Our Lives are Interwoven: We Need to Encourage & Inspire Others

Fr. Paschal Breau

Today’s Reflection is my Speech from the Ordinandi Dinner last night.  Thanks to our local Serra Clubs for all of the great work they do and another great evening.  Thanks to the Ordinandi Class of 2018 for the gift of their vocation.  Tonight’s talk was three short stories of two lives interwoven.  Fr. Paschal Breau, SA who passed away in 2007 was a dear friend and mentor for me but so much more.  He is also Maurice (Paschal was his given religious name).  Our lives are interwoven and these stories speak of that but allowed me to share a message of how important it is we all encourage and support vocations:

Tonight I’d like to begin by telling you a story that was told to me.  In 1937, a shy, nervous sixteen year old kid name (Morris) from a suburb of Moncton, New Brunswick took a long train ride to Garrison, New York across the river from West Point and with a few personal things made a 5 mile trek to Graymoor in the Appalachian Mountains, where he joined with other young men becoming Franciscan Friars of the Atonement.  He barely said anything for fear of saying the wrong thing.  The friars who were in charge were strict and intimidating to Morris unlike the nice one who came to meet him and his family at home (the nice one was a Vocation Director, by the way).  A young 16 by his own admission and more than 1,100 kms from home even his name was changed, chosen for him by the Founder, an old priest who seemed rather stoic and stern.  And just when he thought it couldn’t get any worse, he was told he would have to get up in front of all the hundred or so Friars and introduce himself to everyone.  It was the scariest moment of his young life.  He stumbled, he stuttered, he froze for a time and had to be told to speak up.  It was the worst experience of his young life; that was until a few months later the cold, windy weather took its toll on him and he developed pneumonia and had to be sent home; then that became his worst day ever.

The 2nd story is in the process of being written.  It is the story of this 32 year old bus driver who’s quite content to drive his bus and to be invisible in the world.  A bus driver who has been on a Christian journey for a few years and is only a couple of months a baptized Catholic.  He has come to discover in the process of his becoming Catholic a deep love that God has for him, and a deep love he has for God and His Church but he’s far too new at this Catholic thing to feel he might be called by God to the priesthood.  And the reasons he has for being content at being “invisible” are his fears which he has been good at avoiding throughout his life.  He fears public speaking and always has.  He fears the things he believes he’s not good at and has found enough that he is good at to be satisfied in life.  He fears being alone, he fears taking any kind of major or dramatic step in life because he draws back on his own failures and fears of failure.  At 32, he’s gotten pretty good at saying “maybe later”, “maybe tomorrow” or “that’s for others”.  The most real and serious thing he has in life is this relationship with God and once his parish priest opens the door to his thinking about priesthood, God won’t let him stop for some reason.

So after a couple of months of these thoughts pre-dominating his prayer time with the Lord, he decides to go on retreat.  He meets a lot of people; priests, religious sisters & brothers, other people on the same retreat and they all seem more sure than he is.  He listens to them introduce themselves, and while their personal stories are all very interesting – they’re not his story.  After the sharing he’s ready to leave.  He walks out the door, towards his car and a priest is standing close by.  He says hello, he introduces himself and remarks, “you’re the bus driver” and proceeds to ask him if he’s ever heard the joke about the priest and the bus driver.  They talk for the rest of the evening and he stays for the weekend.  This begins the third story.  The bus driver has the opportunity to speak of his fears and finds in this priest, who’s 82 many of those same insecurities challenged him. The difference is he faced them; he didn’t overcome them but faced them.  But he can’t help but see more abundantly in this priest real joy and real love for God and His Church.

Though 50 years apart in age, they form a great friendship, deep and mutual in many ways, but the bus driver also finds in the priest a mentor, a spiritual companion and a role model for the life in Christ he’s seeking now to live.  The bus driver is inspired by the priest’s life; his deep love and dedication to his vocation.  The bus driver has never met anyone as truly joyful as this priest – ever.  He inspires, he encourages, he invites the bus driver into his life, which he comes to see is not exactly his life but the life of Christ in this world.  And through the telling of the story of his life, the priest impresses upon his young friend that this life can be complete and not missing the deep love and friendship we need.  It’s a life of great joy and freedom if you’re willing to face your fears and face them with God.  This Life in Christ won’t lack anything.  The priest and the bus driver continued on the Christian journey together as Friends in Faith but so much more.

