Love the One in Front of You. Mother Assumpta sits down with Catholic-Convert Debbie Herbeck.

Join us every week as the CultureCast takes you inside our kitchen for: Heaven's Kitchen to show you how to cook for an army and become a culinary artist! Or come along with us and go: On the Road with the Sisters to become traveling pilgrims as you discover all the things that can be seen and those that are unseen! Or sit down with Mother Assumpta Long as she unlocks a few stories from some unsuspecting guests! Join us each week for unlikely adventures and together let's learn new things, see new places and meet new faces on The CultureCast.

For the Audio Presentation of this article, click here:

Debbie Herbeck, born and raised a faithful Jew, converted to Catholicism in college and has since gone on to evangelize hundreds of young women, seeking to show them that they are loved and valued. Debbie’s evangelization efforts seek to teach girls as young as eight years old that they have innate value and to ignore what the world says they need in order to be fulfilled. To learn more about her evangelization efforts, visit BeLoveRevolution.com.

Mother Assumpta: 

Debbie Hrbek has an incredible faith journey. She is willing and zealous to go out and share this with others, particularly youth.

Debbie Herbeck: 

God gave me the story many years ago, and we made a deal that whenever I was asked, I would respond to that request and tell my story. I’ve always been inspired by Paul’s words about proclaiming the gospel. Specifically, about those who do not know Christ, he says, “How are they to know? They did not hear unless somebody tells them wrong.” I’ve always felt that my mandate is to be able to tell that because if somebody hadn’t spoken in my life many years ago, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I wouldn’t know Christ. I’ll give you the short version. I grew up in a very sheltered Jewish home on the north side of Chicago. My grandparents on my father’s side were Zionists. They were very involved with the state of Israel long before I was born. They raised a lot of money. My grandmother was president of a very well-known Jewish organization called Hadassah where there were probably millions of Jews, and she and my grandfather single-handedly raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the state of Israel. I grew up with a strong Jewish identity culturally, understanding who you are as a Jew. Back in that day, my grandparents and my parents wanted to protect that Jewish identity. There was a sense of “You’re a Jew. You will always be a Jew, and we don’t want you to do anything that would compromise your Jewish identity.” Because of that, I went to a Jewish school. I lived in a Jewish neighborhood. All my friends were Jewish, and I thought everyone in the world was Jewish. I didn’t have any exposure to Christianity. This is before the world wide web. I didn’t I knew it was a world religion. I knew Jesus was the founder of the religion, but I didn’t know historically or biblically anything about Who Christ was. I had an identical twin sister, an older brother, and a younger brother. We grew up sheltered and formed by our Jewish identity. It wasn’t until I was a senior in high school when I went on a field trip to a Polish Church in downtown Chicago that I even entered a Catholic Church, and it was very foreign to me. The sounds and smells felt very foreign to me. 

For the Visual Presentation of this Article Click here:

Before this, we had a family tragedy when I was 15. My brother Mark, who was two years older and a freshman in college, was in a severe car accident. I had grown up in the synagogue, and I remember praying when it happened. I knew lots of prayers, but at that point, God was not real in my life. I was raised understanding the Old Testament, but I didn’t have a real relationship with God. He felt very distant. When my brother was in this accident, I prayed, “God, if You’re real and if You’re there, save my brother’s life.” It’s one of those prayers you throw out into space, and a few minutes later, we received the news that my brother had been killed in this car accident. I remember at that point, besides all the grief and confusion, saying to God, “Where are You? What kind of God are you that would allow something this horrific to happen to a good person?” All the questions started rushing at me of what happens when we die. Why is there evil in the world? Why are there so many things I can’t figure out? I was struggling with this as a fifteen-year-old, talking to my Rabbi and teachers, and no one in my life seemed to have the answers that I wanted. I did what most people do, especially most people in pain. I looked for distractions. I finished up my high school year distracting myself with the things around me, intent upon getting out of the house, which is very grief-filled, going to a good University and doing something significant with my life. 

I ended up going to the University ofMichigan. I don’t know why I wanted to go there. I had this deep desire to go there. My sister and I, who were together our whole life as identical twins, were separated for the first time because she went to a different university. My first exposure to Christianity was that first time meeting my roommate at the University of Michigan, who I didn’t know who was a Catholic. She was very alive in her faith, which is unusual. God put me in this tiny dorm room with a young woman who wanted to pursue her Catholic faith at the university. She and I became friends, and we also became good friends with Sarah, another young woman who lived on my floor, and she also was on fire in her Catholic faith. I had never even met Christians before, let alone people who profess to believe this. I began to develop friendships with them. I never remember them sitting down and systematically going through the gospel message. Maybe they were in a very wise way being sensitive to where I was at and just trying to form a relationship with me, and I will say it worked. 

