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Bishop ordains North Little Rock man a transitional deacon

Family knew Higginbotham was destined for vocation because of his 'compassionate heart'

Published: May 25, 2017   
Aprille Hanson
Deacon Keith Higginbotham and Bishop Anthony B. Taylor hold up the Eucharist and sing the doxology, along with vocations director Msgr. Scott Friend (center) during Higginbotham’s diaconate ordination Mass.

When people would ask Keith Higginbotham a few years ago how he felt about following the road to priesthood, the answer was simple — “I’m pretty sure I’m going to be a priest, but I’m not ready yet.”

On May 18, the day of his diaconate ordination at St. Anne Church in North Little Rock, he was ready.

“I’m ready to be able to start the work. I’m really excited to start to be able to give blessings. That will be really cool,” he told Arkansas Catholic ahead of his ordination Mass. “It’s kind of shocking that I can say, ‘Yeah, I’m ready.’”

Higginbotham, 25, was surrounded by his brother seminarians, priests, deacons and family and friends in the parish he attended since junior high school.

“You’ve responded generously to the Lord’s call to a life marked by prayer and devotion,” Bishop Taylor said in his homily. “ … To a life in which you foster the sacramental life of the people entrusted to your care. You are a man of the Church and I’m confident that through you and through your ministry, many people will encounter the mercy and love of our savior Jesus Christ.”

Higginbotham, a North Little Rock native, has been surrounded by the faith since birth. He attended daycare with the nuns at St. Joseph Orphanage in North Little Rock and attended St. Mary church and school. His mother Sherry is Catholic, and his father Ralph, who had grown up Baptist, converted in 2012.

“It means a lot to me, he’s worked a long time for this. It makes him very happy,” his mother said, with his older sister Samantha adding that she and her friends knew he’d be a priest when he was just 5 years old because of “his actions, faithfulness to church and his kind, compassionate heart.” 

Higginbotham was always “active and inquisitive” about his faith, but it grew more when the family transferred to St. Anne Church for the Catholic Youth Ministry program. But it wasn’t until his junior year at Catholic High School that he began really thinking about his future.

“I knew I loved people. I wanted to do something that I could take care of people,” Higginbotham said, adding he considered psychology or psychiatry, but he felt that career path was “too science-oriented. A little rigid.”

“I wanted to be more available to people. From there I started looking at priesthood. At the time I thought of the priesthood as a free counselor, psychologist with a religious” connotation.

“A lot of guys come into seminary on fire loving God. I kind of came in loving people and learned to love God from there,” he said, joining the seminary after his 2010 graduation from Catholic High.

Higginbotham is studying at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and said part of his formation has been learning to combine both his heart for comforting people and being a spiritual servant.

“One of the things you learn in seminary is a priest is someone who offers the sacraments and offers grace and brings people to God and that’s ultimately what’s best for people,” he said.

As a deacon, he’s excited to be able to give blessings.

“There’s something special about sanctifying things in the world; connecting my faith with the physical, tangible things in the world with a blessing,” he said.

After completing his clinical pastoral education last summer, he has found a heart for hospital ministry, being “present with people at all the different parts of their lives.”

“I really trust the bishop to send me where I’m needed,” Higginbotham said. “I think that would be the best and better than anything I can design or come up with for my future.”

This summer he will serve at Immaculate Conception Church in North Little Rock.

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