The priest saw his friend the bus driver, enter the seminary, finish and graduate with a degree in philosophy which he knew was one of the greatest fears he faced, he helped him face several other fears but moreover helped him always see & reflect on the joys of everything he experienced.  At 87, the priest joyful prepared for the next part of his Christian journey through death into eternal life.  His friend, once a bus driver & not far from being ordained a priest himself wanted him to be with him at the altar that day.  The priest assured him he would be, with the best seat & place in the cathedral.  Shortly after that, as he was close to death, his friend got to be with him.  He asked him to help him make the sign of the Cross and then, the priest went to sleep in Christ.

Some of you may already know, I am the bus driver and this is part of my own story.  The priest is Fr. Paschal Breau who I honour by telling you part of his story tonight.   The joke he told me is the joke I told to begin my Ordinandi Dinner speech six years ago & I was thinking of him as my heart pounded coming up here.  He is also Morris, the teenager from the first story.  There wasn’t time that night 6 years ago to talk much about this priest who inspired me, walked with me, encouraged me and shared his vocation with me.  As you can see, all 3 of these stories are profoundly interwoven.  Fr. Paschal who in his 80’s became a part of my life as a part of God’s plan was inspired by others who reached the heart & soul of young Morris, helping him face his fears throughout his life.  From 1937 and onward – I am eternally grateful to those who inspired him and he paid it forward.  We are 2,000 committed Christians here tonight – and we need to be aware of how we are interwoven into the lives of others.  The deacons tonight will talk about the people who have helped bring them here; the Cardinal talks about the priest who inspired him in his own vocation story, I don’t want to be presumptuous but I hear more vocation stories than most people here and I can assure you, the people who encourage us, inspire us, help us and support us matter a lot.  I also know how disappointment, rejection and discouragement can get in the way of a vocation too.

For those of us who have “found” what the Lord is calling us to do – we have to make a commitment here this evening.  This is most definitely for the bishops & priests here, but it’s the married folks and parents, the teachers, the parish staff and people ministering in chaplaincy! It’s the Serrans, the CWL and the Knights of Columbus.  We need to commit ourselves to strive for holiness and to be inspiring Catholic Christians!  We need to encourage people to seek holiness for themselves.  We need to encourage them and help them to be open to all vocations; priesthood, religious life & entering into holy, healthy marriages.  One of the greatest challenges I face as a Vocation Director is to have one of the seminarians or someone whom I’m working with decide they’re not called to priesthood.  But when I’ve listened to where their prayers are leading them, I know if God’s leading them and they found what they were searching for – and praise God, the Church will be richer for it!  My disappointment or desire as a Vocation Director should never be a factor in their lives.  No parent should project their disappointment or worry on their children discerning a vocation.  We should never offer discouragement to anyone who looks up to us, even if we feel they could be the Prime Minister of Canada or the C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company – because what every joyful, faithful bishop, priest, religious sister will tell you is that there’s no greater company to serve in than the Lord’s.  And I know many people working in our parishes, chaplaincies, Vocation Office – who could be making more money doing other things, but who serve the Lord and love their lives of service.  We have many people in each of our lives who are discerning.  The best we can do is pray for them, as the Serrans and so many others do.  And then we can love them and share our lives with them and show them that what they may do matters to us.

We need to pray ceaselessly for vocations, all vocations.  We need to be inspiring Christians ourselves and show others the way by what we do, not telling them what to do.  Don’t for a single second think you have nothing to offer.  No one gets a single thing out of any of us playing small in the world.  Encourage, support and be joyful.  Look at where you are right at this moment.  The Serrans are ordinary men & women who pray and do what they can.  Their discipleship has led to gathering more than 800 students and nearly 2,000 people at two events in one day.  The Lord assures us we all have an important part to play.  Be assured the Lord who has begun all of this good work will bring it to a glorious fulfilment.

