Fathers Nieto and Wendel say Jesus’ mission is also theirs – Arkansas Catholic


The men of Springdale and Little Rock ordained priests on May 28 at the cathedral

Posted: June 9, 2022

Pictures of Bob Ocken

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor ordained Father Daniel Wendel (left) and Father Jaime Nieto to the priesthood at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Little Rock, May 28, 2022. In attendance were Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Bishop Francis I. Malone and Bishop-elect Erik Pohlmeier.

Amid an overflowing crowd of jubilant worshipers, Fathers Jaime Nieto and Daniel Wendel joyfully embraced each other at the altar of St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Little Rock, finally answering their call from God to be his priests.

The two will be forever linked in ordination and could not be more representative of the Church in Arkansas today – an immigrant from Mexico and an Arkansan born and raised in a large Catholic family.

The men were ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Anthony B. Taylor on May 28. He pointed out in his homily that the first reading chosen by the newly ordained of Isaiah Chapter 61 is the same as that used during the Chrism Mass at the beginning of Holy Week, where priests renew their vocational commitments. It is also the text that Jesus chose at the beginning of his public ministry (Read the homily).

“Regarding what Jesus said, ‘This day this Scripture is fulfilled,’ Bishop Taylor said. “…Daniel and Jaime, by choosing this passage, you are saying that you want to be so intimately united with Jesus that his mission becomes your mission, with special concern for those who need us most…”

“The two will forever be bonded in ordination and could not be more representative of the Church in Arkansas today – an immigrant from Mexico and an Arkansan born and raised in a large Catholic family.”

A more intimate setting than last year’s ordination of five priests at Barton Coliseum, it was filled with both the Holy Spirit and an influx of spiritual leaders – Bishop Taylor, retired Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, Bishop Francis I. Malone of Shreveport, La., and Bishop-elect Erik Pohlmeier, who will be installed as bishop July 22 in the Diocese of St. Augustine in Florida.

It was the first ordination with Fr. Jeff Hebert as director of the vocations office, taking the helm from Msgr. Scott Friend, who helped train 44 priests during his 16 years of leadership. Ordained a priest in 2018, Father Hébert directs 22 seminarians currently in formation.

“Well, it’s a privilege,” said Father Hébert. “They were my seminarian brothers, and then becoming the vocations director and watching them cross the finish line and being with them to support them is just a huge privilege; not a lot of people can do that. But I’m so proud of them, they’re going to be amazing priests. They have been through a lot together and the future looks very bright for them.

Throughout the ordination, Fr Nieto, 32, wiped tears from his eyes, especially after receiving a hug during the peace sign from Fr Juan Guido, master of ceremonies of the ordination and newly appointed pastor of Christ the King Church in Little Rock.

“I just told him he made it. And I’m very happy for him. A long way, but we’re there,” said Father Guido, who invested him with Father Emmanuel Torres of North Little Rock: “I think he brings his kindness to the priesthood, his concern for the people and his sense of humor too.

Father Nieto moved to Springdale from Querétaro, Mexico with his mother Maria del Carmen Nieto Bautista when he was 15.

“Words cannot be expressed, but it is a great feeling, a feeling of respect and powerful intensity that he brings with him,” his mother said through the translator, Father Guido. “Everything was a powerful moment, but the most powerful thing when he was dressed in (his) chasuble and his stole.”

At the time, coming to the United States was a reluctant decision for Father Nieto, but after joining the youth group at St. Raphael’s Church in Springdale, his heart was opened to faith. A large group of friends from this youth group attended the ordination.

“I think he’s going to be a very high priest. Among all our group of people, he was always the most active and always smiling and happy, and he was always the one who united us as well,” said Itzy Galván, a parishioner at St. Raphael Church. “So I’m pretty sure he’s going to be one of those priests you can go to, and he’ll give you the best advice you just need to hear.”

During an Encuentros de Promoción Juvenil (EPJ) retreat, the signs that God was calling him to the priesthood became clear. After the ordination, Fr Nieto laughed, admitting that it would take him a few days to realize he was really a priest.

“The very powerful moment was, one of them was when every priest was laying hands on you and obviously the bishop, and actually consecrating hands with oils, that was sort of one of my breaking points there,” Fr. Nieto said. . “And to receive the thoughts of each of the priests…they call me brother. So I began to understand that I am a priest. I am a real priest.

He will serve the flock at St. Theresa’s Church in Little Rock as associate pastor.

Father Wendel, 26, will serve as associate pastor in Father Nieto’s home parish of Saint-Raphaël. One of six children of Dr. Paul and Kathy Wendel, Father Wendel attended Christ the King Church his entire life. He attended CTK school, was baptized, confirmed and received his first communion at the parish. At only 5 or 6 years old, he first thought of becoming a priest, declaring last year during his diaconal ordination that “the joy of priests was contagious to me”. He joined the seminary after graduating from Little Rock Catholic High School, thanks in many ways to his spiritual mentor and former pastor, Bishop Malone.

“He is one of my sons,” Bishop Malone said.

Christ-Roi is the parish with the most vocations for the diocese. At one point, there were 11 seminarians from CTK, where Bishop Malone pastored for nearly 19 years until 2020. Ten former parishioners are now diocesan priests, with three others in training.

“Especially Daniel because I’ve known him the longest, since he was in kindergarten. It is a day of great joy,” Bishop Malone said, adding that Father Wendel will be “a priest filled with joy. And it comes naturally to him. Great sense of humor, loves his people and he got all of that from his parents.

Dr Paul and Kathy Wendel watched in awe during the ordination, his mother smiling at him as he shared communion with congregants for the first time as a priest.

“It’s the most amazing thing in the world. Right now I’m kind of speechless, just overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit and what it means. This journey has been eight years, and he’s so happy and so ready and that’s a very beautiful thing,” said Dr. Paul Wendel.

His wife Kathy added: “It’s hard to put all of this into words. It’s just pure happiness. »

Years ago, while an associate pastor at Christ the King, Bishop-elect Pohlmeier put his Roman collar on a 4-year-old Daniel, hoping that one of the Wendel sons would be a priest. During the ordination on May 28, he dressed him in his priestly vestments.

“I have always been in touch with him,” Bishop-elect Pohlemier said. “I was able to continue to be part of this process and pray for its continued growth, so it was truly a celebration” of “the completion of the case,” he said, were the words used by Father Wendel.

Father Wendel said his feelings were of “grace that you cannot explain in words”.

“To be part of my first moment, as the Bishop speaks the words, when I can say them with him and share the Lord’s sacrifice, and also offer myself to the people in the sacrifice was an amazing moment,” Fr. Wendel said of the consecration of bread and wine, “because that is the symbol in which I now participate. And that’s what I’ll soon do for the people; now.”

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