It was a great blessing to have been able to celebrate a momentous anniversary in the Eternal City; Rome. On October 15, the Feast of St. Teresa of Avila, I celebrate my anniversary of ordination – not priesthood but the Transitional Diaconate, the occasion I received the Sacrament of Holy Orders for the first time. I celebrate this day because although I prepared myself for the life-changing event of entering the clerical state. It was when I became Rev. Mr. Lemieux that everything I had prepared for became very, very real.
I was ordained a deacon at St. Gertrude’s Catholic Parish in Oshawa. It was October 15, 2011 (five years ago). Although I was given a choice of the parish I worshipped before entering seminary, I chose St. Gertrude’s because this was the parish I served in on my internship year, where I learned to truly be a servant of the People of God. My vocation was strengthened, my resolve that God was calling me to the Holy Priesthood was made firm here by the love of the people. I have been blessed with love from the people I worship with, and it was the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ that helped me consider priesthood in the first place. Throughout my adult life, by the grace of an open ear [God’s gift to me before I had faith] I found faith with the help of my best friend’s sister, I found my calling to priesthood through many people I journeyed with in RCIA and I was affirmed in love at a school Christmas pageant where the teachers, the parents, the children – the parish community affirmed me in love, and I felt a great and deep love for all those whom I had served for a short time really.
I was back in seminary and beginning my last year of theology when I was ordained a deacon. I had a retreat to make as well to help spiritually prepare me for ordination. The People of God, the people of the parish came together and planned so many things and made it one of the most beautiful moments, experiences I had in my entire life. I was overwhelmed with tears of joy when I lay prostrate on the ground in the position of humility submitting myself as the saints of the Church prayed over me; the Litany of the Saints. I had asked that each of the Holy Canadian Martyrs, John Paul II, Andre Bessette and Teresa of Avila (whom I only really got to know before my ordination) pray for me. I also knew that the faithful people of God were praying for me and it began to dawn on me that I had (have) a lot to live up to and do with my life for the people who have shared their abundance of faith with me.
One of the parishioners whom I had come to know well on my internship year, spoke with Cardinal Collins (who ordained me) after the ordination. He told the Cardinal that he had been one of the founding members of the parish in the late 1950’s and felt like Simeon. He said that he had witnessed every other sacrament and on that day, an ordination. Again, this beautiful moment Archbishop Collins shared with me spoke to me of the importance of my ordination. Although it was a special moment in my life, it was ultimately and importantly for others as my priesthood is too.
I am blessed as Director of Vocations to have the opportunity to visit the parishes of the archdiocese. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to return several times as a deacon and as a priest to St. Gertrude’s. The love is still there, as it is at every parish I have served at. I am ordained not for myself, but for Christ and to bring our Lord Jesus to His people. I am reminded of this by way of my anniversary. I am reminded of how important this date is too. Before I was a priest I was a deacon and the role of the deacon most clearly and distinctly is to serve. I am ordained to serve, not to be served. I find myself very often as a priest being served because the People of God love their priests but I must never take that for granted. It is a desire to honour the priesthood and not because I deserve it and not because I have earned a higher place. I share this short reflection as my brothers in Christ, our Toronto men who are men of deep love and humility are preparing in these coming days and weeks to be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate. May God continue to bless them and the people they will love and tirelessly serve by their ministries.