More than 1,800 people attended the Ordinandi Dinner at the Pearson Convention Centre March 3. Emanuel Pires

Big graduating class brings big numbers

  • March 13, 2020

The Serra Club’s 2020 Ordinandi Dinner on March 3 was the biggest ever, celebrating the biggest St. Augustine’s Seminary graduating class in recent memory.

The 13 men to be ordained this spring, including seven for the Archdiocese of Toronto, drew a crowd of 1,839 to the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton. The record attendance raised $35,000 in support of the seminary.

The biggest number of all was 2,642,239. That was the size of the spiritual bouquet of Mass intentions, rosaries and prayers the Catholic Women’s League presented to this year’s crop of future diocesan priests. Toronto Archdiocesan CWL Council president Hilarion Mitchell headed up a delegation of 210 CWL members attending the annual dinner. There were also 105 Knights of Columbus on hand.

“This is a joyful occasion,” said Cardinal Thomas Collins. “It is a time to reflect upon the call of God and, today in a particular way, we think of those who are called to serve us in the holy priesthood.”

The 2020 St. Augustine’s graduating class  includes two missionaries of the Neocatechumenal Way, whose studies at St. Augustine’s Seminary are supplemented by formation at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary. Both the Neocatechumenal Way missionaries, André Luis de Lima, 32, from Brazil, and Rafal Michal Bartosinski, 34, from Poland, will be ordained for service in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Five other men who have been studying at St. Augustine’s are also being ordained for Canada’s largest archdiocese: Michael Nabor Corpus, 43; Martin Diciuangco, 31; Joshua Lobo, 29; Neil Pereira, 30; and John Steven Sutka, 42. The Diocese of Hamilton nets two new priests in Hayden Starczala, 28, and Pawel Stankiewicz, 29. Ottawa adds Jonathan Kelly, 30, while Pembroke gains Michael Coyne, 46.

Martin Santos Lugo Tapia, 31, will return to Memphis for his ordination. Jakub Mackowicz, 32, will be ordained for the Diocese of Orange in California.

The men celebrated at the Ordinandi Dinner got to choose the theme for the night. They chose “Jesus, I trust in you.”

In 13 short talks, each of the deacons demonstrated how putting their trust in Jesus led them to ordination.

Pereira said he was amazed to find he was still called to serve, “despite my sinfulness, despite my unworthiness, despite my attraction to the world.”

A walking pilgrimage to the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont., was the turning point in Dicuangco’s journey to the priesthood.

“On this pilgrimage, I really had an encounter with God,” he said. Instead of faith as an abstract notion, “Faith was now someone — a person who loved me and gave Himself up for me,” Dicuangco said.

Neocatechumenal missionary de Lima spoke frankly about his struggles in seminary — struggles that lasted 12 years.

“You’ve heard of permanent deacons. I thought I would be the first permanent seminarian,” de Lima said. “It was not 12 years of slavery.”

The spur to Sutka’s quest was a pair of Jehovah’s Witness missionaries who tried to talk him and his brother out of Catholicism.

“Because of them, I wanted to learn more about my faith and how to defend it,” Sutka said.

“No one’s call story is a single effort,” Coyne said.

Coyne, 46,  relied on his mother, his sister and the example of his fellow seminarians as he took the long way round to priesthood through teaching English abroad, a stint as a long-haul trucker and the experience of Christian community at Madonna House in Combermere, