Last week, the priests of the Diocese of Calgary convened for a four-day study at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Rockies in Canmore. Under the guidance of Lucas Pollice, an Associate Professor of Theology and Catechetics from the Augustine Institute, the clergy explored the mission of the laity and the new evangelization. The priests deepened their understanding of the lay vocation, examining its vital role and mission, and how it partakes in Christ's priestly, prophetic, and kingly mission.
In addition to the discussions, the gathering also showcased an exclusive preview of the Pastoral Renewal launch video, which was scheduled for release two days later on the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi. Beyond the video preview, the priests dedicated time to reflect on and discuss the pastoral needs of their parish communities in light of the upcoming pastoral renewal, guided by the Pastoral Renewal Leadership team.
Fr. Tim Boyle led a reflection on the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), encouraging the priests to share with one another the challenges they face in ministry, but above all, to share moments when their hearts truly burned with passion for Christ, just like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus when they encountered the Risen Lord. This enriching exercise of deep listening and sharing among the presbyterate highlighted the chosen path for renewal in our Diocese, that which is rooted in the willingness to meet one another on the road, of walking together, of listening and dialogue, so that we can recognize the Lord in our midst.
Photos courtesy of Fr. Iqbal Khurshid, Bonnie Annicchiarico, and Fr. Wilbert Chin Jon.
Written by Fr. Sajo Jacob for Faithfully.
Written by Fr. Roy Jayamaha, Pastor of St. Paul's Church, Piikani Nation, Brocket, AB.
Written by Fr. Bryan Frank, Retired Priest of the Diocese of Calgary.
“War is the ultimate human failure,” says Capt./Fr. John Nemanic. Not a sentiment I expect to hear from a military chaplain but Fr. John is adamant. “Human beings are called to be in communion with one another; to love and help each other. I had to grapple with this.” As we continue the interview, he expands on this conflict.
Barely nine months ago, Fr. John was a diocesan priest in the Diocese of Calgary. Now he is a chaplain serving in the Roman Catholic Military Ordinariate of Canada (RC Milord Canada) under the supervision of Bishop Scott McCaig. The RCMilord is described as “a diocese of massive dimensions” serving not only military members and their families at home, but also wherever the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have a presence around the world.
Fr. John is simultaneously an officer, serving under a military chain of command including the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service (RCChS). This branch of the military, which Fr. John describes as similar to Alberta Catholic schools in that it serves all faiths. According to the National Defence website, “CAF chaplains attend to the needs of all members of the CAF and their families, whether they identify with a particular Faith Tradition, have no specific spiritual/faith practice, belief or custom, or are spiritually curious.”
In some ways, this is similar to parish work, caring for the spiritual needs of all CAF members, those who are Catholic, those from other faith backgrounds or those who have none. The pluralism found within the CAF reflects that seen in Canadian society as a whole, so chaplains have to be prepared to deal with all of it. Fr. John says, “As individual chaplains we’re told to be faithful to our faith traditions, so I might refer for example, a same-sex marriage request, to another chaplain. The chaplain might also refer military families to the local (secular) parish, for example, for sacramental preparation or for French-language Mass. He also liaises with other houses of worship nearby to be able to refer different faith adherents appropriately. It’s an environment of ecumenism and outreach into which chaplains are rigorously initiated.
Fr. John felt a calling to the military as early as his calling to the priesthood. His father served in the Yugoslavian army, so after Fr. John was ordained in 2008, he considered serving as a reservist. However, he found the commitment unsustainable with full time parish work. In 2017, his yearning to serve for the military resurfaced during centennial celebrations of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Eventually, he applied to the RCChS and began a long process of interviews, physical tests, evaluations, educational qualification assessments and personal reference checks. “This was also to test the call,” Fr. John says, “A lot of it was prayer.”
