Congratulations to our twelve new permanent deacons, ordained on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023 at St. Mary's Cathedral by Bishop William T. McGrattan.
Please pray for our newly ordained deacons that he may be strengthened by the gift of God's grace to carry out faithfully the work of ministry, and that he may imitate our Lord who came not to be served but to serve. Amen.
A special acknowledgment is extended to the liturgical ministers, St. Mary's Cathedral, and diocesan staff for their dedicated work in organizing the ordination liturgy. We express our special appreciation to the Permanent Diaconate Ministerial Council, sponsors, and volunteers for organizing and arranging the reception.
Join us in rejoicing as we welcome new permanent deacons, ready and eager to serve Christ and His Church. We're delighted to invite you all to explore our extensive photo album from the Permanent Diaconate Ordination.
Written by Fr. Sajo Jacob for Faithfully.
Written by Fr. Roy Jayamaha, Pastor of St. Paul's Church, Piikani Nation, Brocket, AB.
On a beautiful Tuesday morning, I sat at a picnic table by the shore of Lake Chaparral, southeast of Calgary, engaging in conversation with our Diocese's newest deacon from Argentina. My hosts on this warm gorgeous summer day were Deacon Carlos Lozano and his lovely wife, Christina Rieter.
The warmth emanating from the two of them carried us through a two-hour heartfelt bilingual Spanish–English conversation centred on Christ, family, and service. As Deacon Carlos awaits his new mission in Holy Spirit Parish beginning August 1st, he speaks with delightful excitement about his ministry in Argentina and his hopes and dreams for the future.
In May 1996, Deacon Carlos and his fellow deacons chose these words of Jeremiah for their ordination in Buenos Aires, Argentina: “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:4-5). Long before that, in 1951, Deacon Carlos revealed that his mother, while he was still in her womb, had dedicated him to our Blessed Virgin Mary. With this profound offering and our Blessed Mother's intercession, Deacon Lozano serves the Lord not only in his marital and family life but also through his permanent diaconate ministry, which now extends beyond Argentina due to his his recent move to Calgary, Alberta.
“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.
I did not think much about the question the first time because I was confident that religious life was not for me.
I have been actively involved in the Church and a charismatic community called Singles for Christ. I was trying my best to walk the talk and live the faith. I want to be a living witness to how I overcame trials and used them to fuel the desire to become a better version of myself.
I never mentioned the stirring within about religious life to family or friends but to my spiritual director. At the time, I was advised to process the idea: know the reasons for pursuing the vocation and that I was not running away from something. I took the advice to heart. Yet at the back of my mind, maybe this is just a phase in my life, and eventually, this question will gradually disappear from my thoughts. However, in the past six years or so, the question stayed. It lingered. I would ask this question during my quiet time, prayer time, when I am on the bus, train, or driving, especially when I see religious people, and I would laugh at myself every time. There is no way I am heading in that direction!
At a retreat organized by CFC-Singles for Christ, I had the opportunity to hear a Sister of Providence speak about their mission. Their charism of serving the underprivileged - those who are ignored, victims of injustice, marginalized, and voiceless - spoke deeply to me.
Over time, the asking, “What if religious life is for me?” became frequent. I want to believe that the best tool for discernment is action. So, I mustered the courage to act and reached out to the Sisters of Providence.
In November 2021, I started my Come-and-See journey with the Sisters in Calgary, and by February 2022, I moved to Edmonton to continue the journey. I was immersed in community life. The experience became an occasion of growth and self-knowledge—an opportunity to understand others and myself. I felt loved and supported by the Sisters, and it caused me to appreciate the vocation to religious life.
On February 18th, 2023, I entered as a candidate and the ceremony was held at the Providence Centre Chapel in Edmonton, with friends, family, Sisters of Providence, and Sisters from other congregations present.
As I continue to learn about myself in the context of religious life, I trust in divine providence in this journey of unfolding the question that led me here, “What if religious life is for me?”.
Learn more about this unique vocation here.
On February 2nd, 2023, religious from eight different communities gathered to celebrate the World Day of Consecrated Life on the Feast of Presentation of the Lord. It was a joy-filled day with the celebration of the Eucharist, meaningful conversations that deepened connections, and a delightful meal shared between those present.
Submitted by Sr. Dianne Turner, Assistant Director of Vocation
I was born in 1922 and raised in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan. I attended High School in Swift Current where I met the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis. Soon after I felt called by God to begin my life with the Sisters in Bienville, Quebec.
After the time of formation and profession of vows (1942), I returned to Western Canada teaching In Saskatchewan and Alberta until 1958. Then I moved to Medicine Hat to the Novitiate Formation community as Director until 1964. I was further blessed with the opportunity for religious studies in Rome, and then further studies in psychology and counselling in Calgary, Ottawa, and New York. My journey then was focused on spiritual direction, youth counseling (University of Calgary) and helping those who suffered from addiction and their families through recovery, counselling with AADAC, the 12 Step individual and group counselling. I also served those attending serenity retreats, and those in personal growth groups and retreats for women.
Submitted by Sr. Helen for Faithfully.
I have been abundantly blessed, as I was born and raised in Ponteix, Saskatchewan in a faith-filled family where love, prayer and acceptance were the dominant forces molding me and guiding me in my early life.
In my teen years I was privileged to be asked to be responsible for looking after the cleanliness of the sanctuary in our parish church. Years later when I was finishing my high school there were moments when I felt God's love and presence in my life and a deep desire to follow Him. So it was. I joined the congregation of sisters who taught me at St. Theresa Academy in Medicine Hat, the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis. For my formation and I went to Bienville, Quebec and in 1947 I made my profession of vows. I then returned to western Canada for my initial training to become a teacher, and in later years earned a B. Ed and B.A in Alberta.
In my 30 years as a teacher, mostly in Saskatchewan, I was blessed to work with many wonderful teachers and many eager students.
After a wonderful sabbatical in Ottawa, I had the privilege of taking biblical sessions in Jerusalem and time to visit the Holy Land. Shortly after this wonderful experience I was ready to accept the position as parish leader in parishes in the Archdiocese of Regina, Saskatchewan, as well as working with Father Sullivan in the task of training lay people to lead the parishes for Sunday liturgy in the absence of a pastor.
In 2011 I retired in Medicine Hat. I was a member of St. Patrick's Parish as well as had the time and privilege of visiting my relatives and friends.
Presently I am retired and enjoying life in Swan Evergreen Village Senior Home in Calgary with other Sisters from my community.
Submitted by Sr. Clemence Liboiron for Faithfully.
Interview conducted by Solomon Ip for Faithfully
Interview conducted by Solomon Ip for Faithfully
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