Why you want to know Deacon Danny Hartnedy: Hartnedy has been teaching religion to seventh- and eighth-grade students at Christ the King School in Little Rock for about 20 years. From the unique student art to saint cards tacked to the ceiling to remind them that they are being watched over, Hartnedy makes sure his classroom is a place where students can learn to take ownership of their faith. A parishioner of St. Edward Church for about 15 years and a deacon for five, he teaches RCIA classes, and is a sponsor couple along with his wife for marriage preparation. He serves as a chaplain for Life Runners, a worldwide pro-life running organization, and a chaplain for the Sacred Heart Apostolate in Arkansas.
Parish: St. Edward
City: Little Rock
Family: Married to Stephanie Hartnedy 23 years; two children, John Paul Hartnedy, 21, and Catherine Hartnedy, 19
IN HIS OWN WORDS
What feeds you spiritually?
My first hour of every morning I spend in prayer. It normally flows in this order — I’ll do the morning prayer Liturgy of the Hours. Then I will do the Ignatian Examen … then praying with Scripture, or Lectio Divina, with the daily Mass readings. So it usually works to be 20 minutes, 20 minutes, 20 minutes. So that kind of starts my day. But what feeds me spiritually is to be of service to God’s people … being present to whoever is in front of me, whatever I’m doing, whether it’s emptying the dishwasher or being present in a conversation or serving the students.
You said you “love junior high kids.” What makes that age special for spiritual development?
They’re right on the cutting edge … to start to think about, in a real healthy way, why do we believe what we believe. And beginning that process of this is always what I’ve been told, how do I move into making it my own and how do I move into a position of really growing in a deeper friendship — because friendship is so important in junior high — how can I grow in a deeper friendship with God. And it’s exciting because kids are all over the place.
There are only a few male teachers at Christ the King School. Does that allow you to bring a unique perspective to students?
There’s a particular gift and responsibility of being a male and at this age group, the privilege and responsibility of being a good example. Many students come from broken homes, it doesn’t matter that we are in a Catholic school. To be able to be that consistent, loving, holding accountable, put all that together, to be the face of Christ, that’s huge. … I’m now just starting to teach my student’s kids. It’s an incredible gift that God has given me to be able to be in a place so long to be able to be asked to baptize former student’s children, witness weddings.
Your son John Paul is discerning the diocesan priesthood at Conception Seminary College in Missouri. What advice do you have for parents who have a child that wants to follow religious life?
What Steph and I always tried to do is to encourage our children to be open to coming to know and do God’s will. Then as parents, we have to be loving and generous enough to allow that to happen. You think about if God calls John Paul to the priesthood, then we’re also giving up grandchildren. So parents need to love their children generously and recognize that they’re God’s kids first.
What part of being a deacon touches your heart the most?
As a deacon there’s something in my heart that’s incredibly, particularly special about baptisms, which we don’t get to do very often because it’s the pastor’s ministry. But like with the Easter Mass — standing-room only, it’s packed, hot and sweaty, giving out Communion it’s a long line, arms getting tired — and here comes a mom and this little baby I baptized maybe a month or two ago and I was so full of joy I almost started crying.
You always seem to be smiling or laughing. Where does your joy come from?
Scripture says, “The joy of the Lord is my strength” and God has been so good to me and part of that morning prayer and that Ignatian Examen is to spend time remembering that in gratitude. … It’s a matter of focus. What am I going to focus on? I have the same problems that everyone else does, but it’s what am I going to focus on, what am I going to remember? I have a lot to be grateful for.
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