Navigating the ordination process is not always easy. The Rev. Nickie Moreno Howard helps others on the journey.
By Barbara Dunlap-Berg.
Even as a little girl, she knew she would pursue ordination.
“I always loved church and couldn’t wait for the chance to preach and lead Bible studies,” said Moreno Howard.
She attended college at the University of Texas Pan American, now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.
“It is the only majority Mexican American University in the country,” Moreno Howard explained.
She graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mexican American studies and anthropology. From there, she attended Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., graduating in 2014. Today she lives in Alexandria, Virginia.
Moreno Howard shared how The United Methodist Church has played an important role in her life.
“The UMC has assisted me financially and encouraged me to explore the depth and dynamics of my call. I have always found supportive mentors who assisted me in discernment and guided me through my ordination journey,” she said.
When Moreno Howard served as chair of the United Methodist Student Movement, a friend urged her to apply for the Journey Toward Ordained Ministry (JTOM) scholarship and mentor experience for college students. The $5,000-per-year award also includes an annual weekend retreat sponsored by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. At the retreat, participants learn more about the ordination process, gain self-awareness and hone interview skills.
“The greatest benefit was meeting other students and young people who were on the same track as I was,” said Moreno Howard. “They helped me to better understand my call and discern how God was calling me.”
She cherished the camaraderie of the event.
“Meeting with students, seminarians, candidates in ministry and clergy who had been through the process helped me to be successful as I worked through the ordination process,” said Moreno Howard.
Seminary tuition and housing in the nation’s capital are expensive, and the JTOM financial support eased the young woman’s financial stress.
Moreno Howard explained that Journey Toward Ordained Ministry also taught life lessons in perseverance.
“The advice of mentors and the support of other ministry candidates helped me to have greater faith, hope and grounding through the difficulties I faced in the process,” she said.
Today, Moreno Howard is a JTOM mentor.
“I appreciate the opportunity to coach and support students as they question and wrestle with their call to ministry,” she said. “This work has called me to help candidates in ministry and student ministries in my (Virginia) annual conference.”
One of the best gifts she received from JTOM mentors and scholars was greater confidence and trust in what Moreno Howard termed “the difficult, sometimes confusing and at times frustrating” process of ordination.
“Knowing that, even in my failures and through my successes, someone supported me and recognized my call gave me the chance to continue working for God’s kingdom,” she said.