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Seminarians Segert and Cintra to be ordained to diaconate

The following story appeared in the May 27 Idaho Catholic Register.

Left, Timothy Segert and right, Nelson Cintra

Two Diocese of Boise seminarians will be one step closer to priesthood when they are ordained deacons at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist on Thursday, June 9. Timothy Segert and Nelson Cintra will be ordained by Bishop Peter Christensen at an Ordination Mass that begins at 10 a.m.

TIMOTHY SEGERT was born in The Dalles, Oregon in 1989, but moved to Boise in 1995 when he was 5 and grew up in Boise.

Faith has always been an important part of Segert’s life, although he has been Catholic for only 10 years. He was raised in a devout Protestant home in Boise, where reading the Bible and going to church were frequent experiences. He remembers being baptized when he was 5.

Segert attended Boise State where he was involved in Campus Crusade for Christ and various evangelical churches, including Calvary Chapel. It was also at Boise State that he first encountered committed Catholics. “Prior to that, the Catholics I had met didn’t know their faith and didn’t seem to care. So, I wasn’t that impressed. I thought being a Catholic was more of a cultural thing.”

Until he started dating a Catholic girl, who was not only committed to her faith, but was a convert from a Protestant background. That intrigued him. He knew of many Catholics who became Protestant, but not the other way around. He asked her to share with him what caused her to change her faith tradition. That was when the books started coming. As soon as he would finish one, she would have another, many from Catholic converts like Drs. Scott Hahn and Peter Kreeft. Though she offered him books and didn’t hesitate to share her faith, he didn’t feel pressure from her to be-come Catholic. “She gave me room, she never forced it.”

Her books led to others. “I read dozens of books before I ever attended Mass,” he said. “Intellectually I was becoming Catholic. It was happening very slowly, but it was happening.” He knew it was happening particularly during discussions with fellow Protestants. “I found myself defending the Catholic Church a lot without being Catholic,” he said. It was then that he decided he should start attending Mass. “If I didn’t start looking into it seriously, I would be intellectually dishonest with myself.”

The first time he visited the St. Paul’s Student Center on the Boise State campus, he looked around to make sure no one was watching. “I was embarrassed to be there at first. I didn’t want my Protestant friends to see me going in there.”

It was while sitting in the chapel at St. Paul’s that his intellectual conversion also made room for a spiritual change of heart. “I remember feeling someone present in there. I knew it was Christ, I knew it was a good presence. I remember saying to myself,

‘This is the Christ I already know.’ ”

At the time, he did not understand the doctrine of the Real Presence. However, due in part to that peaceful presence he encountered, “I never doubted the Real Presence as soon as I learned about it.”

He took RCIA classes from Father Hugh Feiss, OSB, then the campus chaplain, and the late Deacon Chuck Skorro. “They were a huge influence, but even more so was the community fostered at the Catholic student center,” Segert said.

In 2012, during his senior year, Segert was received into the Church at the Easter Vigil.

After graduation from BSU, Segert entered graduate school at Western Carolina University, pursuing a degree in higher educational administration. He was involved in the Catholic student group there and, after earning his master’s degree, accepted a job at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., as the administrator of three residence halls.

He had not entertained the notion of becoming a priest until a Dominican priest came to speak at one of his Young Adult activities. “I don’t remember the words he said, but I do remember that his life story was similar to mine. He was a convert who had been brought into the faith intellectually. His story really shook me and gave a feeling that I needed to do something more with my faith.”

He spoke with the priest afterward, telling him that his talk had “convicted” him. “The priest told me that might be the Holy Spirit, which terrified me,” he said. “I struggled with that for months, so much so that my hands would break out into a rash. I would pray to God to leave me alone, even praying the rosary more to tell the Lord to leave me alone about this. I get why Jonah ran.”

After considering religious order ordination with the Dominicans, Segert opted for diocesan priesthood. Then the choice was between the Arch-diocese of Washington, D.C., and his home Diocese of Boise. “You couldn’t pick two more polar opposite dioceses. One has a large land area with a low Catholic population and the other was very densely populated, covering a small geographic area, but lots of Catholics.”

