By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

Alexander Campbell has walked a winding vocational discernment trail, but its end will find him making history.  

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Alexander Campbell

 

He will be part of the first class to be ordained permanent deacons since the Diocese of Baton Rouge and Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University entered a partnership to provide formation through FranU’s theology program.  

Campbell, 38, a member of St. Alphonsus Church in Greenwell Springs, grew up in the Diocese of Alexandria, with his mother and grandmother nurturing his Catholic faith. Through his junior high and high school years, Campbell thought about becoming a priest. This was encouraged by the perceived “cultural expectations” of his diocese and perhaps the state that if you didn’t have a girlfriend and were attending a Catholic Church you would attend seminary.  

He attempted to do that and was turned down. However, Bishop Sam G. Jacobs, then bishop of Alexandria, supported Campbell as he kept looking into his vocational call.  

To continue developing his relationship with God, Campbell served as a missionary in Australia and the United States through NET Ministries.  

Campbell also worked as campus minister at Northwestern Louisiana University in Natchitoches, where he met his wife Lindsey. When they married, Bishop Jacobs told Campbell, “I told you there was something else.”  

Campbell never lost that feeling that “there’s something there” in his early call to serve the church. Once married, he decided the next step was to become a deacon. He started the discernment process with the Diocese of Baton Rouge in 2014 and entered diaconate formation in 2015.  

There were challenges to overcome during his long journey with the church.  

The Campbells were out of their home for about a year after it took on six feet of water during the flood of 2016. Alexander said that would have been an easy time to step away from diaconate formation and say, “I’ll get back to that.”  

Another challenge the Campbells “faced together as a team” was assuring their children Clara, 11; Kolbe, 9; and Kolin, 6, would be able to “see the goodness of his upcoming ordination” and still participate in activities and family outings.  

“A lot of my schoolwork was done between midnight and 4 a.m.,” said Campbell.  

He said his wife was “a hero” in giving him the support and nudges he needed to keep going.  

Father Jamin David, director of diaconate formation, and others also spurred him on, saying, “We will help you get through this.”  

Campbell is also grateful for the support of family, friends and the community. 

“You don’t become a deacon on your own,” said Campbell. “There have been many who have prayed with us, for us and accompanied us on the journey.”  

There was a lot of communication between FranU and his diaconate class in order to refine the program.  

“I want them to keep asking (future candidates’ opinions) because they are one of the finest programs in the country,” said Campbell.  

He believes that FranU did a “phenomenal job” of assembling professors for the diaconate and theology program.  

“I think they’ve nailed it on the head,” Campbell said.  

He also enjoyed interacting with medical students, some of whom were non-Catholic, studying some of the same courses he was in for their graduation requirements.  

Campbell believed the knowledge he has gained, the camaraderie of his diaconate classmates, whom he calls “brothers” and even the challenges, will make him a better deacon.  

While the coronavirus postponed Campbell’s ordination to a yet to be determined date, his enthusiasm only grows.  

He said is looking forward to serving the church parish where he will be assigned and working alongside the pastor.  

He also wants to foster vocations through his role, hoping that maybe even one of his own children may feel a call to priesthood or religious life through his example.  

“I hope people will understand the fact that the church is ongoing and on the move and they will recognize if they have a vocational call within it,” Campbell said.