The Importance of the Parish/School Relationship


Last Friday I celebrated the opening School Masses for Fr. Michael Goetz CSS in Mississauga.  The chaplaincy leader, Mr. Ray Frendo invited me to come out to the school at the beginning of the summer this year.  The first things I was impressed with was all the students from the school walking across the street to Cristo Rei Church where both Masses were celebrated; a powerful sign of the important relationship between the parish and school community.

This was an especially joyful experience for me, as I was able to reflect on the very appropriate readings of the day (especially the Gospel… “pray to the Lord of the harvest…”) but also to connect this not only in a reflective way but personal and concrete way to the lives of the students of that school.  Fr. Michael Goetz is the alma mater of a couple of our seminarians, Shawn D’Souza and Sean Jacob.

Shawn D’Souza is on his Pastoral Year at St. Edward the Confessor in North York and is doing well there.  He is in a very important year of his formation where he will spend the year working in a parish, mentored by his pastor, Fr. Pat O’Dea (a former Vocation Director) and “learning the ropes”.  This is so important a year, that seminarians often determine whether they will continue or not on this internship year with Lord.  I know I did.

Shawn is a fine young man who has many gifts and talents and whom I had the pleasure to get to know well when he worked for me as my Seminarian Assistant in the Office of Vocations a few summers ago.  He worked very hard that summer to help shape our new Vocations Office and develop so many things within.  He is a joyful young man, very social, very engaging and down-to-earth; these gifts and talents are what he now puts to good use with the people at St. Edward’s.

Sean Jacob is in the Propaedeutic Year of his seminary formation; a year dedicated to prayer, spiritual life development, reflection and understanding of our Catholic Christian faith in a deeper way.  I shared with the students a few of my own thoughts as well as to speak about Sean.  He is younger than Shawn D’Souza so some of the older students remember him still.  He was also an altar server and known to some of the students who also serve Holy Mass at Cristo Rei (where Sean’s family also attend).  To know Sean is also to know a very joyful, engaging and lively young man.  I first knew Sean when we hired him as a Totus Tuus missionary a few years ago.  His summer of evangelizing helped him to begin (or continue really) to discern what the Lord might be calling to: he entered seminary to discern whether that might be the priesthood.

I humbly admitted to students that Sean has taught me a lot about what young people are “into” these days which helps keep me in the know and this is something that should be important to priests as we preach and hope to evangelize the culture.  It’s an important thing that we try to understand the culture we live in, and I really appreciate that many of our seminarians, especially both these young men who have helped me in this way.

So as not to put any pressure on them (every seminarian should have the freedom and peace of mind to know that) good discernment doesn’t mean ordination…it means leaving seminary as a priest, or knowing you’re not called to be one.  It was great to be with a school and parish community that is seeing a number of young people, men and women discerning the Lord’s calling for them in their lives.  When I tweeted out my presence at the school, I also came to discover several former Totus Tuus missionaries had attended Fr. Michael Goetz.  One is teaching at the school, one is part of the amazing Re:Generation team in the archdiocese; even Mr. Frendo himself is in formation and a year away from ordination to the Permanent Diaconate.

I share my experience of an awesome morning at Fr. Michael GoetzCSS/Cristo Rei because I think’s it’s vitally important for all people to know that our Catholic Schools are important and there are many vocations in these places.  As a priest who works with so many other people to continue building and re-building a culture of vocations within the Archdiocese of Toronto; I recognize how important it is for us all to support these schools.