The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Something cool in Hot Springs: a convert moves to the priesthood

Another former Protestant clergyman (who also happens to be married) is taking his final steps toward the priesthood, this time in Arkansas.


The goal is in sight. Hours of seminary study are winding down. Very soon, George W. Sanders Jr. of Hot Springs hopes to fulfill what he says is his life calling.

sanders_seminarian_pic.jpgHe wants to wear the collar of the Roman Catholic priest.


His ordination — anticipated for fall of 2011 — will rank as an important event in the history of his parish, St. John the Baptist Church. Parish members have watched his walk in faith over the years. They saw him receive the office of lector in November and they look forward to seeing him receive the office of acolyte in January.

“I think those who know him are just so excited that he is reaching the goal he has wanted to attain,” Carolyn Wethington, parish director of religious education, said. “Everybody knows his story and how long it’s taken, and his tenacity. Everybody’s really excited about it.”

Sanders, 54, was a Charismatic Episcopal Church priest for three years. George and his wife, Brenda, converted to Catholicism in 2003. Hot Springs has been their home since 1994. The parish and city are a deep part of their faith walk.


One of the early influences in the decision of George and Brenda Sanders to become Catholic was Father James West, the former pastor at St. John Church. George and Father John first met at a pro-life rally. A solid friendship developed. Father West also had been a convert.

“One of the great things is he (Father West) never condemned us,” Sanders said about his and Brenda’s journey to Catholicism. “He appreciated us. He told us I will become Catholic; that was after we became close friends and I shared with him my passion and love of the Church.”

Sanders, vice president of finance for U.S. Food Service of Little Rock, is attending classes through St. Meinrad School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind., once a month. He hopes to become a transitional deacon in 2010 and be ordained a priest in the fall of 2011.

Continue at the link for more.

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posted December 29, 2009 at 4:42 pm

This may be a stupid question; but can he become a priest while he is still married? Isn’t that against tradition?

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted December 29, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Hi, Lauren!
That’s not a stupid question at all.
The Catholic Church offers something called the ‘pastoral provision,’ whereby Protestant ministers who are married, but convert, may be ordained to the Catholic priesthood, with special permission from Rome. It’s rare — there are only about 100 such priests in the United States — but it’s becoming more commonplace.
Blessings, and happy new year!
Dcn. G.

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posted December 29, 2009 at 8:04 pm

I read the whole article and was surprised that Mr. Sanders strongly holds the belief that “outside the Church there is no salvation.” While being a convert to Catholicism this belief is quite puzzling that he seems to overlook the value of Ecumenism, unless of course, he is leaning towards a more conservative view on the life of the Church. Oh, not again!

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posted December 29, 2009 at 8:50 pm

I read and reread the full article and can’t find where anyone says that he is a strong believer in the views about salvation through the Church, views held by St. Cyprian more than 1000 years before there were more one Church. Since he is becoming a priest, I bet that we can assume he holds the beliefs that we find in the Catechism.

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posted December 30, 2009 at 5:20 am

Mr Sanders is not a young man, aged 54 and so his ordination as a married man can be considered. No young family and hence no pk’s or “preacher’s kids” and the largely unreported and unpublicised problem with this.
If married men are to be ordained to the Catholic priesthood in any significant numbers it will be from the ranks of married deacons over about 45 years old. Men who can consider a 2nd career. Again few if any pk’s.

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posted December 30, 2009 at 8:49 am

Being married for thirty six years it would just break my heart to go to counciling with a priest thats married. He might know exactly what I was talking about. The Church like many things moves slowly,as time coes on we will most likely see changes that would benifit the rest of us. May the Lord be with each and every one of us who are willing to wait ,but do our best to promote change.

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posted December 30, 2009 at 9:09 am

As happy as I am to see (soon-to-be) Fr. Sanders coming close to his ordination, part of me is sad, because I’m a Charismatic Episcopal Church deacon. He will be missed in our communion.

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