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception: God Has a Plan for Us All

“Immaculate Mary, thy praises we sing”.  Why do we sing your praises, O Blessed Virgin Mary?  Because God chose you for a special purpose and you lived your life for that meaning and purpose and if we all stop and think about it: we are Eternally Grateful that you did.  For the life we give thanks for each day as Christians is one we have because you brought the Saviour of the World into the world.

That is something we are truly mindful of during Advent when we prepare to welcome your Son, our Lord more deeply into our hearts and souls, just as He was welcomed by the faithful into the world more than 2,000 years ago.  Each year, we give glory and praise to God for so many, but Blessed Mother, we thank you most especially for your “yes” to God.

Even before that “yes”, God who knew Our Lady’s heart and soul prepared her for her life with the special gift of her own Immaculate Conception.  Sometimes these special moments of God’s involvement in the lives of His loved ones go amiss.  Many people don’t stop to really reflect on what the meaning of Mary’s Immaculate Conception might have to do with them.  Mary being born without Original Sin isn’t something to pass over unreflected.  She may have been given this very special grace as a special servant of the Lord to help “re-create” humanity, but whether with Original Sin or not, Mary had choices, the same choices we have in our lives.  She could have sinned, but did not.  In our first reading, we hear of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Eve too was conceived and was without Original Sin.  In fact, it was God’s desire everyone be without it.  Eve (and Adam) made choices that impacted everyone us.  So too did Mary (and her Son our Lord) make choices that impact us all!  And here we are: that through their lives and the Divine Gift of their lives: we are and can be redeemed, that we can be without Original Sin too.  We may not be immaculately conceived, but because of Our Lord and Our Lady, we can be without that Original Sin and restored in that grace every time we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  And hence, we can spend our lives being reconciled and redeemed and get on with living as God calls us to as well.

Mary’s life was not determined for her, as though she did not have choices.  God who knew her future as He knows ours, gave her this gift because He also knew this blessed woman would come to know and love Him more than anything else and would choose day by day to respond to that love, embody it and share it with everyone.  Simple as she was, she lived according to the meaning and purpose of her life as we are called to live ours.

There are skeptics out there about just how or why Our Lady was Immaculately Conceived, about whether or not she had total and complete freedom to say yes or no to what was in store for her in this life: but I am not one of them.  I have a very human view of Our Lady: she is not a Divine Person, but a human one!  She is a model for me in so many ways having managed to get as close to the Lord our God as any one person on this earth ever could.  She was chosen, but so are we!

Mary, our Mother is also the Mother of Vocations; because she is the greatest example of anyone living for the meaning and for the purpose God gave her and in doing so, without power or might changed the world forever.  When I stop and think about it: so too has God created you and I with a meaning and purpose.  He has called us to live for Him, love Him and embody that love and give it away for the world.  We may not have been immaculately conceived, but that’s also because we are not given Mary’s vocation, we are given ours.  We have been given the grace to do that.  We are equipped for whatever we are called to do for the Lord and like Our Lady, need to be generous in doing it and joyous in praising God for what He has called us to do.

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.

Meet Matthew McCarthy, soon-to-be Deacon & Priest for the Archdiocese of Toronto

This is the vocation story of Matthew McCarthy, who is in his fourth year of theology studies at St. Augustine’s Seminary.  Matthew will be ordained a Transitional Deacon at Our Lady of the Airways Parish in Malton this coming Saturday December 17 by Cardinal Collins.  We look forward to Matthew serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of Toronto in May of next year.

The story of how the Lord called me to the priesthood is not something I would consider extraordinary.  God never communicated his will to me through external means – I received no dream, or visit from an angel who commissioned me to go forth and serve God as a priest.  Nor did I receive a divine message through more familiar means, such as a phone call or text message.  Rather, the Lord let me know his plans through quieter, more interior ways: through prayer and a deep sense of peace and joy I experience whenever I see myself serving him as a priest.