Once he was accepted, he was posted to Garrison Petawawa in Ontario (population 19,000 including 6,000 people directly connected to the base). He then began 13 weeks of basic training from 5 am to 10 pm. It was a tough regimen designed to emphasize teamwork and endurance under adversity, as well as essential fighting skills. Chaplains do not carry weapons, although they do have to learn how to safely disarm them. They also do not command any personnel but bear an officer’s rank so they can minister to members at all levels. Chaplains have authority, and an obligation, to present significant issues from the rank-and-file to higher-ups. They also preside at religious services and form part of the group which delivers news to a family following an incident.
It was during basic training that Fr. John experienced a memorable moment. Among his fellow trainees, who ranged in age from 19 to 50, one approached him expressing suicidal thoughts. Fr. John arranged for mental health support for the person. He remembers being awed and humbled by the “power of the padre”, to be trusted with a confidence at the outset of his training. Not all his experiences were as positive.
While visiting the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa during Basic Training, he paused in front of a large display of instruments meant to kill and maim. “My stomach churned,” he says, “I wondered, ‘am I enabling this by serving in the CAF?’” With the help of an advisor, he came to understand differently. “Canada’s interests in going to war are noble: to defend our country and defend those who need our help.” He goes on to say that Jesus met violence with acceptance when he submitted to being crucified. Chaplains can provide solace to those who’ve had to kill and those suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Fr. John explains that soldiers have to accept what the military terms ‘unlimited liability’ which means they cannot refuse an order even if it places them in dire danger. Officers have to deal with issuing such orders. Even peacekeepers, who are not permitted to fire unless first fired upon, can encounter terrible situations which they are powerless to affect.
“It’s such a conundrum to support CAF members but not believe in war,” Fr. John says. “Only God can bring creation out of chaos. Pray for peace in our hearts and homes. Pray that there is no more war and no need for the military but pray also for our soldiers.”
Fr. John ends our interview the same way he began it, with gratitude to Bishop McGrattan for “putting me on loan to the military”. He says fervently, “I would never have found peace until I knew if I could do this. God has put me in a place where I can really help people.”
A thunderclap of applause erupted inside St. Mary’s Cathedral Friday evening as the faithful deemed Santiago Torres worthy of ordination to the priesthood.
There was standing room only as young and old watched on as Torres prostrated himself before God and His people, giving his undivided heart to the priesthood on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as a choir sounding like angels sang the Litany of the Saints.
Then the essential moment – the Laying on of Hands – by Bishop William McGrattan, as the Holy Spirit conformed Torres to the priesthood of Christ. It was poignant to see the many faces of Christ come forward one by one laying their hands on their new brother priest as he knelt to receive this gesture in humility.
The word ‘humility’ was repeated through the music, the prayers, the homily and even Fr. Torres’ thank you address at the end of the ordination.
Bishop McGrattan emphasized every priest must possess the gift of the fear of God, a trepidation that they are unworthy to receive this call. “Each priest must respond to their call with confidence and humility inspired by the Spirit of God,” he said.
Sincere, affable, gentle, kind, confident, humble, joyful and a gift to the Church; these are words that the faithful use to describe their newest Calgary diocesan priest. I count myself among the faithful who feel blessed by Fr. Santiago’s “yes” to live for Christ.
A few weeks before the ordination, I had the privilege of sitting down to speak with Father (at that time Deacon) Torres. He chatted with me from his dorm room at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Edmonton via video call. Almost immediately I was reminded of his magnetic personality. We had first met about 13 years ago (summer of 2010) during which time he had just experienced the love of God in a profound life-changing way. By the end of the interview my heart was full of hope for the future of Fr. Santiago’s priestly vocation and for all the ways he will bring glory to God and peace to those he ministers to on Earth.
A chat with Fr. Santiago
The Parable of the Mustard Seed came to mind as I sat down to write and reveal a glimpse of Fr. Santiago Torres’s profound journey of faith: one that began for him as a tiny seed hidden within his mother’s womb.
“When I was conceived my Dad didn’t want anything to do with the pregnancy and so he left my Mom. I never knew who my biological dad was. He pushed [abortion] on her and my mom decided to have me instead – Praise God.”
