Justin Barry Joseph Bertrand | AGE: 25 | HOMETOWN: Île-Du-Grand-Calumet, Que.
The oldest of three children, he was home-schooled until the end of high school. Once considered becoming a professional pairs figure skater. At 17, he entered La Famille Marie-Jeunesse in Sherbrooke, Que., in order to further discern his vocation. A year later, he began his Philosophy Degree at St. Philip’s Seminary in his home diocese of Pembroke where he will now serve. After earning a Bachelor of Thomistic Thought, he was moved to St. Augustine’s Seminary to study theology.
“My father is probably the most generous man I’ve ever known. There is not one farmer on Calumet Island who has not borrowed part of his machinery at least three to five times even if my dad has needed it the same day.”
Anthony Burchat | AGE: 31 | HOMETOWN: Kitchener, Ont.
He is the oldest of 10 children and is studying for the Diocese of Pembroke. He attended St. Andrew’s Catholic Elementary School in Killaloe, Ont., and Bishop Smith Catholic High school in Pembroke. After high school he attended Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay. Before joining the seminary, he spent a year with the religious community at Madonna House in Combermere, Ont., and a couple of years working as a carpenter. He enjoys hiking, woodworking, calligraphy and lively debates.
“If you remember the second of the old Star Wars movies, when Luke goes to Dagobah and meets Yoda he kind of meets his fears and all that – it is this crazy kind of surreal experience. Going to Madonna House was a bit like that for me.”
Jeremias Inoc | AGE: 44 | HOMETOWN: Cebu, Philippines
The youngest of four children, he moved to Canada in 2002, just as he began studying for an MBA following the completion of a chemical engineering degree. In Canada he encountered priests, parishioners and even complete strangers asking whether he was considering a vocation to the priesthood. He worked as a technician and also volunteered at St. Mary’s Parish in Brampton, Ont., as an RCIA coordinator. He entered St. Augustine’s Seminary in 2010 and will serve in Toronto.
“(The bishop) told me this: ‘I know that you have become tired from running away from this vocation and I just want you to know, and I’m telling you this, give God a chance.’ That was in 2010 and here I am, I am at peace because God wants me.”
Stephen Joseph Bruzzese | AGE: 27 | HOMETOWN: Welland, Ont.
He was just three days old when he was adopted by Joseph and Debbie Bruzzese. He was involved in many sports and activities, including football and bowling. After graduating from St. Michael’s Catholic High School he was recruited by several universities for football. In 2008, he enrolled at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto and played one season for the Varsity Blues. Between 2009 and 2012, he earned a baccalaureate in Thomistic Thought from St. Philip’s Seminary. After his ordination, he will serve in the Diocese of St. Catharines.
“In Grade 2 was really the first time I said I had wanted to be a priest. Actually that’s a lie. I said I wanted to be the Pope.”
Kevin D’Souza | AGE: 58 | HOMETOWN: Bombay, India
The eldest of two children, he married in 1986 and then immigrated to Canada, where he and his wife landed in Burlington, Ont., and raised two daughters. His younger daughter is married with an 18-month-old toddler and his older daughter is a high school teacher. His wife passed away from cancer in 2008 and, after a deep grieving period, he felt the call to the priesthood. Being set in his ways, he resisted it at first but finally gave in. After six years in seminary, he will be a priest in the Diocese of Hamilton.
“On the first day of seminary most young men are dropped off by their parents. Here the tables were turned (as) the old dude was dropped off by his daughters.”
Matthew McCarthy | AGE: 30 | HOMETOWN: Brampton, Ont.
Throughout his childhood and teenage years, he was a regular altar server at his home parish, but never seriously considered the priesthood. He grew up playing competitive sports and had his sights set on a career as a pro athlete. When he didn’t “make the cut” in his final years of high school, he decided to study kinesiology at York University, where he completed a BSc. in 2009. He joined the Catholic Chaplaincy at York, where he began to consider the priesthood He will serve in Toronto.
“What boggled my mind was that these (chaplains) were genuinely happy despite the fact that they had given up everything that the world says that you need in order to be happy. So that just threw my 20-year-old mind for a loop.”
John Orban | AGE: 55 | HOMETOWN: Saskatoon
He has spent most of his life living in and around the Ottawa Valley. The youngest of seven siblings and also the father of seven children and grandchildren, he has worked within various government social service agencies while raising his children and supporting them in raising their own. His call to the priesthood came early in life, so rather than being considered a late vocation he likes to refer to himself as more of a “better late than never” vocational responder. He will be serving in the Archdiocese of Ottawa.
“Although I was really grateful for the wonderful people and things that God had given me in my life, I was also deeply concerned that I had not given anything back or much back to God.“
Stephen Helferty | AGE: 28 | HOMETOWN: Douglas, Ont.
He is the sixth of 11 children born to parents LJ and Joan, who still live on the Helferty homestead, a 200-acre farm which six generations of the family have called home. After high school, he attained a Bachelor of Music degree from Carleton University, but also thought about the priesthood. After graduation, he was sent by Bishop Michael Mulhall to St. Philip’s Seminary where his vocation was confirmed. He will join the Diocese of Pembroke.
“The first thing that I noticed when I actually went off to the seminary not wanting to be a priest is a deep sense of peace. Secondly, I did a 180, (for) here I was among these Oratorians, these manly, hard-working, prayerful, merciful yet just priests.”
Antonello Murgia | AGE: 41 | HOMETOWN: Sardinia, Italy
Although born and raised Catholic, he abandoned the practice of the faith soon after Confirmation. At 17, he had a profound encounter with the Neocathecumenal Way movement, which brought him back to the Church. After graduating in law and working as a lawyer for the government for five years, in 2009 he responded to that earlier call of love and came to Canada to join the Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary. He will be a priest for the Archdiocese of Toronto.
“After a date with a girl, I liked her, and she just told me basically forget about it. … I said, well, I should be angry but I was not. The reality was that someone else had already seduced me, as the prophet Jeremiah said, and that person was God.”