I was born into a fairly devout Catholic family.  We went to Mass every Sunday, and during the week whenever we could make it.  From the second grade until the middle of high school I was an altar server at St. John Fisher parish in Brampton.  Some of my fondest memories of altar serving were the times when my parish priest, Fr. Aflred Grima, would chat with me in the sacristy before Mass began.  He and I were committed Leaf fans, and so our conversations often included a commentary on the latest hockey game.  But before we began to talk hockey, the first question he would always ask me as he walked into the sacristy was: “So, how is my future priest?” I would always answer with a smile and a shrug.  To be honest, the question never really meant much to me at the time, being only about eight or nine years old.

Even throughout my teen and early adult years, I never seriously considered the priesthood.  I had my sights set on a career in sports.  I grew up playing competitive hockey, baseball, and basketball and it was my dream to make it to the pros in one of those sports.  If that didn’t happen (and it didn’t), I wanted to commit myself to studying sports.  And so, after finishing high school, I entered the kinesiology and health science program at York University with the intention of becoming a physiotherapist or the trainer of a sports team.

It was at this time that I also joined the Catholic Chaplaincy at York and attended the Masses they offered, as well as their other social functions.  It was here, for the first time, that I began to wonder if the Lord was perhaps asking me to consider the priesthood.  The two chaplains at the time, Frs. Allan MacDonald and Roger Vandennaker CC were very helpful in opening my eyes to the beauty of this particular vocation.  Also, for the first time, I met two seminarians at the chaplaincy, who were studying to be priests for the Companions of the Cross (a society of priests based in Ottawa).  Prior to this, I had not known anyone who was going through the process of seminarian formation. They, like me, were young men and we shared a lot of the same interests.  So they, too, helped me realize that that God often calls ordinary men (like me!) to the priesthood.

Over my years of study at university, I noticed that, while thoughts about becoming a trainer or physiotherapist appealed to me, the excitement didn’t last very long.  I would often find myself trying to work up and sustain an enthusiasm for the career.  Now, there are things about being a trainer and therapist that still interest me today.  However, when I see myself serving God as a priest, I feel a profound and lasting sense of peace and joy.  The best way I can describe it is: through prayer and reflection over a period of about 2 to 3 years, I’ve become confident that this is where the Lord is leading me to use my gifts and my talents.

Looking back, I can see that now that Fr. Grima’s question to me as a young altar server of 8 or 9 years old was a seed that was planted in my heart by the Lord.  And over the next 20 years, he slowly watered it and cultivated it, until I made the decision to join the seminary in my final year of university.  If anything, my vocation story shows that the Lord often doesn’t reveal his plans in fantastic and extraordinary ways, but chooses rather to work gently in the depths of one’s heart.  Today, seven years after making the decision to join the seminary, the Lord has continued to strengthen my conviction to serve him as a priest, and I humbly and gratefully speak as a man who will be ordained to the priesthood in a few short months.  So I ask you to continue praying for me and the other men in my year who are making final preparations for ordination – that we may be loving and faithful priests, serving the Archdioceses of Toronto.

 My Greatest Joy of Discernment: Discovering God’s Grace in Unlikely Places

We all have areas of our lives that we wish were different.  Like a piece of cracked pottery, each of us is broken and chipped in certain ways.  Perhaps one of the greatest joys of the discernment process for me is discovering how the Lord has worked in these particular areas of my life, and helped me to realize that, even in these very areas, there exists a value and strength that I had not recognized or considered.

I recently heard a preacher speak about the art of Kintsugi, which is a Japanese method of repairing broken pottery.  The preacher used it as an analogy as way of illustrating how God can use each one of us despite the parts of our lives that seem broken or embarrassing.  According to the philosophy of this art, the damages and repairs sustained by a broken clay vessel are considered part of its beauty, rather than unsightly flaws.  When a piece of a clay vessel chips off, a Kintsugi potter will meld the two pieces together using a mixture of powdered gold, silver, or platinum.  By using these types of precious metals, the potter gives the once-broken vessel an added brilliance and value.  Furthermore, because of the materials and technique used in the process, the clay vessel is even stronger and more resistant to damage than it had once been before. 

