Interviewed by Sergio Vareiro (Youth Ministry at St. Patrick’s Parish – Markham)

This post is a Q & A interview I did with Sergio Vareiro, Youth Ministry Coordinator at St. Patrick’s Parish in Markham.  He had some excellent questions which he’s posting on his Blog, and so I’ve also placed it on the Vocations Blog here:

Father, can you tell us a little bit about what a Vocations Director does?  The Vocation Director for the archdiocese promotes, supports and assists men and women to begin discerning vocations to the priesthood and religious life.  My responsibility is primarily to journey with, promote and present men discerning vocations to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Toronto to our seminary; St. Augustine’s in Scarborough.  I work closely with the archbishop who is the primary vocation animator for the archdiocese and the clergy, university chaplains, youth ministers and so many others as they encourage good Catholic people to think of vocations to priesthood and religious life.

What’s your favorite part about the job, besides being interviewed by me? 🙂  Being interviewed by you, Sergio is my favorite part of my role!  Second to that, I love meeting people in the parishes, the events, the youth groups and places throughout the archdiocese.  I travel a lot, and every day is new and exciting.  I love working with the priests on the Vocations Council and staff in the Vocations Office who are so dedicated to their role in this ministry.  I enjoy staying connected with the seminarians whom I look upon as brothers [often much younger brothers] and I’m edified at the ways the Lord is working in their hearts and minds.  I love celebrating Mass and visiting parishes, and I come back super-charged after a weekend away in one of our 225 parishes.

If someone comes and talks to you about vocations, does that mean they are signing their life away and will be ordained as soon as possible? Absolutely not!!  Freedom to choose is most important and what I encourage all the seminarians and men discerning priesthood to think about.  The world needs good, holy people who live as disciples and followers of the Master, Jesus.  That comes before anything!  We need and want priests, but joyful ones who know this is what the Lord is calling them to do.  The seminary formation is a time they figure it all out with the help of many of us [myself included].  The formation is long, and sometimes for old guys like me (I was 35 when I entered seminary) it seems like it might be too long – but my time was great, I made many great friends who are priests with me now, and I enjoyed the time.  We want to make sure all men at St. Augustine’s Seminary have the right time to discern or prayerfully figure out whether they are called to priesthood or not.

So if someone discerns for a while and then discovers that they aren’t called to a religious/Priest vocation, would that be okay? Absolutely okay!  I have many friends who figured out along the way that the Lord was calling them to another vocation, and it was great because we will find peace and joy discovering that.  (We both know someone like that don’t we?)  Cardinal Collins puts it very well when he tells the men at the seminary “there are two great ways to leave the seminary.  One is as a priest, one is knowing after prayer and discernment that you are not called to be a priest.  Both are good and desirable.”

How does being a Vocation Director help, build up, and/or challenge your own vocation? Being Vocation Director helps me because I am edified in my faith and commitment by being with seminarians at the various stages of formation.  They are sincere, they are growing in relationship with Jesus Christ and you can see this actually happening.  They ask advice, and when every once in a while you can help them, you (I) know God has put me here doing His will!  At the end of each day, in my own personal prayer time, I know that I have helped the Lord and that builds me up.  It’s a challenge, because there are many things within our society and culture which lead people in the opposite direction so to help men and women open their hearts to religious vocations can be difficult.  This is why I talk with the Vocations Council, with other Vocation Directors in Canada and the US and our former Vocation Directors here in the Archdiocese of Toronto.  We support each other, and know what the challenges can be. Now, you weren’t always planning to be a priest.

How do those experiences help you as a Vocations Director? These experiences help me a lot.  I know what it’s like to be opposed to religious ideas and especially vocations.  I know what it’s like to be a man of the world and be more interested in status, fame, money, power and becoming what everyone else wanted me to be.  I know what it’s like to have had to work at jobs and places I didn’t want to as well.  As I tell the seminarians who find going to work in jobs at restaurants, coffee shops, factories, hard labour jobs in the summer – all of this is personal and spiritual formation.  St. John Paul II said many times, the best formation he ever got was as a labourer in the quarries when he was forced to be there as a kid.  He saw what the regular, everyday man; husband, father, brother went through and he grew in love for God’s people there.  I can relate to that.  That’s what I found my many jobs before and my life before brought me to discover.

Do you have any words of advice for a young person discerning their future vocation? Yes, simply be open to God’s will. Try your best to pray quietly and regularly, and be open to what God has in store for you. I say at the high schools I visit, ask the question in prayer: “Lord, what is it that you want me to do with my life?” and then be quiet and let Him answer you. He will. Also, be open and aware of God’s messengers! They might be your parents, youth minister, people in your parish, friends…if they mention a vocation to priesthood or religious life, then God is using them for that purpose. Then talk to one of your priests or a minister in the parish you trust and respect OR – give me a call: 416-968-0997 or email

From the World…To the Pews…To the Altar

Fr. Chris Lemieux is the new Vocation Director for the Archdiocese of Toronto.  This is the article that appeared in the Catholic Register in Toronto a few weeks before his 2012 ordination to the priesthood:

A call to faith became a call to the priesthood for Lemieux By 

  • April 22, 2012

TORONTO – Ten years ago, no one in Chris Lemieux’s world — not his parents, not his closest friends, not the guys on his softball team — would have imagined him as a priest. That’s because 10 years ago, he wasn’t even a Catholic.

Lemieux, now 40, was working as a bus driver for Mississauga Transit at the time, and planning to do so, eventually as a married man with a family, for a long time.

“But it seems now that God had another plan,” said Lemieux. “A plan that led me to baptism — to become Catholic first — and then to priesthood.”

After growing up in a family that didn’t go to church, struggling with school and leaving home at 18 because of tension with his parents, Lemieux earned his diploma in police studies. He worked for an armored car company, played sports regularly and, for a while, was harshly critical of religion. Nothing in Lemieux’s life seemed to predict his conversion experience.

“Love is what I attribute to my conversion. I experienced God’s great love for me and I saw love all around me in the world.”

Whatever he experienced, he decided not to share it with anyone near to him — that is, not until two months before his baptism. To Lemieux’s surprise, nearly everyone in his life was accepting and supportive of his decision when he finally told them. Some even said it was inspiring.

As Lemieux’s baptism crept closer, thoughts of the Catholic priesthood suddenly came up. His RCIA leaders began to mention the idea to him, and, two weeks before his baptism, Lemieux had a conversation with his pastor about the possibility.

“I can assure that never for a moment in my life up to that point had I thought about priesthood,” said Lemieux. “I wondered how I could possibly think of becoming a spiritual leader when I myself was so new to the faith.”

Those doubts and fears gradually subsided as Lemieux was baptized and his parish nominated him for the Called by Name discernment program. Even his mother encouraged him to follow the call, as she’d seen a dramatic change in his life. Diagnosed with cancer nine months after Lemieux’s baptism, she told her son not to wait on “what ifs.” She died eight months later.

Lemieux took his late mother’s advice. He went on a retreat where he met a priest who would become his mentor. That priest was one of the many religious Lemieux met, he said, who led by example and helped him experience the faith, love and joy that inspired his vocation. He also attended an Ordinandi Dinner, hosted by Serra International, an event that he would once again participate in 10 years later as a candidate rather than a spectator.