When Deacon Ramsés Mendieta was ready to leave his native Nicaragua to join the House of Formation in Little Rock in 2010, a fellow parishioner’s reminder to trust in God, citing Luke 9:62, was and still is impactful: “(To him) Jesus said, ‘No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
“Now that I feel that I’m about to put my hand once again on the plow, I know he will be with me,” Mendieta said.
Growing up in Managua, the backdrop of his childhood was religious processions, altars and a devotion to the Immaculate Conception.
“Since I was a little kid, like 5 or 7 years old, I always looked at the Immaculate Conception statue that was in my home parish. I remember that really drew my attention … I would put flowers, candles at her feet,” he said. “God began to draw my attention more to the church. What does God want from me in this life? For me, our Mother has been that bridge, a good companion in this discernment journey.”
Mendieta entered the seminary of the Archdiocese of Managua at 17, but left for two years to attend the Universidad Centroamericana in Managua. It was a time of “self-knowledge.”
“One of the things I said to my family in the very early years, ‘I’m not going to make it (to the priesthood) because I don’t know how to speak in public,’” Mendieta said, adding he was required to give oral presentations in some classes. “I began to really find out first of all serenity, second, confidence and third, really affirmation, ‘OK I’m able to do this so probably at some point if I go back to seminary I’ll be able to preach at the altar.’”
Since studying at St. Meinrad Seminary, Mendieta said he’s learned the gifts of being spiritually connected to others, solitude and hospitality. While being far away from his family was a challenge, during that time of loneliness, “I received the presence of this family here.”
“It really taught me something to put into practice — the presence of someone that listened to me, just being by my side. So the gift of presence is something I received many times from this seminary,” Mendieta said.
He said he wants to be “a priest of the people.” During his formation, he said felt a special connection to youth ministry and ministering to the sick and dying.
“Being able to give a hand whenever they need it … walking side by side with parishioners at their many stages in life. Being able to be accessible to their needs and compassionate,” he said. “… I just want to be a part of getting to know each ministry, being able to see what they do and work with them and serve them in whatever they need.”
Building a “house of vitality” in the Church is a priority, especially for the youth, Mendieta said.
“How can we make the Church a house in which they can feel at home, that they can exercise their faith? We can present ways in which they can encounter the Lord,” he said.
There’s a “mix of feelings,” Mendieta said about finally becoming a priest — both excitement and nerves — but he knows God will provide.
“I’ve been discovering more and more how God has been calling me to be a priest. It’s been amazing how he’s been working in my life,” he said.
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