The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Catholic High sends graduating students to seminary

Signing event marks fifth year in a row Little Rock school has produced seminarians

Published: May 16, 2014      
Yancy Cundall / Special to Arkansas Catholic
Isidro Negrete (left) of St. Edward Church in Little Rock and Daniel Wendel of Christ the King Church celebrate signing letters of intent to become seminarians May 9 at Catholic High School in Little Rock.

Two Catholic High School seniors signed letters of intent to enter the seminary May 9 before the entire student body, faculty, staff, family, fellow seminarians and diocesan clergy.

Following their signatures, Bishop Anthony B. Taylor added his seal to the documents, and each was presented to the student body who gave their classmates an extended and thunderous ovation.

“A lot of my classmates told me, ‘Dude that’s so awesome,’ said Isidro Negrete, 17. “They’ve been very supportive about having members of our class going to the seminary.”

“(The signing) was pretty amazing,” said Daniel Wendel, 18. “It felt like a witness for what this choice entails and some of my friends said it was amazing to watch. So it was not only something for me, but something for everyone.”

Bishop Taylor said the Negrete and Wendel families have special significance to him. Negrete’s parents have provided Spanish music for many diocesan Masses. The Wendell family was chosen to be one of the families to welcome the bishop to Arkansas in 2008.

The two are the latest in a long line of vocations from the school, the city’s parishes and the diocese as a whole. Negrete is the fourth current seminarian from St. Edward Church, one of whom, Deacon Juan Guido, will be ordained a priest May 17. Wendel is the ninth seminarian from Christ the King Church in Little Rock.

Overall, the Diocese of Little Rock ranks at or near the top of all U.S. Catholic dioceses in seminarians per capita. The diocese supported active discerners and seminarians this past semester, including four scheduled to be ordained priests this year.

As a young boy, Negrete remembers watching the altar servers at St. Edward Church and thinking how much he wanted to be on the altar.

“Before I even made my first Communion, I was interested in the altar servers,” he said. “I used to watch them at Mass and they just looked like they were the servants of the Lord. I thought, ‘I want to be like that.’”

Negrete is the son of Manuela and Miguel Negrete and the second in a family of four children. He is also the cousin of current diocesan seminarian Martin Amaro, who is due to be ordained in 2019.

“My whole family is really excited,” he said. “My mother is a little nervous about me going away to the seminary, but she’s very supportive of me as is my whole family.”

Negrete credits several priests for helping shape his decision, including St. Edward pastor Father Jason Tyler, former pastors Father John Antony, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church in Fort Smith, and Father Salvador Marquez-Munoz, now pastor of St. Mary Church in Siloam Springs, and former associate pastor Father Jose Jaime Andrade Perez.

“He told me, ‘Live your life, but live with the Lord,’ Negrete said of the late Father Andrade.

Wendel, son of Dr. Paul and Kathy Wendel of Little Rock, said he first felt the call of the priesthood around age 6. While initially he found joy in imagining himself “Father Daniel”, as time went on the lure of the secular world loomed large. He said as he got old enough to realize what such a commitment meant, he started looking for a way out.

“I ran from my call,” he said. “I started talking to people looking for them to give me the answer I wanted that would let me push this aside and do what I wanted. And I got those answers, so I was all set to go to (the University of Arkansas at) Fayetteville and maybe get back to this later.”

Satisfied, he was an altar server for the  Easter Vigil Mass April 19 alongside some of the parish’s seminarians. It was a night that would change his life.

“I don’t remember anything that happened during that Mass, the only thing on my mind was the decision I’d made,” he said. “You know how sometimes you can’t tell if it’s God talking to you or it’s just your own voice in your head? I knew immediately God was speaking.

“He said, ‘Why do you keep going to other people to ask them what I want you to do, instead of coming to me?’ And a shower of peace came over me, my heart start beating out of my chest and I just broke down crying. I know this isn’t going to be an easy thing, but I know I’m doing what God wants me to do.”

Bishop Taylor encouraged the entire student body to discern their calling.

“How about you?,” he asked. “What does God want you to do with your life? If Jesus is calling you to the priesthood, do you have the courage to say yes?

The young men will begin the educational process this fall. Negrete will enter the House of Formation in Little Rock, where he’ll live while he attends classes at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and the Little Rock Theology Institute. Wendell will attend Holy Trinity Seminary in Dallas. The process takes a minimum of eight years, which means the earliest they will be ordained priests will be in 2022.

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