There were many things that happened along that road where God began to work in my life. The first was taking a class where we had to read some New Testament books, and I did not have a New Testament. I was not allowed to purchase one as a Jew, so I borrowed Sarah’s Bible. As I began to read the book of Romans for an assignment, I felt lost. I had no context for it, so I borrowed her Bible, which she clearly had read. It was underlined with notes, and for a Jew that was astounding. You don’t write in the scriptures. This is the word of God, considered so holy that the only time you hear it is in synagogue. I had no context or understanding for what was happening in Romans. I didn’t even know Who Jesus was, let alone who Paul was, so I began to flip through her Bible, and I realized two astounding things: (1) my Bible wasn’t her Bible; (2) she actually read this, and as she read these words, the word seemed to speak to her, and she spoke back, like a dialogue or a conversation through this book. I had this strange sensation that these words were living, and it wasn’t till later when I actually met Christ that I came across the scripture in Hebrews. It says the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and I felt like I was holding a two-edged sword in my hand. I gave it back to her and said, “That was my first encounter with someone who had a relationship with God through the word of God.” 

A few months later, a few of these girls invited me to the lounge of the dorm to watch a movie, and as I sat down on the carpet and the movie began to roll, I said, “What’s the name of this movie?” “It’s Jesus of Nazareth.” I had this sensation that I shouldn’t be there watching it, but as I watched the life of Jesus, I turned to Sarah and said, He’s Jewish. I never knew that.

Mother Assumpta: 

God was surely working in your life.

Debbie Herbeck: 

All these years growing up, feeling like Jesus was unapproachable, and now, suddenly, He was one of us, and I was one of Him, and not only was He a Jew, but He was a good Jew. He listens to His mother. He went to the temple. The pivotal scene for me was when Jesus comes to a town called Bethany. He’s met there by a woman who begins to weep. She says, “Lord, where were You? If You had been here, my brother would not have died.” I sat there and thought, “This is a script for my own life. These are the words that I said.” At that point, I wanted to run out of the room. I felt like I was being held there by this invisible hand and this voice that said just watch, and I watched as Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus. I knew that he shouldn’t be there because that was a place that was ritual, and I watched as he raised Lazarus from the dead. I thought, “Who is this man? Could Jesus be the One, the Messiah?” I went back to my room that night, and I could not sleep. I walked down to Sarah’s room and knocked on her door. I didn’t say anything. She didn’t say anything. She opened her door, and she put out her Bible. 

Mother Assumpta: 

Talk about being ready to know. What a wonderful woman.

Debbie Herbeck: 

I took it back to my room. I read all four Gospels for the first time. I came to those words from the scene I watched where Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me will never die, but will live forever,” and I prayed for the second time in my life. I said, “God, I don’t know Who You are. I don’t know if this man Jesus is the Messiah. If He is, give me the faith to believe.” That was a door that opened. The door of Faith was the hunger in that moment that God put in my heart to begin to seek Him and to know Him. I prayed that prayer for nine months every single night as I began to read the scriptures, and so much Faith, light, and understanding came  of Who was Jesus in light of the Messianic prophecies? Who was He calling me to be as a disciple? That was scary. Whoever is not willing to carry their cross and deny everything. That was my life. I knew what the cost was, so I was not taking this lightly. I prayed for faith, not only to know in an intellectual way but to know in the depth of my heart that Jesus was Who He says He was. It culminated in a dream where I was standing in a long, dark corridor, and I heard a Voice call out to me. “Who do you say that I am?” Three times that voice called out to me. The third time, I saw a man. I saw Christ standing before me. I was able to say, “You’re Jesus. You’re the Lord.” That’s how Faith began to grow in me. 

Mother Assumpta:

You think even your brother’s death had a role in it?

Debbie Herbeck: 

It did. Even the pain and the suffering that I had to face and the bigger questions of life at a very young age. 

Mother Assumpta: 

Did you begin to take instructions? Did you tell your parents at that point?

Debbie Herbeck: 

I did. I stayed in Ann Arbor that summer, and it was very difficult at home. My parents hired a private investigator. I thought I was brainwashed. I’m sure it’s a parent’s worst nightmare. There had been a lot of healing over the years for a time, and then eventually my journey led me to the Catholic Church where I fully embraced the Lord in the heart of the Church. As I began to go to mass as an observer, I began to see what felt much the same in terms of the continuity of my Jewish upbringing in the Liturgy where in synagogue you stand up to reverence God’s word. All of it fit together – the Passover and the Eucharist. The Lord is connecting all the dots for me, and I thought, “This is home. This is where I belong. This is the fullness. 

Mother Assumpta: 

That is an incredible story, how God is working through one’s life. It’s so beautiful without even knowing what He’s doing. How did you go from that to achieve your beautiful ministry, to share this faith that you have with so many, particularly the young people? If there’s ever a need, we need it today. How did that develop into evangelization? 

Debbie Herbeck: 

I think at the point of my conversion. I was still a student at the University of Michigan, so it seems so natural that I would want to talk about this. I began to share it with people on campus. I began to work with campus ministry and help young women, especially, understand how loved and valued they are, and that continued to grow and wasn’t a phase. I realized it was a gift and a charism the Lord had given me to proclaim the gospel in the context of mentoring young people, especially in the context of relationships with women.

