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Bishop Sartain was born in Memphis, Tennesse, and attended local Catholic schools before entering the seminary. He studied Philosophy at St. Meinrad and then was sent to the Pontifical North American College in Rome where he obtained a Bachelor's degree in Theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas and an S.T.L in Sacramental Theology from the Pontifical Athenaeum of Saint Anselm.
He was ordained a priest in 1978 for the Diocese of Memphis and served in a number of pastoral and diocesan positions (including Vocation Director and Diocesan Administrator). He was named and consecrated Bishop of Little Rock in 2000 and serves on a number of key committees for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.