When Rubén Quinteros first felt God calling him, he never dreamed he would end up serving the people of Arkansas. Though it is a long way from his native Argentina, somehow he knows he is in the right place.
"I never imagined I would come here, far away from my family and culture to serve the people of God," he said. "But God had these plans in his heart, and he was preparing my heart to learn and love the Diocese of Little Rock as my home."
This preparation began in Catamarca, a small city at the foot of the Andes Mountains. Quinteros was born there in 1976.
Quinteros was in college when he felt God calling him to religious life. Though he did not know where that would lead, he left college in 1996 to join the Brothers Disciples of Jesus, a monastic order based in Salta, Argentina.
While he was studying philosophy at the Catholic University of Salta, he began to discern a vocation to priesthood. He graduated in 1999 and his order sent him to theology school at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico.
The move from Argentina to Mexico was difficult. In time he not only adapted to the culture and people but grew to love them. He said he developed a strong bond with a group of Carmelite nuns and families in Celaya. He continued to discern priesthood but began to wonder if religious order priesthood was right for him.
Brothers Disciples of Jesus priests live their vocation "inside the monas tery," Quinteros said. "They don't work a lot with people. ... I really wanted to be with the people and share with them my life."
The idea of diocesan priesthood began to take hold of his heart.
In 2004, he asked for a leave of absence from his religious community. He continued studying theology and sought advice from the Carmelite nuns and his spiritual director as he discerned his future. Other support came from Jose Mancera and Yolanda Mandujano, a Celayan couple who not only provided for him financially but also loved him as a son.
By December 2004, Quinteros graduated the seminary with a theology degree.
It was through the sisters and Father Salvador Marquez-Munoz, pastor of St. Mary Church in Siloam Springs, that Quinteros met Msgr. Scott Friend, diocesan vocations director, in Celaya in 2005.
By the summer of 2006 the Arkansas diocese accepted Quinteros as a seminarian and that fall he went to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock to study English.
In January 2007 he transferred to St. Mary Seminary at the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He remained there until he earned his master's degree in divinity earlier this month.
Quinteros, 33, said many times he has wondered if priesthood was right for him. "I never hesitated to share my doubts with God in prayer. But he always had an answer for me," he said.
"I am a happy and blessed man," he said regarding his upcoming ordination. "I cannot describe in words how I am feeling ... I cannot find a way to tell you how such grace is working in my poor life. I'm ready to accept this wonderful gift."
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