Mother Assumpta: 

How do you find the young people open to it? In a day where so many young people are leaving the church because they don’t have that frightened cry. How do you see them responding or how do you begin to reach them? 

Debbie Herbeck: 

We start with the absolute premise that everyone has a desire for love, to be loved and to love in return. If we tap into that core desire, which is God-given, then we’ve got their attention. They’re looking for love in all the wrong places, and if we can draw them in and say, “You are loved. You are valued. You are enough,” especially with the young women, they love it. They want to be able to give it away. 

Mother Assumpta: 

How do you get them to come? 

Debbie Herbeck: 

We run a camp for junior high girls. I just finished our 33rd year of running the camp. This is not an event. It’s not a camp. It’s a culture. We bring them into a culture where everything is moving toward Christ. It’s cool to love Christ. Everything is about knowing that you’re loved by God, and that’s witnessed and experienced through the young women there that are loving them, wanting that and giving them permission to run after themselves. It’s an encounter with Christ in their peers and one another and in the worship, the talks, the presentation of the Gospel, and having fun. 

Mother Assumpta: 

The message is: “This is for you.” 

Debbie Herbeck:

That’s right, and also to instill in them the duty to spread [the Word]. It’s wonderful. 

Mother Assumpta:

You have a wonderful husband. How providential that you married someone who is zealous also. How did it happen? 

Debbie Herbeck: 

We met doing ministry on campus together. At that point we were both discerning our vocations. He had come out of the seminary, and I had been discerning if I was going to be celibate or not. We both knew that there was a fundamental call the Lord put on our lives to give ourselves to building the kingdom of God, which attracted us to one another. From the beginning of our relationship and definitely as we started our married life, we knew that this was a calling that God had on us, not only to serve the kingdom together, but also as Jew and Gentile to witness life and that dividing wall of hostility. We have four beautiful children raised in the church as Hebrew Catholics. They have a strong identity that they are Jews, and they’re strong in their Catholic faith. It’s a beautiful witness of how Jesus fulfills the Jewish faith. 

Mother Assumpta: 

That’s beautiful, like Edith Stein. I’m sure that you can identify with her love for her mother. I noticed that you and your husband wrote a book together. When do you when do you have time to do that? Do you have anything in the future? 

Debbie Herbeck:

God makes time when you got a lot going. We’re trying to be available for our growing family. Now we have grandchildren as well. How do you even begin to evangelize through your way of life to the next generation, continuing to build the “Be Love Revolution” in the culture of trying to teach young women what it means to belong to the Lord and then to be God’s love in the world? We desperately need young people who are not only receiving the Lord but going out and spreading the Light of Christ. I think Peter and I both feel a sense of urgency working with young people to help them do that. My grandmother, God bless her soul, was a wonderful woman. She lived to a hundred and two. I might try tolive that long as well.

Mother Assumpta: 

I hear so many couples say that I don’t see my grandchildren as strong in their faith, where you say they have a very strong faith. They see generations go less and less for the faith. How young do you try to reach?

Debbie Herbeck: 

We’re focused on high school and junior high, but we’re realizing that if we start in high school, it’s almost too late almost they have very solid families, so we’re starting to talk to 8 to 10 year olds about being a daughter of God and what their identity is in Christ, the treasure that they have because if we’re not speaking these messages to them, they’re hearing them from the world in a very strong way. We need to counteract those messages. We’re also spending a lot of time talking to moms about framing their children. 

Mother Assumpta:

I love that age. It’s interesting because as a teacher, that is an age where they’re willing to do anything if you can put them in the right direction. It’s wonderful that you’re going to that age group. 

Debbie Herbeck: 

We had an event this summer called “The Daughters of the King,” and we decided to reach out to 8 to 10 year olds. We had over 200 girls show. 

Mother Assumpta: 

It shows how hungry the moms are for this for their children and the innocence and how formable the girls are at that age.

Debbie Herbeck: 

When they left, the moms said, “When’s the next one?” They want so badly the best for their children that’s wholesome where the girls can be together learning how to love one another. We must keep doing our part. I’m a huge fan of Mother Teresa. I’m all about loving the person in front of you, starting that ripple effect of what we do. I may not be able to convert the whole world, but I can love the person in front of me.

Mother Assumpta: 

I’m sure they’re women all over the country that will love to hear about this. How can the message get out, and how can they begin chapters? 

Debbie Herbeck: 

They can go to our website BeLoveRevolution.com to find out about what we’re doing and how to contact us. 

Mother Assumpta: 

It’s so nice to have you on the program. God bless you and bless your work. It is so vital today.


If you are enjoying receiving content and resources from GoLEDigital, please click here. Your generous gift provides expanded opportunities for programming that can be shared more widely and frequently.


Want to Republish this Article? Request Permission Here

Request to Republish:

Share This Post On

By subscribing, you agree to LEDigital's terms of use and privacy policy.