While there are advantages to having so many Catholics as well as fellow priests and religious orders in a small, geographic area, there is also the advantage of hearing frequently from one’s bishop.

“I could tell he wrote it, not a secretary,” Segert said, of a communication he received from Bishop Peter. The Bishop assured Segert that in the Diocese of Boise, he would not be a number or a stranger to the Bishop or anyone in the local church. “You will be known by name here,” the Bishop told him. “That likely would not have happened in D.C.,” Segert said.

Segert enrolled at Mount Angel Seminary five years ago and served his pastoral year last year with St. Mark’s Parish in Boise.

Segert’s parents remain actively involved in their Baptist faith. “We are mutually at peace with each other,” he said. “We can talk a lot about our faith without it being contentious. My parents are remarkably supportive.”

Asked to write a short reflection on his upcoming ordination to the Diaconate, Segert wrote:

“After reflection upon my discernment process toward the priesthood and my time at seminary, I would say that I have had a threefold conversion of heart in regard to God’s call for me.

“When I first entered the seminary, I was simply trying to obey the Lord’s will. I had an attraction to the priesthood, but I also had a decent amount of reluctance about the whole matter because it was not the original plan I had for my life, and the idea of celibacy seemed daunting to me. It was a hard uphill climb of death to self for the first two years. After that, I gradually came to a new phase: I realized that this was not going to be something passing in my life, and the idea of becoming a priest became more tangible and realistic.

“It was at this point that – even though I found the seminary to be difficult in many ways – my desire to be there was actually quite strong even amidst those difficulties. I realized that the Lord’s desire for me and my desire for myself were beginning to align. It was during this middle period that I surprised myself with how much I actually wanted to be a priest in the midst of challenges.

“Finally, in these last two years, I have managed to attain a gentle confidence and peace about the whole matter. I can now see how the Lord has blessed me more abundantly than I could have imagined during this whole process and how the priesthood is the path to which God called me because He created me and knows me better than I even know myself. I now very much look forward to being ordained a transitional deacon, during which time I will make permanent promises of celibate chastity, obedience, simplicity of life, and prayer. I also am already looking forward to being a priest, although that is still a little more than a year away. I have no idea what lies ahead, but I trust that God will guide me through those times just as He has directed me these past six years.

NELSON CINTRA was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1986. He moved to Ohio in 1999 and graduated from Ohio State University in 2008 with a bachelor’s of science degree in psychology.

Three years later, he accepted a job at a small, private boarding high school for at-risk youth outside Arco, Idaho, called Wisdom Ranch School.

“It was in Idaho that God and the Catholic faith became the center of my life,” Cintra said, which led to his decision to enter the seminary in 2014 and seek ordination in the Diocese of Boise.

In 2016, Cintra completed the pre-theology program at Mundelein Seminary with an MA in Philosophy and Religion. He then began theology studies at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon.

After his pastoral year at St. Paul’s Parish in Nampa, he took two years for extra discernment and formation. In 2021, he resumed his theology studies at Mount Angel.

Faith was not always an important part of his life. It was the influence of a brother, whom he wrongly assumed to be non-believing, and his sister that helped lead him back to his faith.

The following is excerpted from a 2014 article he wrote called “Truth and Goodness,” about an event that took place a few years before he took the job in Arco, emphasizing the importance of his brother and sister in his faith journey:

I grew up in a broken home. Cancer got to dad way too early. Mom had her shopping bag of struggles, too many to provide me with a solid foundation. Given the circumstances, she did the best she could.

Older siblings, for the most part, were doing their own thing. I was largely on my own to learn how to navigate my way through this storm we call life.

There were (and are) role models. Brother gave me a book every birthday, Christmas and children’s day, most of which I did not read. As a teenager, he left Catholicism behind as he had found it was really, really unlikely to be true. He went on to graduate in biology two years younger than the rest of his class, while teaching himself two other languages, and devouring history, literature and philosophy at a pace of a book every three days. He was traveling the world, playing and coaching bridge. Easily the smartest person in my life.