This is how the grace of God operates when I allow it to permeate every aspect of my life! There are many days when I look at the broken and seemingly awkward areas of life and feel discouraged.  During these times, I’ll often hear words in my heart such as: Who am I kidding? I’ve got no place in God’s plan.  I’m too weak. “These” areas of my life are definitely going to get in the way of God’s plan for me.  The reality is, however, every aspect of my life, good or bad, can pose a challenge to God if I don’t allow his grace to touch it.  But when his grace does touch these areas, he is capable of drawing from them a brilliance and a value that I had never noticed before.  But this realization almost always occurs in the context of reflection and prayer – and this is the beauty of discernment.  It is the process by which I, in the context of silence and prayer, allow the Lord to pour his grace on all areas of my life and evermore discover how he can use even my deepest cracks and faults to reflect his glory.

God Calls Us All: Part I – Becoming a Catholic Christian


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)

God Calls Us All: Part II – Is God Calling Me to the Priesthood?


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 (Part II):

On April 19, 2003 I became a Catholic Christian.  I received Holy Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist on that evening but the second part of my story begins a week before that night when we “Elect” who were nearing the end of our preparation had a mini-retreat at the parish which included confession.  Because I wasn’t baptized (and Holy Baptism wipes away Original Sin and all our sins at once) I did not need to go to confession.  My pastor, Fr. Vid Vlasic had a conversation with me on that day.  Instead of simply wishing me well, he firmly planted a seed that would forever change my life.

Fr. Vid offered me a suggestion: “maybe you should think about becoming a priest”. Although I have no vivid recollection of what I said in response to that, there were many things which I remember thinking about all of this.  Others had suggested it, and I thought it outlandish at first.

  • They couldn’t possibly have known I was a notorious sinner
  • I can’t do what they do (celebrate Mass in front of crowds and preach)
  • They’re very educated – I’m not
  • I’ve never wanted to be a priest
  • It’s just because I’m a single guy
  • What about the wife and family I want to have
  • I don’t want to be a part of the priesthood (the sex abuse scandal broke in Boston just before I entered RCIA – it certainly made priesthood unattractive)

If I needed more, I could have found more.  It meant a lot that Fr. Vid was encouraging me but I had a lot of doubts.  I was new to trusting God and though I had an ever-growing and strengthening faith I was not spiritually mature enough at first to seriously consider priesthood.  I did however believe that God had put various people in my life to draw me to Him.  I had sense enough to listen to Him through these people and Fr. Vid gently but consistently encouraged me to keep thinking about it.  I went to weekend retreats where I met “normal” people who were thinking of priesthood and religious life.  I continued to pray and every once and a while think about priesthood.  I grew to not be opposed or closed off to the possibility.

A major consideration was my job; a career really.  I had worked for a number of years as a bus driver at Mississauga Transit and could have retired at 52.  Job security, stability and greater and greater seniority allowed me a comfortable life.  I had very good friends whom I was close to, family whom I was growing closer to and to add to it; it hadn’t gone unnoticed by me the beautiful Catholic ladies whom I had every intention of dating!

About a year after becoming Catholic I met a Franciscan priest who would become one of my best friends, a mentor to me and would help me to see my way into deeper and deeper discernment.  Again, yet another person in my life I know God graced me with to find my way.

Fr. Paschal Breau was a Franciscan Friar of the Atonement and had been over sixty years religious when we met.  He had been Vocation Director for his community and so he was full of wisdom and knowledge.  He was a retired priest when we met on a retreat and we became instantly good friends.  Fr. Paschal had never imagined he would be a priest and had spent nearly 30 years a brother in the community before studying for the priesthood.  He was admittedly not a gifted academic (I could relate), he had been terribly shy when he started out as a very young man (I could relate).  His life as he revealed it to me, helped me to see that I presumed a lot of gifts that priests may or may not have.  Fr. Paschal had a deep love of God and people and a desire to serve them.  This was the greatest witness he gave to me as a priest, and so much more as a friend.

