Deacon Ed Hopkins grateful for prayers, support during formation
In one way or another, Randolph Edward (Ed) Hopkins, Jr., spent a quarter of his life preparing for ordination to the priesthood.
“It’s been 11 years since I was confirmed and began living in the church world,” explains the 44-year-old who grew up Baptist. “Words fail to describe what I’m feeling now. I can’t believe it’s finally happening.”
Bishop Michael Olson will confer the sacrament of holy orders on Hopkins, Austin Hoodenpyle, and Brandon LeClair on Saturday, May 20, in St. Patrick Cathedral. All three men were ordained transitional deacons last year.
A convert to the Catholic faith later in life, the TCU graduate admits becoming a priest was never on his radar but helping vulnerable people was always part of his life plan. An early career move was teaching special education students in Katy, Texas.
“I always felt a call to service. I just never knew it would manifest itself in the Catholic priesthood,” Hopkins said.
His introduction to the faith came from reading the works of Church Fathers and respected Catholic authors.
“Something outside of me just drew me to the faith. I’ve never been able to explain it,” Hopkins continued. “That’s what God had in store for me and little by little I figured it out.”
When he told his parents, Randy and Susan Hopkins, he was considering a religious vocation, they were both supportive and relieved. His late mother was raised Catholic.
“Being an older vocation, I think my mom and dad were probably wondering when I was going to sort out what I wanted to do in life,” the deacon admitted. “It’s overwhelming the amount of prayer and support I got from them and other family and friends. I know I’m lucky. There are guys who don’t have that.”
The Fort Worth native spent his early months of discernment living with the monks at St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Calling his time there a wonderful experience that allowed him to make lasting friendships, Hopkins eventually realized, “I’m just not a monk,” and contacted the diocesan vocations office.
Entering Assumption Seminary, he earned graduate degrees in theology and divinity from the Oblate School of Theology but returned to the archabbey for spiritual retreats. The most recent visit was during Holy Week to prepare for ordination.
“The Triduum was a nice time to have a retreat,” said Hopkins, who used the opportunity to reconnect with old friends. “You go through Good Friday and recognize that you’re dying to self to be a good priest but then there’s Easter and the hope and joy that will come from serving the people.”
Hopkins’ year as a transitional deacon had both high and low points. Last summer, he preached and baptized parishioners at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Keller and joined fellow deacons on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Visiting the places where Jesus once lived helped scripture come alive for the seminarian.
“So now when you preach or talk about Gospel stories you have a visual image of what actually took place,” he said. “To walk through Bethlehem was incredible.”
The Church of the Nativity — the site where Mary gave birth to Jesus — offered an especially poignant moment of quiet reflection.
“That story of a mother and her son as my mother was passing, and soon after passed, was especially powerful for me,” said the deacon, who dealt with his mother’s Alzheimer’s disease during his formation. Through the long illness and eventual death of Susan Hopkins last December, seminarians and members of the clergy provided support and compassion to the grieving family. Bishop Olson officiated at her funeral Mass in Holy Family Church.
“There were about 15 priests there. The Church showed up and my brothers in the Church showed up for me,” Hopkins recalled. “To have that support is a comfort and a blessing as I go into the priesthood.”