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.

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