In September 2005, almost two and a half years after becoming Catholic, I entered Serra House in Toronto.  At that time, it was a House of Discernment; a place men lived as they tried to get a sense of whether God might be calling them to enter seminary.  I loved my time there; it was joyful but also challenging.  I did my best but struggled with philosophy at 35, back in the classroom.  It was the one of the greatest challenges for me learning how to trust God; having to tell myself over and over “if God wants you to be a priest, He will help you here!”.  He did.  I struggled my way through philosophy but finished in 2007.  In 2006 I entered the seminary.  I had Fr. Paschal with me to the very end and at my graduation when I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy.

Early on, I remember speaking to Fr. Paschal about his being an important part of ordination, a conversation that might have been too early.  He told me that he knew the Lord had something special planned, but that he believed he would be with me at my ordination in a “special place”.  Fr. Paschal passed away when I was preparing to enter Second Theology, a loss I felt but bittersweet as it was mingled with blessing.  I was with him at the end, and I was strengthened in my faith by the witness of his.  I felt strong in my faith through the next years of formation and I know that Fr. Paschal and others prayed for me to receive great grace along the way.

I was ordained a transitional deacon at St. Gertrude’s in Oshawa on October 15, 2011 and a priest on May 12, 2012 at St. Michael’s Cathedral.  In addition to the Communion of Saints who prayed for me (as they do for us) I know my dear mother who passed away in August 2004 and my dear friend Fr. Paschal were with me that day in spirit and memory.  I had the great honour and grace to offer Holy Mass as I celebrated my first Mass of Thanksgiving for my mother at St. Paul’s Basilica the next morning; Mother’s Day 2012.

I had my doubts and fears, which I allowed the Lord to free me of through the years of discernment.  I feel blessed and love being a priest.  The Lord certainly has lived up to His end of the bargain; gifting the one (me) He has chosen.  I spend every day trying to be a better man – and trying to live up to my end of the bargain.

Called to Serve: Priesthood but First Diaconate


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.

St. Matthew’s finds his Meaning & Purpose


Matthew's Call

Our lives have meaning and purpose, and while some of us make manage to make sense of it all without the help of God, most of us need that help and all of us benefit from knowing God and how He has called us out of the darkness of confusion into the light of meaning and purpose.  This is the discovery of what a vocation is and this is what we celebrate today in Word.  Samuel anoints Saul; affirms in him God’s call for him.  We hear of Jesus’ invitation “out of blue” of a notorious figure in Matthew.

In vocation work, I have more than one person who has told me that St. Matthew’s call story is a powerful one for them; that a man who was so notorious could be chosen not only for a mission to be a disciple like everyone else, but an Apostle, to be a leader of the Church of Jesus Christ.  Many of us feel like great sinners and that the weaknesses and failings we exhibit could keep us from greatness as Christians.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Saints are reformed sinners, every one of us.  Whether we’re called to be a married man or woman, priest or religious, we are all reformed sinners still in the process of reforming and hopefully being restored in an on-going way through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

What is so amazing to me about Matthew’s call we hear today is how it truly speaks to a very real human experience.  Matthew is making money; as a tax collector he surely has money in his pocket, and even though he is despised, he has a certain amount of power and influence and probably could cruise through life with “friends” or people who pretend to be his friends at least.  But has he found his meaning and purpose?  Could he be happy?

Although we can only ever speculate, I would assert that he could be content.  He has money and more than others living in Galilee and Jerusalem, he could afford things.  We know he had a place to have Jesus in for supper.  He may have to sell himself a little but he surely had people who could do things for him, or whom he could do things for – these might be ‘friends’ in a manner of speaking.  On his own, he got himself a job – but to find his true meaning and purpose, that which he gave his entire and the rest of his life for; He only managed to find through faith in Jesus Christ.  Jesus Himself invited him to this, and when he accepted his life was forever changed.  He lived for something, which he completely lived for (and died for).

