Fr. Clement Niggel has been the pastor of Our Lady of Belen Catholic Church for about four years and lives in Belen.
He is the a middle child. His older brother passed away when he was 17, and a he has a younger sister. Through her, Niggel has two nephews and two nieces. He also has the great joy of having his father live with him.
Q What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
A “This is a tough question, because every time I am in the car now the only thing I can think about is this question. Typically when I drive, I do not have the radio on because this is a time to process the problems that I encounter and try to come up with solutions. This is also a time for me to plan for the upcoming week.”
Q What’s a myth about your profession you’d like to bust?
A “That the priesthood is a lonely life because we are not married and do not have a family. As a priest, there are times that I am lonely but they are far and few. The reality is that as a priest, I have a humongous family because I see all may parishioners as my children and love them with a father’s love.”
Q What were you like in high school?
A “I was actually a bad student who hung out with the rockers. I never did my homework and was happy if I passed a class with a C-. Most of may grades were Ds and Fs.
“This was not because I was dumb; I was actually depressed. My senior year I came out of my depression and I received As and Bs.”
Q What is the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
A “It was from a priest (Fr. Tony) while I was in attending Eastern New Mexico University. One day he asked me if I ever considered becoming a priest. My answer to him was yes, but I could not be a priest because I was the last male Niggel and I need to have children to keep the name going.
“His response to me was that ‘eventually the name would die off.’ That was the moment I decided to answer God’s call to become a priest.”
Q What did you want to be when you grew up?
A “Ever since I was 4 years old, I had the desire to be a priest. As a young child, I would play Mass. This desire grew and faded many times.
“However, as I got older I pushed that desire away because I wanted to have a family. In college, I studied accounting because I wanted to enter the FBI.”
Q Who inspires you?
A “St. Lawrence. He is a martyr of the early church who was burned at the stake like a pig on the spit. After being in the flames for a while he cried out, ‘I am done on this side; turn me over.’ He is an example that no matter how bad things are, you can still have joy.”
Q If you could work any other job for one day, what would it be and why?
A “A professional pianist. I love music and admire all who can play an instrument. Unfortunately, I have never learned how to play.”
Q What do you do in your free time?
A “During the winter, unfortunately I end up watching way too much television. But during the summers, I love to garden and work in my backyard. My goal is to transform my backyard into an edible backyard.”
Q What’s something about you most people don’t know?
A “I am very shy and do not like crowds. I force myself to join together with people. However, more interesting is that my shyness does not kick in while I am celebrating Mass.”
Q What three books would you to take to a deserted island?
A “Of course the first book on my list is the Bible. The greatest fact about the Bible is that every time you read from it, you are able to see something new. This is because the Bible is a living book.
“The second book I would take is the Liturgy of Hours. This is a book of prayers.
“Finally, the third book I would take is Gilligan’s guide to living on a deserted island. Growing up watching ‘Gilligan’s Island.’ I was amazed at all the wonderful inventions they were able to make.”
Q You find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
A “The guilt of keeping it would overwhelm me, so I would do the best I could to find the owner. If I was unable to, I would use the money to help people in need.”
Q Who is your best friend and why?
A “Steve Nelson. We met in the summer before third grade just after my family moved into our new house. I consider him more of my brother than a friend.”
Q What’s your favorite song to sing when you’re alone?
A “I don’t know any songs by heart but my favorite artist is Amy Grant. Every time I listen to her music I always sing along. My most favorite song of hers is ‘El Shaddai.’”
Q Where is your happy place, and why?
A “In the mountains laying beside a babbling brook. I have spent many hours just laying there looking at the clouds. Whenever I go to the mountains, it is always the most peaceful time.”
Q Have you had a life-changing experience that led you to where you are today?
A “Yes. My brother was shot and killed by his best friend when he was only 17. It was an accident. My brother’s best friend was attempting suicide when my brother pulled the gun away and the gun went off. My brother taught me how to sacrifice ones own life out of love of another.”
Q What teacher had the greatest impact on you?
A “I can’t think of one teacher that really stood out.”
Q What is your favorite movie scene and why?
A “My most favorite movie is ‘The Princess Bride.’ I have watched this movie many times.
“In the movie, there is a wedding scene between Princess Buttercup and Prince Humperdink and the priest in a weird speech says, ‘Mawage, mawage is what bwings us together twoday.’
“I had the great joy of marrying two dear friends who are also ‘Princess Bride’ fans. I used this scene to begin my homily for their celebration.”
Q If you could have dinner with one famous person — dead or alive — who would it be and why?
A “The obvious answer is Jesus, however the next person would be St. Pope John Paul II. He always had this great joy and love for people. He is one of my idols and I try to imitate his joy and love.”
Q What are you most proud of?
A “As a priest, I have had the great joy of helping so many people. So the thing that I most proud of is the lives I have touched.”
Q How would you like to be remembered?
A “We all are Christ’s hands, Christ’s voice and Christ’s heart. My hope and prayer is that people would say, ‘Fr. Clement was Christ to everyone he met.’ Stealing a quote from Amy Grant, ‘He had his Fathers Eyes.’”