The 34-year-old priest, born and raised in Bogota, Colombia, considers his mother his primary role model.
“My Mom has always been that solid foundation in my life for security and love – how to give of yourself for others.”
Two days before the ordination, Fr. Santiago’s mother, Maria Cristina Latorre, was busy preparing for the ordination, welcoming her best friend from Germany, her sisters from Colombia, Santiago’s out-of-town seminarian friends and parishioners from his diaconal year in Lethbridge. With emotions running high amidst the hustle and bustle at her house, she stepped away to reflect and answer a few questions about her son.
“I don’t know why Jesus chose me, but I’m here and I’m ready to give back my son to Him,” said Latorre, trying to hold back her tears. “There are too many emotions.
“I ask God why you chose my son?,” she said. “I’m not asking this ‘why’ in a bad way. No, I’m asking why [because] I’m so humbled to be his mom.
“Santiago explained to me ‘Mom, sometimes God, through difficult times, or bad situations, He makes something good from bad,’ which makes sense for me,” she continued.
Growing up in Bogota, Colombia
When Fr. Santiago was two-years-old, his mother married and had twin girls, Ana Maria and Maria Juliana. Then at six-years-old his parents divorced, but the family continued to keep in touch with his sisters’ father, the man who Fr. Santiago considers his earthly father figure.
“It’s incredible how important the love of a father is in a person’s life and yet, even if one hasn’t had that in one’s life, God still wants to give us that love,” said Fr. Santiago. “Looking back on my life in those years that I wasn’t close to Him… even if I didn’t realize He was there, He was always there.”
From early on the seed of faith was planted through Fr. Santiago’s Sacraments of Baptism and First Eucharist, but he was not Confirmed until later as an adult. From an early age watching television soccer matches won out over going to Sunday Mass. Meanwhile, his grandparents played a pivotal role in helping his mother raise Fr. Santiago and his sisters, both practically and spiritually.
Mrs. Latorre remembers those early days of childrearing and how her parents did not approve of all the ways her life had unfolded. Yet, as devout Catholics, they continued to support and love her and her children.
“At this time I was not close to God, I cannot say I was praying, but I can say God was with me all the time. I think He has been by my side all the time,” said Mrs. Latorre, tearfully.
A new beginning in Canada
Mrs. Latorre married Juan Gonzalo Arango when Fr. Santiago was around 14 and then, in 2005 at the age of 16, the family immigrated to Calgary for better opportunities.
“For me it was very difficult,” said Fr. Santiago. “My friends were everything. I had a girlfriend in Colombia at that time as well. We moved in October, which was hard because it was starting to get cold and high school had already started. I only knew enough English to get by.”
Shortly after the move, he began a relationship with a Colombian girl, also newly immigrated to Canada, who, to his astonishment, practiced her Catholic faith.
The seed of faith received some significant watering one day when he was at his girlfriend’s house and the family was on a long-distance phone call with a priest from Colombia. Each person got a chance to speak to this priest, including – to his surprise – Fr. Santiago.
“I was completely dumbfounded because I hadn’t talked to a priest in forever and that was how my conversion began,” said Fr. Santiago “It’s incredible how God works.
“Because I didn’t know him and I knew I wouldn’t see him again ever, I was able to open my heart to him and actually talk about stuff that was going on in my life more than I would talk with my friends or girlfriend.”
Shortly after that his girlfriend invited him to Mass and he began to pray at night again. He sees this period in high school as living a double life – one of renewed faith, yet still steeped in his secular lifestyle. But the seed of faith that had been planted in his childhood began to receive nourishment.
Turning back to God
Two years after graduating high school (summer of 2010) at the age of twenty, Fr. Santiago participated in Impact, an evangelistic mission hosted by Catholic Christian Outreach. It was geared toward bringing lukewarm Catholic university students back into the faith. He took a faith study and attended ‘Summit’, an evening of adoration prayer at St. Bonaventure. It was during this hour of adoration and praise and worship that he gave his adult ‘yes’ to place Jesus at the centre of his life.
