Growing up, Jaime Nieto thought he would end up in a career in medicine, but as he drew nearer to the Church he realized he wasn’t called to save lives but to save souls. Soon, he was dreaming of becoming a priest.
“I thought I would be a doctor or something in the medical field for my career. I’ve always had an urge to help people,” he said. “I wanted to offer my services for free to others who are economically challenged. Once I got very involved in the Church — teaching catechism and confirmation classes, choir with the kids, youth group and retreats — that’s where things shifted toward the priesthood.”
Nieto, who grew up in St. Raphael Parish in Springdale, entered the House of Formation in Little Rock in 2014 and began attending Assumption Seminary in San Antonio in 2018. Bishop Anthony B. Taylor will celebrate the ordination Mass of Nieto and Daniel Wendel as priests at 10 a.m., Saturday, May 28 at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Little Rock.
“I am ready,” he said. “We are both ready.”
On July 1, Nieto will become associate pastor of St. Theresa Church in Little Rock, where he will work with the parish’s new pastor Father Stephen Gadberry.
“I spent the summer before my diaconate ordination working with him,” he said. “I know how he works, how he likes to do things. I’m going to be like a sponge trying to soak up knowledge to be the best priest I can be. I’ve got a lot to learn, but I’m really excited.”
Nieto, a native of San Juan del Rio in Querétaro, Mexico, who moved to Springdale at 15, believes a shepherd should smell like his flock. He is pleased with his assignment at the heavily Hispanic church and elementary/middle school.
“As a shepherd, I will walk in front of my flock to lead them, in the middle of the flock to listen to and get to know them and behind them to look over them and ensure they are going in the right direction,” he said. “We may not all be from the same country, but we speak the same language, and that will help the church feel like home to people who are so far away from their homes living here in the United States.”
Nieto said he’s looking forward to celebrating the sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation.
“That one has a special place for me when I think about the role of a priest,” he said, “how you listen to people and how you care for them. We often let negativity take a higher place in our lives than it should and let it overpower us.”
Reconciliation, he said, helps us to let go of negativity, release our burdens, reconnect to God and gives us a feeling of relief.
“It lets us know that we are loved by God, and we all need to know that.”
In addition to caring for and meeting the members of his new parish, Nieto said he will be praying for vocations.
“I advise young people to not be afraid, to try to open their hearts to God’s calling and let it empower you,” he said.
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