On May 14, 1994, I prostrated myself on the floor of St. Finnan’s Cathedral in Alexandria, Ontario, CANADA and was ordained a priest through the imposition of hands by Most Rev. Eugene LaRocque. At that moment I was ontologically changed through the permanent character of Holy Orders and now share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, a priest in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:1-10). My life has never been the same. Is it a great life? You bet! It does have tough days, but these are far outnumbered by the great opportunities the Lord Jesus has given me to share in His Priesthood. I see how He is working his power in people’s lives, as He is in mine.
I am the oldest of six children, having been raised in the parish of St. Raphael’s. My parents taught us the value of our faith and great respect for priests. Growing up at home I can never remember my parents saying negative things about priests. This gave all of us a great love for priests, men who had sacrificed so much so as to be of service to us. I have been blessed to know priests who loved being priests, were men of prayer and enjoyed life. They prayed with us, cried with us, and laughed with us.
I first thought of being a priest when I was asked by Bishop LaRocque at my Confirmation in grade 8 at the age of 13. I firmly believe it was at that moment the “seed” of my call to the priesthood was planted. Bishop LaRocque ordained me 14 years later, at the age of 27. Odd, or God? I also remember a passionate homily I heard one Vocations Sunday that had a profound effect on me. The preacher pleaded with us to pray for vocations and for all the young people present to ask themselves, “Lord, could you be calling me?”
There was one woman who also helped me in my discernment. She never missed an opportunity to encourage me and to tell me she was praying for me. As I look back now I know that all these people were instruments of Jesus. He was calling me to be a priest through them. Yet I still had my free will, and I ran away from the Lord’s call.
After High School I went to St. Francis Xavier University. My intention was to be a corporate lawyer. All the while the Lord Jesus kept giving me little reminders that He had special plans for me. I chose to ignore Him, until the second semester of my last year of undergraduate studies. I went on a retreat that really helped me. It gave me the courage I needed to respond whole heartedly to Jesus. I gave up my plans to go to law school and I entered St. Peter’s Seminary in September, 1989. I have never regretted it.
The Lord has blessed me with being assigned as an assistant pastor, pastor, chaplain at a high school and a university, member of the formation team of my community, and now vocations director.
As a priest, I love celebrating the Eucharist and Confessions. In both I am humbled to act “in personae Christi capitas” – in the person of Christ the head. In repeating the words of institution and through the power of the Holy Spirit the elements of bread and wine are changed into the actual body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus – right there in my hands! WOW! And to administer Jesus’ forgiveness in the Sacrament of Confession is another “WOW!” I have had people come to Confession to me who had not been there since before I was born! By the time they were rid of all the garbage they had been carrying for years I was crying, they were crying, but there was much rejoicing in heaven. Praise God!
Jesus allows priest to have these experiences to show us just how much power we have in Holy Orders. If all the angels that surround the altar every time I celebrate Mass were to manifest themselves I would probably faint from the excitement and power of God.
I am also passionate about youth work and vocation promotion. I have great hope in our young people. Jesus is rising up an army of young people who are madly in love with Him, His Church and desire to be instruments of the new evangelization. More young people are awakening to the lies of this world and throwing out old and tired liberal ways for more traditional and solid elements of the true faith based on a loyalty to the Magesterium, love of Mary, great respect and devotion to the Eucharist and an openness to all the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit.
I am proof positive of the fact that simply asking the question, “Did you ever think of being a priest?” really works. Remember, if we don’t plant the seed then the Lord will have nothing to water!!
We have been blessed with many fine priests, sisters, brothers and deacons in the past, in the present and will continue to be blessed in the future. We need to cooperate with Jesus and help to nurture them. Parents, never fail to present religious life as a positive option for your children. Remember, your children listen to you – your words and actions can have both a positive and negative effect on their attitude to religious life. So be very careful.
Something that the secular world has a very hard time understanding about the priesthood and religious life is the value of celibacy, obedience and simplicity of lifestyle. These may be foreign to the world, but are an integral part of the priesthood and religious life, and so of mine. Rather than seeing them as a burden, I appreciate them as a joy. Celibacy is the living out of St. Paul’s well-known exhortation: “The unmarried man gives his mind to the Lord’s affairs and how he can please the Lord; but the man who is married gives his mind to the affairs of this world and how he can please his wife, and he is divided in mind. So, too, the unmarried woman, and the virgin, gives her mind to the Lord’s affairs and to being holy in body and spirit; but the married woman gives her mind to the affairs of this world and to how she can please her husband. I am saying this only to help you, not to put a bridle on you, but so that everything is as it should be, and you are able to give your undivided attention to the Lord” (I Cor. 7:32-35).
Obedience and simplicity of lifestyle is the practical method of following our Lord’s advice to the rich young man: “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mt. 19:21).
I love being a priest and it is a very great time to be a priest.
Please join me in praying one decade of the Rosary every day for vocations in the service of the Universal Church. Offer up your suffering, sacrifices and days of fasting for this intention. If you are a single man reading this testimony, I invite you to ask Jesus, “Lord, are you calling me to be a priest?” or “Lord, help me to discern my vocation in life”. If you feel the Lord may be calling you, I would like to speak with you. Please contact me. Also, please continue to pray for priests.All of us have said “Yes” to the Lord and desire to be of service to Him. In following the Lord we have left everything behind, but have gained more than we could ever imagine. It is a great life! May you too say, “Here I am Lord, send me!”