“I just remember closing my eyes and feeling so loved,” said Fr. Santiago “It was just incredible. I started crying. It was just an experience of a love I’d never encountered.
“I’d just broken up with my girlfriend, trying to fit into a culture I’d just arrived in, trying to wear a lot of masks to belong. I just felt the love that God was trying to give me, for no other reason than for being who I was.”
His newly sprouted seed of faith continued to grow with good friendships through the former University of Calgary Catholic Community (now St. Xavier Chaplaincy). After graduating with a mechanical engineering degree in 2014, Fr. Santiago worked for a year in his field all the while discerning a call to either explore the priesthood or a budding female friendship.
He received spiritual direction from a number of priests in the diocese and decided to apply for seminary studies.
“I entered [into the seminary] with a lot of reluctance,” said Fr. Santiago. “I just felt I had been on the fence for a long time by then, a lot of wrestling and struggling. But I felt I had tried everything I could to discern outside the seminary, but the one thing I hadn’t done was give the seminary a shot.”
The female friend he wanted to romantically pursue gave him the last push to enter seminary.
“She said, ‘Santi, if you are not God’s will for me, then I don’t want to be with you.’ And that cut me to the heart because it was the opposite of what I was doing. I felt God was calling me to be a priest and I was choosing not to follow His will, but to be with her,” said Fr. Santiago.
The formative seminary years
Fr. Santiago spent his first two seminary years at Mount Angel Seminary in Oregon, USA where one third of the seminarians were Latino.
“I was able to make really good friends and feel at home,” said Fr. Santiago. “I began to feel this was right, that it was what God wanted me to do. That continued to be the feeling year after year.”
He completed the next six years of training in Edmonton at St. Joseph’s Seminary.
During this time fellow seminarian Serge Buisse became a close friend. They spent a lot of time together, studying, playing sports, confiding in one another.
Fr. Serge was ordained last July for the St. Boniface Archdiocese in Winnipeg. He now pastors the francophone parish of St. Joachim in La Broquerie, Manitoba. He describes Fr. Santiago as down-to-earth, joyfilled, friendly and warm.
“He was always a gift in so far as his desire to grow,” said Fr. Serge “He is very human. I thank God He sent me someone like him; his capacity to be real, to be authentic and we supported each other in almost every aspect of life.”
A note from the Diocese of Calgary:
Thank you to all ministers, volunteers, and staff who helped prepare for the Ordination! Special thanks to St. Mary's Cathedral parish staff, Catholic Women's League & Serra Club Calgary for organizing the reception, St. John Choir Schola, St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy, Calgary seminarians, photographers Yuan Wang (SFXC) & Victor Panlilio (Canadian Martyr's Parish), livestreamer Rikki Sabater (St. Anthony's Parish) & team, videographers Annie Chirka (St. Peter's Parish) & team.
Congratulations to Fr. Quinn Gomez, FSSP from Calgary on being ordained to the Priesthood for the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter on May 26, 2023, by His Excellency Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone at North American Martyrs Catholic Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Fr. Cristino Bouvette had the privilege of attending the Ordination and receiving a priestly blessing from the newly ordained priest. Fr. Gomez also invited Fr. Cristino to preach at his first Mass the next day. Despite joining the Fraternity, Fr. Gomez wants to remain connected with his home diocese. You can view the Ordination photos here | Video
Funeral Mass of Fr. Gilles LeBlanc was celebrated on Saturday, May 6, 2023 at Sacred Heart Church in Calgary followed by a graveside service at St. Mary’s Cemetery.
Father Gilles LeBlanc was born on May 18, 1949, in Bouctouche, New Brunswick. He is pre-deceased by his parents Frederick and Suzanne LeBlanc and his brother Paul LeBlanc. He is survived by his siblings: Andrea Acherly, Ronald LaBlanc, Gladys Bordage, John LaBlanc, Reggie LeBlanc. He was ordained a priest in 1985. He passed away peacefully on May 2, 2023 at Providence Care Centre.