Sister. When she wasn’t studying, singing and playing the guitar or serving the underprivileged, she was teaching me about Jesus. “Share your joys with Jesus,” she would say. “Talk to Him about your struggles.” Halfway through medical school, she interrupted her studies to work for two years as a missionary and discern a call to Religious life. She found, instead, that Jesus wanted her in the world, healing the sick. She went back to finish med school. … Easily the biggest heart in my life.

Through high school and college I had come to a few vague conclusions about God: a) if He exists, which He probably doesn’t, He must not have much to do with my life; b) I don’t need God in my life because I can find happiness and create meaning all on my own just fine; and c) whether God exists or doesn’t, people who have a strong faith in Him and live out that faith (i.e., my sister, sister’s friends and all the great saints) turn out to be joyful, hard-working and heroically self-giving individuals.

…. I picked and chose what I liked and ignored about Catholicism. I built homes in Honduras while chasing girls at home … I went to Mass when it was convenient, but Confession? I’d rather watch “South Park,” and laugh at other people’s sins instead of face my own.

About halfway through college something happened that I remember vividly. I was staying at my brother’s apartment for a few weeks. I woke up on a Sunday morning and my brother was not home. Where was he? Could he have gone to Mass? My genius brother was the pillar on which my blind ignorance was founded. … I questioned him. “Since when have you been going to Mass?”

“A few months,” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked. “I don’t have to tell you everything I do,” he said.

During the same visit after dinner at my grandparents, my sister was entrusted to carry the delicious leftover country fried chicken steaks back some. At some point during that walk, a homeless man approached our group, nothing unusual for the streets of Rio. I noticed that my sister talked to him, but I continued the conversation with my brother. A couple of hours later, hungry for a late-night snack, I reached in the fridge for the steaks. “She gave them to the homeless man,” said my brother matter-of-factly, as I should have known it already.

Two or three years later, after graduation, had come and gone, I found myself at a crossroads. … What is the meaning of my life? What am I here for? What am I supposed to do from here on out?”

That was when I started reading. At first, it was business and sales books. That led to self-help, which led to psychology, then philosophy to, finally, theology and spirituality. Both brother and sister were indispensable during those years. … Fast forwarding another three or four years of investigation, I’m today convinced that Catholicism is indeed true. …

Cintra said his sister also invited him to World Youth Day in Madrid in 2011. “In Madrid, I knelt down and prayed, ‘OK, Jesus, I give you my life. Do with it as you please,” Cintra said.

Asked to write a short reflection on his upcoming ordination to the Diaconate, Cintra wrote:

In a sense, the Diaconate ordination feels like a stepping stone toward priestly ordination next year. After all, we’re in formation to be priests, not transitional deacons. However, in another sense, the Diaconate ordination feels heavier because it is at this time that we make our lifelong promises of celibacy and obedience to the Bishop and his successors. After this point, there is no turning back. In other words, it can be said that the Diaconate ordination is when we become a spouse; the priestly ordination is when we become a father.

One big takeaway for me from all of these years of seminary is, “All things work for good for those who love God.”

If I could choose any vocation or to be anywhere, I would choose to be right here: encountering the love of the crucified Christ in my wounds, getting ready to give my life to God and to the Church in Idaho as a priest, praying that He continue to give me His love, grace, and mercy, continue to heal me, and that He use me – all of me, including my sufferings and brokenness – to heal others.

If you enjoyed this story and would like to read more like it, please consider buying a subscription to the Idaho Catholic Register. Your $20 yearly subscription also supports the work of the Diocese of Boise Communications Department, which includes not only the newspaper, but this website, social media posts and videos. You can subscribe here, or through your parish, or send a check to 1501 S. Federal Way, Boise, ID, 83705: or call 208-350-7554 to leave a credit card payment. Thank you, and God bless you.

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