Deacon John Paul Hartnedy said he is ready to dive into being a diocesan priest.
“Right now, I feel mostly excited,” he said. “Sometimes fears of the unknown or my lack of experience will crop up. But most of the time, I feel ready. I feel like I am perched on a diving board. I have never been a priest before. Even when the days are difficult … I still feel fulfilled and joyful. The Lord has been there consistently.”
The Little Rock native has been preparing more intensely for his May 27 ordination over the past year. Last summer, he served at Blessed Sacrament Church in Jonesboro under former vocations director Msgr. Scott Friend. During the school year, while finishing his studies at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio, he was assigned to St. Ann Church in San Antonio, where he preached and worked with adult faith formation and youth ministry.
Hartnedy has been discerning his calling since he was a student at Catholic High School when a teacher, Father Patrick Friend, encouraged him to become a priest.
Two other priests instrumental in his discernment are Father Joe Friend of Morrilton and Father Stephen Gadberry of Little Rock. He said Father Joe Friend has been supportive since Hartnedy attended a Come and See retreat in high school while Father Friend was a seminarian. Hartnedy said he admired how Father Gadberry served at St. Mary Church in Batesville during his summer assignment there in 2021. Both priests will vest Hartnedy in his priestly vestments during the ordination Mass.
After ordination, he will work with Father William Burmester to care for St. Edward Church in Texarkana, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Ashdown and Sacred Heart in Foreman. He said he is most looking forward to celebrating Mass and hearing confessions.
“Those two have been central in my journey of discipleship,” he said.
He would like to offer more ministry to young adults in those churches if he has the opportunity.
“I have a passion for that, and there is a big need for that,” he said.
Outside of ministry, one can find Hartnedy reading fantasy fiction like “Lord of the Rings” or testing his creativity and patience with a woodworking project. For exercise, he loves to run.
“It is part of my homily preparation,” he said.
Named after the late pope St. John Paul II, Hartnedy’s parents Deacon Danny and Stephanie Hartnedy, both Catholic school teachers, wanted to name their firstborn son after a saint they admired.
“I am blessed with a very supportive family,” Hartnedy said. “They always told me, ‘What God wants for you, that is what we want for you.’ They told me to figure out what God wants for me and do that.”
Hartnedy said the support of a family is critical in the formation process.
“Discernment can be challenging for a family,” he said. “It is asking for an eight-year commitment. It is a sacrifice for the family too.”
He said he would encourage parents to talk to their children about the different types of vocations — single life, married life, priesthood or religious life — and be open to what the Lord is calling for them.
“Talk to them about vocations,” he said. “We all have them. What does God want for you?”
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