Visit the obituary page at https://www.evanjstrong.com/obituary/FrGilles-LeBlanc
Fr. Gilles LeBlanc's Pastoral Assignments
Father Gilles LeBlanc was ordained a priest on April 26, 1985, at St. Mary’s Cathedral by Bishop Paul J. O'Byrne. Fr. LeBlanc began his pastoral assignments as an Assistant Pastor at St. John’s, Calgary, in June 1985, followed by St. Mark’s in Calgary in August 1985, serving until 1987. He then served as an Assistant Pastor at St. Ann's in Blairmore from July 1987 to 1988. In 1989, he accepted a pastoral assignment as Pastor of St. Andrew’s, Vulcan, Champion, and Carmangay, where he served for two years. Later in his ministry, Fr. LeBlanc was assigned at St. Anthony’s in Calgary from 2006 until July 2008. His last pastoral assignment was at St. Patrick’s in Medicine Hat from August 2008 until his retirement in June 2010.
Please join us in remembering Fr. Gilles by viewing these beautiful photos of his funeral mass, captured by Victor Panlilio. Let us all pray for his eternal rest and the souls of all the faithful departed, and may they find peace in the loving mercy of God.
Photos courtesy of Victor Panlilio | See all photos here
The Feast of Stephen the Protomartyr invites us all to give witness to our faith in the newborn king.
For the last years I have been blest to study in Rome, where St. Stephen’s Day stands with Christmas as a second occasion of celebration. If Christmas belongs to more close-knit family gatherings, various more public and religious encounters mark the following feast in the Italian culture. Well-wishers gather with friends and fill the piazzas and streets. Faithful may take the time to visit the nativity scenes in churches along with attending the liturgical celebrations dedicated to the saint.
We read the account of the testimony of St. Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles. The group of twelve called the saint to serve as a deacon with six others while they kept busy proclaiming God’s word. We discover in the narrative that Stephen bestowed great skills as an orator. In a testimony to the high priest, he traces God work through salvation history, revealing how Jesus fulfills God’s plans through the people of Israel. In particular, the text of Acts goes to lengths to point out that the Holy Spirit accompanies him and guides him. Inspired by God’s Spirit, St. Stephen offers his life with words that reflect those of Christ — “receive my spirit” — but now he does so as a prayer in the Saviour’s name — “Lord Jesus” (Acts 7:59).
The testimony of St. Stephen has a particular relevance in the city of Rome. One of its churches, the Basilica of St. Lawrence or San Lorenzo, remains the one of the places in the world where the faithful have traditionally revered his relics. Recently I visited this ancient site, which was originally founded by the emperor Constantine and has been rebuilt in the following centuries.
The building now has a medieval feel to it (see below). It has solid brick walls that encompass its wonders of ancient columns and mosaic floors. From the entrance of the basilica, one’s eyes rise to its elevated altar — marked by four columns that support a weighty canopy. The altar sits overtop of a lower space, an inner sanctuary that houses the relics of St. Stephen as well as his fellow deacon martyr, St. Lawrence. They remain together as two deacon martyrs of the early church.
The church of Santo Stefano Rotondo also has a particular attachment to the saint. The building dates to the fifth century and it remains the earliest church in the city built on a circular floor plan. While the church also reveres St. Stephen of Hungary, and has served the Hungarian community in Rome for the last five hundred years, it nonetheless houses a moving mural depiction of the protomartyr Stephen. It presents him serenely looking up to heaven, wearing the dalmatic vestment of the deacon, while his aggressors are weighed down with anger and stones as they try to establish their own form of justice.
