Regnum Christi Spotlight – introducing Father Eric Nielsen, LC

FENphillipinesFr Eric Nielsen grew up in Seattle, WA, together with an older brother named Bill. Here is “his story” is his words.

I can’t say I grew up in a particularly religious background. My dad left the Catholic Church, probably before I was born, and my older brother followed suit. Neither was I particularly “Catholic,” other than attending Sunday Mass with my mom and attending a nominally Catholic school from 1st-8th grade. As a kid, I used to spend my time either in role-playing games, which were a new thing at the time, in the undeveloped woodland I was fortunate enough to live across the street from, or playing football.

FENyoungI didn’t “get religious” until around the time when I graduated from College. There was no particular “religious experience” that led to this. It was simply the God-given inspiration that every day there are thousands of souls who will die, and many of whom would need someone to pray for their eternal salvation. That simple idea was the life-changer that began a two-year process of change leading up to the seminary.

At the end of this process, while taking a semester off from the local community college where I had been studying, I met my first Legionary – a recently-ordained Fr. Edward Hopkins. That would have been around May of 1991.

Upon meeting my first Legionaries, I realized there was something different about them. On the one hand, they were normal. Fr. Edward had a good sense of humor. He had a basketball in the trunk of his car. He was young. He was the kind of person I could identify with, and could picture myself becoming like.

But on the other hand, he spoke to me of God and of a mission in a way I’d never heard before. I knew that this group had something I didn’t have, and that attracted me.

FENnoviceMy subsequent trip to Cheshire that summer confirmed this initial feeling. There I found about another 40 young guys of every imaginable character and background. But we were united by a spirit of virility, of joy, of enthusiasm & of spirituality that I didn’t even know were possible. After 3 days in the Candidacy, and with a lot of prayer, I made up my mind: “Until you kick me out, God, I’m staying.”

As a seminarian I dedicated himself mostly to fund-raising. I was ordained Dec 24th, 2005, and upon finishing a License in Theology, went to help found the Legion in Manila as a first priestly assignment. For eight years I functioned as Young Men’s Section Director, and also worked with the youth in the ECYD- Experiences, Convictions, and your Decisions program for four of those years. For my final year in Manila I was named chaplain of Everest Academy.

I am currently one of three Legionary priests serving in St. Peter’s-St. Denis Church in Yonkers, NY. I am in charge of youth ministry, which has been a whole new experience for me. St. Peter’s-St. Denis is an extremely vibrant parish, made up of largely Latino families from the Caribbean, with a remnant of Irish-Italian in the neighborhood. A lot of our parishioners are first generation immigrants, who bring with them the cultural richness of their diverse backgrounds. Their children, on the other hand, tend to be more “American.” As such, a great deal of what we do here is in Spanish, while the youth ministry is in English.

FENordinationWhen one becomes a parish priest, one inherits a parish with its own history and character. As such, Regnum Christi is just one spiritual family among many in the parish setting. It has been beautiful to get to know these other religious expressions. It has also enhanced my appreciation for Regnum Christi and the particular gift we bring to the table. That much said, Regnum Christi is very much my spiritual family, and I feel most at home when among Regnum Christi members and activities.

My greatest satisfaction is to watch people develop over the years, especially young people, and become true apostles in their own right. The means we offer for this to take place can be any number of things. However, one activity I’ve witnessed that seems to leave a particularly strong impact in a person’s life is the evangelization missions we offer in programs like Mission Youth.

I am a “people person,” and in my free time enjoy simply being around the people I love!

January 2016

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