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After ‘a door opened in my heart,’ man was inspired to become Catholic and seek priesthood

Deacon Christian Huebner will be among 10 new priests ordained for the Archdiocese of Washington by Archbishop Wilton Gregory on June 15 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. (CS photo/Andrew Biraj)

Deacon Christian Huebner, a 35-year-old former lawyer who will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Washington on June 15, said “growing up in a Protestant family, I never imagined becoming a Catholic priest,” but he began considering a vocation shortly after his conversion to the faith.

He said that “not long after” he converted to Catholicism, “the idea of priesthood came to me. After fighting it for several years, I relented and entered the seminary. The Lord has been faithful all along the way.”

After considering a priestly vocation, Deacon Huebner said, “when I finally relented – after several years – God gifted me with a profound peace.”

Deacon Huebner, describing “the short version of how I was drawn to the Catholic Church,” credits “the Holy Spirit in the context of friendship.”

“It was during my law school years that I fell in with a group of friends, many of whom were Catholic. I saw in them a way of life and comprehensiveness of vision that was intriguing,” he explained. He added that “some providential conversations along the way deepened my interest, and eventually I began attending Mass … Then, one day, a door opened in my heart and mind, and I walked through it.”

The only boy among the four children born to Paul and Rebecca Huebner of Lincoln, Nebraska, Deacon Huebner said “My family has been wonderful all along.’

“I’m blessed to have a father, mother, and three sisters who have from the beginning and up to this day loved me unconditionally,” he said. “When I became Catholic, some were enthusiastic and some found it more difficult. Same thing when I decided to enter seminary, though not necessarily the same people. But regardless, I’ve always had their solidarity and love.”

Since he entered the Church, several member of his family have followed.

“A few years ago, one of my sisters, also a Washingtonian, was received into the Church, and just this past Easter my mother became a Catholic, too,” Deacon Huebner said. “I was able to serve as the deacon at the Easter Vigil where she was received, which was very special.”

A graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota and Yale Law School, Deacon Huebner was an attorney for several years “and it was this work that brought me to Washington, D.C., in the first place,” he said. He attended St. Peter’s Church on Capitol Hill.

He cited the late Father Arne Panula – a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei and the longtime director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, who died in 2017 at the age of 71 – as having an effect on his decision to become a priest.

Deacon Huebner noted that the Catholic Information Center was on the ground floor of the building in which his law firm’s offices were located and Father Panula was well known for “his profound holiness, his unassuming wisdom, and example of priestly life lived to the full, in love of Christ and His people.”

“Getting to the point of saying ‘yes’ to seminary was a hard road, but once I received that grace from the Lord, I didn’t have much trouble leaving law behind,” Deacon Huebner said. “I had a good life working as an attorney; not only a good job and colleagues, but good friends and a strong Catholic community, the chance to do some community theater – a lot of good things, a lot of blessings. But I never really felt like a lawyer in my bones and there was always something more I perceived God asking of me.”

Once he entered the seminary, he said he had “an experience that confirmed this decision (to become a priest) and also gave a glimpse of how the Lord can use our past experiences in new ways.’

“I was asked to serve at the annual Red Mass at the cathedral, the liturgy timed with the opening of the new Supreme Court term, and attended by many in the legal community,” he said. “From my spot near the altar … I could look around and see plenty of familiar faces, and yet I was very conscious of being among them in a fundamentally different way, in a different role, than I had been just a month before. And for some reason, it just felt better being in this new role, like I’d found my place.” 

To men considering a priestly vocation, Deacon Huebner said he would tell them that “a call to the priesthood is a work of grace, a kind of miracle, but it’s not an uncommon miracle. The Lord has been doing this a long time. It’s love, love for Him, that is drawing you and we need not be afraid of loving greatly.”

Looking back on his time in the seminary, Deacon Huebner said, “I have heard again and again from priests that there is simply no way to convey the experience of what it is like to celebrate Mass, to hear Confessions, to anoint the sick, knowing that one is a minister of Jesus Christ’s priesthood.”

“The abundance of life that comes from taking these commitments seriously has to be one of the biggest revelations during my time in seminary, especially witnessing it in the lives of the priests I’ve looked to as mentors and examples,” he added.

As he anticipates his ministry as a priest, Deacon Huebner said he looks forward to “celebrating Mass, hearing Confessions, and being able to pray for people as their priest, with a true father’s heart. Also, there are so many outstanding priests in our archdiocese; being part of that fraternity is something I eagerly anticipate.”

He will celebrate his first Mass on Sunday, June 16, at 9 a.m. at St. Peter’s Church in Washington.