Deacon Martin Siebold will always be a North Little Rock kid at heart, but as he approaches ordination he wants his vocation to benefit the entire diocese. Which is only fair, considering everywhere he’s been in Arkansas people have helped prepare him to do just that.
“There were certain things that had to happen for me to get to seminary, certain people that were in my life that I was very close to in my home parish (Immaculate Heart of Mary Church),” he said. “This included my family, obviously, the pastors that were there as I was growing up, the different teachers at the school, my youth minister.
“My third summer as a seminarian, I was on the evangelization team and it was a chance for us, every two weeks, to travel to different parishes. I really got to see the face of the people in the diocese. I got to put a name to those faces and I got to create relationships. My perspective of the Church became this much larger understanding of the family that I have supporting me.”
Siebold said the people he met offered more than the rah-rah variety of support; they were a living classroom on what they expected out of their priests. Through them, he said, the concepts learned at St. Meinrad Seminary came into sharper focus.
“I could see, OK, this is what they meant when they said this and this is why they made us do this thing, which previously I thought was redundant or time-consuming or useless,” he said. “It translated very well into the parish lifestyle.”
Most of all, Siebold said filtering his seminary education through everyday interactions helped him refine the kind of priest he ultimately wanted to be.
“In seminary we talk about four pillars of formation — human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral,” he said. “All the pillars interplay with each other, but human formation is key. We have to be able to relate to people and relate what we’ve learned in seminary and translate that into something people can understand.
“‘Being a human’ sounds very strange, but it’s this idea of being rather than doing; being available for the people, being present in their lives, being someone they can talk to. Not necessarily about theology or theological concepts of God, but someone they can just kind of relax around and hang out with and through those interactions, come closer to the Jesus I know.”
Siebold said he chose his prayer card passage of Matthew 9:12-13 as a reminder of the commonality he shares with the people he’s been chosen to serve: “Those who are well do not need a physician but the sick do. Go and learn the meaning of the words. I desire mercy not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
“That passage helps remind me that I’m as much of a sinner and I’m in as much need as the people I’m ministering to. I’m ‘sick’ just like they are and I need God’s mercy just as much as they do. It’s a good reminder that I’m not above them, but that I’m simply there in that place, in that relationship, to help lead them to Christ.”
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