Rev. Fr. Chris Lemieux,
Director of Vocations
Archdiocese of Toronto since July 2014.
As I make my way from place to place as Vocation Director, I am asked to share my vocation story. At times when I am called to share, I think to myself “what’s so special about my life, I ought to share this?” At other times of introspection, I feel profoundly loved by God that in the midst of my unremarkable but unique life, He would call me to the Holy Priesthood. Here is my story:
I was born and raised into a very ordinary life. My family were blue-collar people who worked hard and raised me to have good values and respect for others, but my parents weren’t people of religious faith. My mother did teach my sister and I to read from the Holy Bible and she tried at times to take us to the local church, but she was raised without much religious practice in her family either. The Bible stories seemed cool to me as a little boy and I had, for a while, God as my imaginary friend; a friend I could talk to on my knees at my bed but whom I had no real sense heard or responded to me. This is where it all began and for quite some time, where it ended too. From my childhood and into my adulthood I would not have called myself an atheist or an agnostic because I was completely indifferent and didn’t waste much time thinking about religion or God. I did have a personal hostility to the people of faith whom I had met who were in my opinion hypocrites and I carried that bias with me for many years.
Despite a decent upbringing, I managed to make a mess of things throughout my teenage years and my young adulthood. I wouldn’t say I went completely off the rails but I didn’t live a very moral or good life and I was constantly caught in a web of selfishness and self indulgence. All of it to say I was headed in the absolutely wrong direction in life if I were to find passion, purpose, meaning and most of all love. I had “things” and got by with my gifts; but I had no idea where or Who had given me those gifts until much later.
At a very low point in my life; I had a great friend (my best friend’s sister) who was herself a good-living Christian. She never hid her Christian faith and she never forced her religious beliefs on anyone. If you were to ask her where her strength and courage came from; where her joy and satisfaction in life came from; you would know it was Our Lord Jesus Christ. She was not perfect and didn’t profess to be perfect and her life was not perfect – she had many of her own struggles; but her strength and joy amid hard times was infectious. We talked a lot about life, meaning, purpose, being positive and finding joy and I will admit I wanted to have what she had at the core of her life without Jesus and without religion. But I came to discover I could not find all this without Jesus.
Zena took me to Alpha where she was a group leader and it was in Alpha that I met Jesus for the first time really, and met some of His Disciples whom I saw the same things Zena shared with me. I wasn’t going to “buy in” and while I appreciated what all my new Christian friends were doing, and I was at least not openly criticizing Christians anymore I departed that community of believers and went on my own “search” which led me to various Christian congregations Sunday after Sunday. I would still go to Alpha and I began to read the Gospels and the Epistles. More and more I came to discover Jesus and desired a faith life in Him.
Around 2000, when I was about 29 I entered St. Jerome’s Parish for Sunday Mass for the first time. I knew that Sunday I was home. Without all the words to describe it; God was so present to me there. There was something sacred taking place there and I felt so at home. It compelled me to come again and again and I came to Catholic Mass from then on. I didn’t begin to consider becoming Catholic for almost two more years. Finally in August or September of 2002 I made contact with the parish office and inquired about becoming Catholic. I entered RCIA then and was received into the Catholic Church on April 19, 2003. It was the greatest day of my life to that point; receiving Holy Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist that day. I spent a long time in those years from Alpha and onward getting to know Jesus, and on that evening at the Easter Vigil becoming part of His family, marked forever as a member of that family.
And in the final months of preparation, something else was taking place as the fire of the Lord’s love began burning, and as I prepared to receive the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. I was being called to something very mysterious, scary, dramatic and unknown to me. My baptism was not just an event in my life; it was a moment when I committed my own life for Jesus and with an open heart and mind, the Lord had something else in store for me.
(continued in Part II)