For most of us the Feast of Stephen the Protomartyr pales under the piles of boxes and the other colours that mark our Christmas celebrations. Yet the date remains an invitation for us to let the birth of Jesus transform the way we live the rest of the year. St. Ambrose articulates the faith that animated the martyr: “Christ is everything for us. If you are in need of help, he is strength. If you are afraid of death, he is life. If you desire heaven, he is the way. If you want to get away from darkness, he is the light” (On Virginity, 16). Let us take a moment this day to ask for the intercession of St. Stephen. May he help us find in Christ the pattern of love and sacrifice that brings meaning to each moment of every day.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem* on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
Jewish people pray this prayer daily and maybe we should too!
Throughout the week-long Priests Study Days (Oct. 3-6) in Canmore, we were reminded to listen and remember, and to let our memory inspire our service.
For some of us priests, this was our first visit to the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Rockies in Canmore. This church has preserved beautifully memories of the past in the beautiful sculptures throughout the building, and yet it is a modern church ready to serve us in the future. A reminder that though our buildings change .. The Lord is One.
We began our week by remembering the years of ministry nine of our priests have offered to the Diocese. Their service embraced parishes and many lay associations, including the CWL and the Knights of Columbus. They came from around the world inspired by their memories of God’s love.
We listened to the the Synod Synthesis to hear the voices of the laity who gathered throughout the Synodal process and to what the Spirit had inspired them to say about our journey together. Some of what the priests heard was probably challenging, but in the end the message was - work with us.. help us to renew the life of the Spirit that we share - for the Lord is One.
Our speaker Fr Michael Simone, a Jesuit from Chicago, helped us to revisit the scriptures during the Study Days. His main theme was Remember and Believe. He helped us to see first how the Psalms came about as pilgrims visited shrines, to either ask forgiveness or to give thanks, and how at the shrine a song was sung in memory of the deeds of the Lord. These songs became our Psalms. He reminded us that Jesus would have prayed these Psalms, and that when we pray them we should ask ourselves .. what did these words inspire in Jesus' heart.. what are they saying to our hearts.
Fr. Simone took us through the Gospels, showing us how they were composed to help early Christian’s ready themselves to meet the Lord. He showed us that Jesus' mission was to help Israel see the true meaning of the the great events in their past. And how Jesus is with us every day, encouraging us to remember what God has done so we can detect the signs if his present activity.
Bishop McGrattan led us in the Eucharist each day. He spoke to us about the importance of our unity as a witness to our people that we believe in one Lord.. and in the Eucharist we heard Jesus own command, "Do this in memory of me."
Fr. Michael pointed out to us that Jesus saw himself as a Jew.. he lived his earthly life as a Jew. Every day he would pray the Shema, "Listen Israel .. the Lord is our God. The Lord is one."
We should learn the Shema and add it to our daily prayer!
Interview conducted by Solomon Ip for Faithfully
Interview conducted by Solomon Ip for Faithfully
"Remember that you are the custodians of beauty in the world.” says Pope Benedict XVI is his address to Artists.
The Sacred Arts Guild of Alberta (SAGA) is a community of artists and associates who are interested in the study, preservation, and renewal of traditional methods for creating liturgical and sacred art in the Christian tradition. SAGA presented their inaugural Legacy Project in November 2021 featuring a short film on Sacred Artist Fr. Gilles LeBlanc, retired priest in the Diocese of Calgary. They hope the film will encourage you to explore our faith more through the Sacred Arts.
The SAGA Team is proud to have partnered with Annie Chirka, videographer and editor, with the intention of celebrating those members of our community who are faithful “Custodians of Beauty”.
Please visit our website to learn more about how you can be part of this Sacred Arts initiatives: SacredArtsGuildofAlberta.com
Mr. Santiago Torres will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate by Bishop McGrattan on Saturday, May 21 at 11 am at All Saints Parish in Lethbridge. Earlier this month, Chris Moraes, the President of the Serra Club of Calgary sat down with Santiago at his home parish of St. Bonaventure to ask him about his vocations journey and his upcoming ordination.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
“I am currently 33 years old. I was born in Colombia and moved to Canada when I was 16 years old with my mother, step-father and my younger twin sisters. My parents separated in my youth and moving to Canada was a challenge. At that time I was not practising my faith. I enjoy making visits to my native Colombia and visiting my father when I am there.”
