requires commitment; and that is what I am doing here today,” Volpert said during his signing May 9. “Throughout these past four years, I’ve been blinded by the everyday distractions of life. With faith, I have answered Jesus’ call with a ‘Yes.’ And slowly but surely, Jesus led me to CYM, he led me to Catholic High and he has led me to become a seminarian.”
Signing day, which began at the school in 2009, mirrors a student athlete signing on to play for a college team. Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, vocations director Msgr. Scott Friend, priests, deacons and seminarians were there to support Volpert, along with the entire school.
Bishop Taylor pointed to Servant of God Father Stanley Rother, the Oklahoma-born priest who was martyred in 1981 in Guatemala and will be beatified Sept. 23, as a spiritual model. The bishop explained how Father Rother’s life was mapped out for him — his family thought he’d become a farmer.
“He noticed the Lord moving in his heart. He was tempted to run, but he didn’t. He went where the Lord led him. And that’s true for any vocations story,” Bishop Taylor said.
Volpert is the son of Alex and Zana, with siblings Brittany, 31, and Alexzandra, 12, a sixth-grade student at Immaculate Conception School in North Little Rock.
The Volperts are members of Immaculate Conception Church and pastor Father John Wakube said Aubrey “is such a serious, dedicated young man … he has the faith.”
Before joining Catholic High halfway through his sophomore year, Volpert was a student at Sylvan Hills High School in Sherwood. His father Alex Volpert said, “There’s no comparison to the atmosphere at Catholic High. It’s a night and day difference.” Volpert said his son “exploded” in his dedication to his Catholic faith.
“I am excited and happy for him. He’s been really involved in volunteering work for years,” his father said. Volpert’s mother added, “I couldn’t be prouder. I feel blessed to have a son, a child, who’s chosen Christ over anything on this earth.”
Volpert said before enrolling in Catholic High, “My faith wasn’t my own.” He joined Catholic Youth Ministry at Immaculate Conception
“I didn’t realize it then, but that was the first time I truly said, ‘Yes’ to Jesus, and it was the biggest ‘Yes’ I would ever tell him,” Volpert said in his speech of joining CYM.
Volpert is also active in the Search program and a volunteer with Youth Advisory Council activities, both diocesan youth activities.
“What a phenomenal kid. We have really had the opportunity to watch him grow spiritually and watch him mature in his relationship with Christ especially over the last two years,” said Liz Tingquist, director of the diocese’s Catholic Youth Ministry Office. “His love for the Lord and his desire to be a servant is just apparent in the way he treats people and approaches life.”
In 2014 at the Steubenville Youth Conference at Missouri State University, Volpert felt God move his heart. Young men who ever felt called to serve God were invited up to the altar for all the religious to pray over them.
“I look over and I see Brian (Williams’) face was very intense and I saw him stand up,” Volpert said of his friend and 2016 Catholic High graduate. “… I just had a rush of excitement in me, but it was a confusing excitement because I had never felt it before. I was sitting there freaking out; it was all about 10 seconds. I just heard a voice to stand up and go down there with him so I did.”
After the conference, he began meeting with Msgr. Friend as his spiritual director.
“He’d help me to see God in all things throughout my day. Help me discern God’s voice and the devil’s voice. In doing so it helped me to talk to God more, pray more, understand more what’s going on,” Volpert said.
By the start of junior year, he realized that God was not just calling him to be a youth minster, like he originally wanted to pursue, but a priest.
“I know by following God’s will I’ll only be the happiest I can be.”
As seniors rushed off of the bleachers to congratulate him, it was this kind of support that Volpert said makes Catholic High a special brotherhood.
“It means a lot. It just shows the amount of care and support,” the school gives, Volpert said. “It’s a big deal, at least to me, to see the faces of my brothers here to support me.”
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