What about us?  Can we see ourselves in St. Matthew?  Can we see a similar pattern in our lives?  I know I can and did.  Like St. Matthew (maybe a lot older than he was), I had Jesus come and invite me to “follow Him” and I did, followed Him into priesthood; and although my life continues to have challenges, struggles, hardships at times – it is filled with joy and through priesthood I have found my meaning and purpose and I am fully committed to it.  Most priests and religious are.  Something to consider on this day we remember the calling of St. Matthew.


Vocation Story: St. Charles Borromeo

St. Charles Borromeo was born with all the advantages in life.  He had everything, came from nobility and was given a good education and even his vocation seemed to have been handed to him in a manner of speaking. He was made a Cardinal before he was ordained (at the age of 22) then ordained a priest at 24 and made a bishop a couple of months later. St. Charles held high positions in the Catholic Church and was the Archbishop of Milan.  He could have taken full advantage of the privilege and position which had been handed to him, but instead he chose to be holy and to allow God to guide Him along the path of life and he is not remembered for the great wealth or power or influence he had in this world, that which he had been given by his bloodline.  St. Charles is remembered for what he did to make the Church better to the Glory of God!

He worked hard to build better seminaries, holier places for new priests to be trained. He worked hard to help keep people on the right path and was a major player with St. Ignatius Loyola and others in what was known as the Counter-Reformation.  I can well imagine his life was an important part of this.  The Reformation saw many wanting to leave the Church and form another community, often because they saw the corruption of its members, especially its leaders.  We see that in our time too, because many people have given up on the Church because all they can see is the smudge that entitled clergy and the mistakes and bad example on the part of Christians.  But St. Charles showed the people, as we have to be open to see past all of that, to the Church Jesus founded and used frail, weak human beings to lead.  God chooses weak humanity to help each other find the salvation Jesus offered, and we have to see past that.  St. Charles among other people have helped us in great ways.

Meet Rick Davis (soon-to-be Transitional Deacon)

Although I was born Catholic I was not raised Catholic – but I am, however, a product of the Catholic school system. Having gone through the Catholic system I did receive all the Sacraments of Initiation such as First Communion, First Confession and Confirmation.  However, it was in Grade 10 religion class that I first heard the call to actively return to the Church.  We had to do an assignment on one of the seven Sacraments and for some reason I can’t explain the Eucharist really jumped out at me; and so this was the Sacrament I chose to do my assignment on.  It was in the course of doing this assignment that I was evangelized by the Church’s teachings on the Eucharist and began to develop an understanding (really for the very first time) of what the Eucharist is; or I should say, of Who the Eucharist is.  For some reason, I still can’t fully explain, while doing the research for this assignment, I never doubted or questioned the Church’s teachings on the Eucharist – instinctively I just knew that what I was reading about the Church’s teachings on the Eucharist was true.

It was in the course of this that I started to develop a strong yearning to receive Communion as intuitively I became keenly aware that my spirit was in (what I can only describe as: a state of decay) and desperately needed to be nourished by this Sacrament.  This prompted me to start attending daily mass; and I remember well the very first time in years that I did receive Communion  – it was at a weekday mass at my high school, and almost immediately I felt a difference, and could sense that the Eucharist (which I had just received) was nourishing and feeding my spirit.  Soon afterwards, that feeling of my spirit being in a state of decay went away and daily Mass became an integral part of my life.

When I look back on this experience, I realize that the Eucharist was at the heart of my call to return to the Church – and in a way that I can’t fully explain or understand, the Eucharist is also now at the heart of my call to the priesthood. In other words, it’s my desire to be deeply united and connected to Christ in the Eucharist that is at the heart of my call to be a priest. For years, I fought this call, feeling that I was not worthy, capable or ready for such an important role and ministry in the Church.  In 2010, I could no longer ignore the call, and with the prompting, support and encouragement of my parish community, St. Michael’s Cathedral, I applied to the seminary for the Archdiocese of Toronto.  I still do NOT feel worthy, capable or ready for such an awesome call, but I am now willing to give it my best and I have no doubt that the Lord will be with me every step of the way.


Rick II