Who is your favourite Saint?
My grandparents have always been very influential on me and my faith. When I was young they gave me a book about St. Dominic Savio. At his first holy communion St. Dominic said to God that he never wanted to sin again which was a very inspiring message for me. I took him as my confirmation saint and his story has inspired me to always trust in the Lord and has given me strength many times throughout my life.
When did you first become aware of your call? Who was instrumental in encouraging you to explore it?
At the age of 16 I met a girl at my school who was also from Colombia. We grew close and eventually began dating. She was very strong in her faith and brought me to Mass and encouraged my prayer life. Eventually we ended our relationship but my faith remained because of her. On one occasion I heard about a CCO Mission at my parish. My first deep conversion took place when I attended an evening of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I was invited to take part in a Faith Study and that was when I really started to connect all of the aspects of my faith and especially came to discover a real relationship with our Lord Jesus. After that I started to get involved with CCO and I joined the executive of the campus ministry group at the UofC. This allowed me to share with others the encounter that I had personally experienced with Christ.
How has the Diocese of Calgary been instrumental in the discernment of your own vocation?
The Blessed Sacrament chapel at St. Bonaventure is where I really began to hear the Lord calling me to his service. It was also the witness of several priests that allowed me to be open to this call. Around the time of my conversion, Father Cristino was on his pastoral internship at St. Bonaventure and he likes to recall the story that he began praying for my vocation way back then. The spiritual direction from Fr. Wilbert Chin Jon was instrumental in navigating fears, doubts and feelings of unworthiness for such an important calling. The friendship of Fr. Troy Nguyen in the early days of discernment also helped to ease some anxieties about going to spend the first few years at Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon to begin my priestly studies. \
What has been the greatest challenge that you have gone through as in your Seminary formation?
The seminary is a place that really helps you to get to know yourself. It is an interesting balance of guidance, formation, and evaluation. At times it can magnify your shortcomings, and there are times when you find yourself comparing yourself to the other gifted and faith filled young men. It does, however, also help to discover the great gift of the priesthood and to accept that despite feelings of unworthiness, that God can indeed call you to serve him in this vocation.
What has been your greatest joy or consolation in this journey?
The abiding understanding that God always responds to openness with faithfulness and that he wants to fulfil you with happiness. The relationships that are forged with your brother seminarians allow you to wrestle with the doubts. It is a true brotherhood and gives you strength for the journey of discernment.
In the few months that it has been established in our Diocese, have you been aware of the Serra Club and its activities?
Yes, absolutely. Sometimes the seminary can become a bit of a bubble and you just keep your head down and keep working towards the goal. It is a wonderful realisation that you are not alone on your journey and that there are many dedicated people out there praying with and for you. The letters of encouragement from students and lay people have been a great blessing to me and I am grateful for the presence of the Serra Club and the work that its growing membership is doing to promote and support vocations in our Diocese.
What is the thing you are most anticipating as your ordination to the transitional diaconate it approaches?
The thing I am most excited for is simply just “Living it” and being entirely dedicated to the ministry of the deacon. I am sure it will bring new questions, new challenges, and new learning. The ordination brings both a sense of finality of one process but also a new beginning of a new one in the ordained ministry.
What piece of advice would you give to a young person who feels like they might have a call to a religious vocation?
First of all, talk to someone about it. A spiritual director, vocations director or your parish priest will help encourage, guide, and help you to know that you are not crazy for thinking you might be called to the priesthood. Fr. Wilbert was able to reassure me that despite my insecurities, that God would sustain and inspire me to keep saying “Yes.” Secondly, Give the Lord the chance to show you that He is God and that he knows and loves you and that wants what is absolutely best for you.
Photo credit: Chris Moraes.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers