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My vocation story goes all the way back to kindergarten. I loved our parish priest, Father John Marconi, and wanted to be just like him. I would take old missalettes home and play Mass in my grandparents’ living room. My younger brothers acted as my altar servers. I pushed away this very strong calling as I grew older.
Upon entering junior high, the priesthood was the last thing on my mind. This was all until I attended C2SI (Catholic Charities Summer Institute) prior to my freshman year. It was there that I interacted with seminarians and fell in love with serving those on the fringes of our society, which is such a large part of the priesthood.
Still yet, I continued to push that call away. I wanted to do things my way. I wanted to get a well-paying job and have a family. This was something I wanted, even though this is not what God had planned for me.
While in confession with Father Patrick Friend the summer before my junior year, I told him about these feelings of mine and he told me something that stuck with me. He told me that it is natural to desire that, but that as a priest I get to have an even more beautiful family. I get to be married to the Church and have my whole parish as my flock, just as Jesus did.
As I grew in my faith, the calling became louder and louder. While praying the rosary and meditating on the first joyful mystery, the annunciation, I heard a voice in my head say: "Mary was not afraid of her calling, why are you?" As I matured in my faith, I also fell more and more in love with the Eucharist. I read many books about it and even taught lessons on the Eucharist in my parish religious education class.
Still my selfish pride had big plans for my future and I would not let anything derail them. I noticed however that my plans did not make me happy. I did not feel excited to do any of my plans for the rest of my life and, as a result, I was extremely stressed all the time.
At this point, I decided I needed to make a change. After my step-father asked me to be his sponsor in RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults), I felt a really strong calling in RCIA one morning about leading others to Christ and his Church. I then began more seriously discerning on my own and during Holy Week my senior year, everything was assured.
On Holy Thursday, Father Stephen Elser gave a homily on the Eucharist that brought me to tears. I thought: “If I love the Eucharist this much as a layperson, imagine the perspective as a priest.” I then served on Holy Saturday, my favorite night of the year, and had such an experience I immediately contacted Msgr. (Scott) Friend and expressed my desire to attend the seminary.
If you wish to contact Jackson Nichols, please e-mail Maria Izquierdo-Roque in the Vocations Office or call her at (501) 664-0340. This article was published July 1, 2020. Copyright Diocese of Little Rock. All rights reserved. This article may be copied or redistributed with acknowledgement and permission of the publisher.