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Brother Raban ordained deacon, preparing for priesthood

Former English teacher taught in Pine Bluff, LR before profession

Published: July 20, 2023   
Malea Hargett
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor ordains Brother Raban Heyer to the transitional diaconate July 15 in the Subiaco Abbey church. Brother Raban will return to Rome this fall to finish his final year of studies before being ordained a priest.

SUBIACO — After making his profession as a Benedictine monk at Subiaco Abbey seven years ago, Brother Raban Heyer took another step in his formation by being ordained a deacon July 15.

The former English teacher was surrounded by his parents, Charles and Ellen Heyer, five of his six siblings, along with sisters-in-law and six nieces and nephews, as he made promises to Bishop Anthony B. Taylor during his ordination Mass.

He prostrated himself before the altar while the litany of saints was prayed. Bishop Taylor then prayed the ordination prayer over Brother Raban, and he was invested with the deacon’s dalmatic and stole.

“The Eucharist is one of our great gifts bringing us together with the communion of saints,” he told Arkansas Catholic after his ordination.

In his homily, Bishop Taylor noted that Brother Raban has already sacrificed as a monk for the past seven years.

“A commitment you already made with your profession as a Benedictine monk, in offering Jesus your sexuality … and your vow of conversion of life, which includes chastity and poverty,” he said. “You have already sacrificed many things … But for many, the bigger sacrifice is the vow of obedience, which you already have made as a monk and which you renew in this ordination to the diaconate. This promise involves the sacrifice of your will. Obedience is a whole lot more than just compliance ... Obedience is a special kind of listening. Obedience is what goes on inside your heart.”

Born in Rochester, N.Y., he earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan., and a master’s degree in English from Ohio Dominican University. He moved to Arkansas around 2011 to become a Catholic school teacher and track coach, first at St. Joseph High School in Pine Bluff and then Christ the King School in Little Rock.

“A few months into teaching, I felt called to something more,” he shared in his vocations story. “I was deeply happy with my job and my friends, but I hadn’t found what I was supposed to give the rest of my life to yet. I went to a Benedictine college, so I thought I’d see if there was a monastery in Arkansas. Google directed me to Subiaco Abbey, and I contacted Father Elijah (Owens), the assistant vocation director at the time.” 

He found Subiaco Abbey was a good fit with its seventh-12th grade boarding school, and it promoted stability, balancing his work and prayer. He joined the abbey in 2014 and was soon teaching English and coaching again.

“That balance in the context of my vow of stability is my favorite part of being a monk at Subiaco,” he said. “I get to interact with my students, my brothers and guests on a daily basis, and I get to pray and work with all of them while also having time alone for personal prayer.”

Brother Raban, who will turn 34 July 31, has been studying for the past two years at Pontificio Sant’Anselmo (St. Anselm Pontifical University) in Rome. He is scheduled to be ordained a priest in 2024.

“Discerning going to seminary, a path toward priestly ordination, followed a nearly identical pattern as my discernment to join the monastery,” he told Arkansas Catholic in 2022.

Abbot Elijah Owens, OSB, told Arkansas Catholic, “Brother Raban was ordained not just as a deacon, but as a deacon specifically for the needs of his fellow monastic brothers and the thousands who participate in our academy and retreat center. His heart of service in seeing Christ in others is why the monastic community recommended him for ordination.

“St. Benedict wrote in his rule that a monk must seek God. Brother Raban does just that as a man of deep prayer and faith. He is able to see Christ in others and be Christ for others.”

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