After several invitations to visitation weekends at HTS, he attended one, and after a “God moment,” he chose to apply to the seminary, entering as a sophomore in college.
Discerning out of seminary
During Hubbard’s time in seminary, he worked hard to be engaged in the community and to take the opportunities presented to him.
The summer before his senior year, his pastoral assignment was as a counselor at The Pines Catholic Camp, a summer camp in East Texas. There, Hubbard worked closely with other counselors to teach and take care of children at the camp.
Hubbard told CNA that he was struck by some of the beautiful and inspiring marriages he saw the camp directors have, and the happiness he saw that came from their relationships with their wives and children.
That summer he also participated in Trinity Cor, “a two-week backpacking journey to discover your heart,” Hubbard explained. “To really find your manly heart and discover your masculinity, and it was awesome.”
“Coming back from that, I was really feeling like I had more grasp at my heart, and really had the question of discernment lodged in me from The Pines because I saw beautiful relationships there. That experience of The Pines mixed with deepening the discovery of my heart through Trinity-Core began the questioning of my discernment,” Hubbard said.
He sought out counsel about his questions, and trusting his spiritual director to keep his best interests in mind, opened up to him about everything.
One of the biggest moments for Hubbard was when his spiritual director asked Hubbard to consider marriage.
His spiritual director asked Hubbard to imagine himself, in prayer, as a priest coming home from a good day of Confessions and Mass, and then to imagine, in prayer, being married and coming home to a wife and children.
“I felt so much more deeply my heart belonged with a family,” Hubbard explained. “There's no way to really articulate it, except that I just felt myself more present, more human there. Even just painting the picture almost brought me to tears.”
Hubbard left seminary in November of his senior year.
“And I have not regretted it since,” he said. “It's been a beautiful journey. Seminary was a necessary step, and so I know that God has just continued to lead me along a path which I hope one day, He will use to help heal those hurting around me. I want to still give of myself to those around me."
Does “discerning out” mean failure?
Although seminary was helpful for Hubbard in his discernment both for the priesthood and for the married life, he found that a lot of people misunderstood the reasons he had left, and some saw it as a failure on his part.
“I think that a lot of people have the misconception that when you step out of seminary it's a failure of sorts. Their reactions are, ‘Oh, I'm sorry,’ or things like that. The negative stigma of discerning out needs to be eradicated so that seminarians who are torn don't have that fear that when they leave, their friends, their families, their priests back home will be disappointed.”
“The stigma holds seminarians back from being able to healthily discern. I think that's something pretty unaddressed in today's world: the very healthy and good option of discerning out. People see it as something entirely negative, and they shouldn't,” Hubbard continued.
After explaining his decision to his friends, they understood and supported him, he told CNA, but the initial uncomfortable or negative feelings still felt like a stigma, or at least a misunderstanding, about what he considered to be a healthy discernment.
“And I experienced that a bit with some of my friends and family, but I also had overwhelming support, especially from my father, and so it was okay,” he said. “I definitely felt supported in my decision.”
Discerning into seminary at 18, his father told Hubbard that he “was proud of Hubbard no matter what.” At the time, Hubbard wondered why his dad didn’t seem more enthused about his entrance to seminary.
“But that consistency was something that was actually beautiful in the long run, and that's what I think parents should strive for when their kids enter seminary,” he told CNA.
“That's the exact same thing he said to me when I discerned out of seminary, and I knew that he supported me on either side and trusted my judgement, so it was incredible. It really was,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard’s father, Brad, told CNA that his first and foremost step is to pray for his children, and says that he wanted to make sure his son was happy with the formation he was receiving while in seminary.
“For me, it's just the importance of leaving the discernment to God. As a parent, I'm there to support and especially pray, and then God's will be done in regards to that.”
Last May, Hubbard graduated from the University of Dallas with a degree in philosophy, and he now plans to attend the Augustine Institute for a graduate degree in theology.
He believes he has had many blessings throughout his time in seminary and now working, and wants to have the opportunity to impact people through an occupation in ministry after he graduates.
Hubbard finds that despite the magnitude of the decision, he does not question his choice. He told CNA that his relationship with God has grown since his departure from seminary.
And in the pursuit of marriage, Hubbard has felt more confirmed in his choice.
“If everything else were to fall apart in my life, if I questioned every other piece of discernment, that is what I could hold onto and know for a fact that I made the right decision because I have so deeply encountered God's love incarnationally in a way that I could not have in seminary,” he said.
This article was originally published on CNA July 23, 2019.