Deacon Juan Guido probably would have been a priest no matter where his family landed after emigrating here from Mexico in 2001. But asked if there is special significance attached to being a priest in the Diocese of Little Rock, he doesn’t even hesitate.
“We have open hearts for all people,” he said. “We listen to the people, we walk with the people, we cry with them. It’s so wonderful to be in the Diocese of Little Rock. We are not priests only sitting in an office, but we are doing things where the people need us.”
Guido’s enthusiasm to get his hands dirty among his flock is part personal experience and part papal exhortation. Thinking back on the sacrifices his parents made to bring him and his younger siblings to the U.S. is emotional; so much so it became too much to contain during his ordination to the transitional diaconate in May.
Now, with priestly ordination in sight, he draws inspiration from Pope Francis as to the kind of ministry he wants to lead, starting in June where he will be associate pastor of St. Raphael Church in Springdale.
“It’s an exciting time in the history of the Church to become a priest,” the 27-year-old said. “But it’s also a challenging time. Pope Francis challenges us to grow closer in our relationship to Christ and do it with mercy and compassion and it’s wonderful to be a part of this, but it also reminds us there’s a lot of work to do. Both are reality — we are doing good, but there is a lot left to do.”
Guido said the most challenging part of the educational portion of his journey was to learn English — “I think I’m doing pretty good now,” he said — and the thought of the administrative side of parish life. In times of trial, he has been strengthened by the Carmelite saints and St. Therese of Lisieux, “The Little Flower,” for whom he retains a special devotion.
“She’s my good friend,” he said. “She’s taught me that grace isn’t about doing great things, but by the smallest acts of charity. She hasn’t let me down yet.”
Most of all, he said, he approaches his long-awaited ordination with a refined sense of what it means to be a priest. For that he is grateful to the teachers and clergy who have played a role in his development.
“I’m feeling very excited about ordination and about my new assignment, but at the same time a little sadness to leave the seminary and my friends here,” he said. “My view of the priesthood has changed dramatically during this process. I’ve had great examples to follow from Msgr. (Scott) Friend and Bishop (Anthony B.) Taylor.
“I’ve learned being a priest is all about having a good relationship with Christ and through that most profound connection, to serve the people, to love them and to protect them. I want to be that bridge of grace between the people of God and Christ.”
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