JONESBORO — In the journey to priesthood, Stephen Gadberry has learned to enjoy living 100 percent in the present moment. It has been his favorite part of the journey.
“I have to find Christ in whatever I am doing,” Gadberry said during an e-mail interview from the North American College in Rome. “Good times and bad. For better or for worse. Whether I am interacting with a beggar in the streets of Rome or reading a book in my room. Whether I am washing dishes in the kitchen or talking with Pope Francis.
“Whether I am on cloud nine or in a tough and spiritually dry time of life, I have to recognize that Christ is with me. I cannot escape reality,” he added. “We encounter Christ only in reality. It is very easy to dwell on the past or be preoccupied with the future.”
The past and future cannot be controlled nor should be worried about, which Gadberry said he has since learned to recognize along with the fact that “everything begins with God and it ends with God.”
“What matters is that I spend that time in the middle with God,” he said. “It is hard to perfectly live in the present moment, but it’s possible. The perfectly live in the present moment is called sanctity … and sure ain’t no saint. Ask my family. That’s the whole journey aspect. That’s what makes life fun and worth living.”
Before seminary, Gadberry attended East Arkansas Community College in Forrest City for one year and then served three years in the U.S. Air Force in Texas, Germany and Iraq. He also “rode my bicycle and played a lot outside.”
It was not a single item that led to his journey to priesthood, but he said a combination of “a personal encounter with and invitation from Christ, being brought up in the Church, the examples of simple, holy priest(s) who loved their flock, the encouragement of family and friends, and the faithful parishioners of my home parish and those I met in the military.
“I have taken many classes in philosophy, theology, spirituality, history and psychology, through which I have learned a lot about Christ, myself and humanity,” Gadberry said. “I have learned and experienced how involved Christ is with all aspects of our lives, the effects of the incarnation.
“Through these years of study, I have spent an equally large amount of time in personal prayer, daily Mass, confession every two weeks and a daily holy hour have been essential in my preparation for priesthood,” he added. “Of course, playing the harmonica every day helps too.”
Gadberry is now looking forward to his assignment at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Rogers. He said he is ready for daily interactions with the faithful, celebrating the sacraments, finding and welcoming back people who have left the Church, sharing what he has learned through his years of seminary formation as well as exploring northwest Arkansas — it will be his first extended period of time in that part of the state.
He is also looking forward to telling people about “my best friend, Jesus Christ.”
“Christ is real. If you don’t believe me, ask him yourself. … but wait patiently and listen for an answer,” he added. “As Pope Benedict XVI put it, Christ is not an idea, but a person and ‘(one) can confide in him and speak to him: he hears and sees and loves. Although he is not within time, he has time: even for me.’ He has time for you, too.”
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