At 32 years old, Brother Raban Heyer had a happy, monastic life at Subiaco Abbey. He made his final profession in December 2018, served as the abbey’s vocations director and taught English, chaired the English department and coached track and field at Subiaco Academy.
But like his discernment to being a monk, God again called him out of his comfort zone. In October, he began studying theology at the Pontifical University of St. Anselm (Pontificio Sant’Anselmo) in Rome toward his priestly ordination. He is set to be ordained at Subiaco in the summer of 2024.
To prepare, in June 2021, he traveled to Assisi, Italy, for a four-month Italian immersion program before moving to Rome.
“Discerning going to seminary, a path towards priestly ordination, followed a nearly identical pattern as my discernment to join the monastery,” Brother Raban said in an email interview with Arkansas Catholic Jan. 19.
Before coming to Subiaco Abbey in 2014, Brother Raban, born Clifford Heyer, was on the move — 40 moves to be exact, by the age of 25. Whether it was his parents finding better jobs and moving him and his six siblings, or himself as he got older finding better opportunities and more affordable living, he lacked stability. This caused him to lose touch with God.
Eventually, God called him to monastic life, one of community.
“It would necessitate stepping away from people and a place I loved, with whom and in which I was extremely happy,” Brother Raban said. “Leaving Subiaco, the monks, my students, my coworkers and the community for a few years was not a prospect I found pleasant. Through prayer, particularly Lectio Divina, and spiritual direction, it became clear where God wanted me.”
Abbot Leonard Wangler, OSB, told Arkansas Catholic it was a good place for Brother Raban to study as Father Elijah Owens, OSB, studied at the college until January and could mentor him.
“He has shown good qualities as far as dealing with other people, as far as teaching religion, being involved in their life and being helpful to them,” Abbot Leonard said of Brother Raban and his students. “He seems to be a reverent and prayerful individual.”
Brother Raban previously graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English, with a minor in philosophy. He has a master’s degree in English from Ohio Dominican University.
While in Assisi, Brother Raban stayed in the guest wing of Monastero San Giuseppe in Assisi, a Benedictine women’s monastery, while studying at the language school, Accademia Lingua Italiana Assisi.
“I typically spent four hours every morning in class and studied through the afternoons. I found myself extremely fortunate to have so much time to learn the language,” he said. “Others had to make it work around their jobs and families. Some religious only had one or two months before their programs began. While in Assisi, I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to interact with Franciscans from around the world.”
Now at the Pontifical University of St. Anselm, he has enjoyed the opportunity to experience a new depth of monasticism.
“In this house, monks from dozens of countries from around the world pray, live, work and study together. Being able to experience how Benedictines from dozens of countries live out the Rule of St. Benedict and their monastic professions is an amazing gift,” Brother Raban said. “Here also, the program is tailored towards forming monk-priests. Being in an environment in which I pray and live with a number of my teachers, who are my brothers in community, offers a uniquely formative environment.”
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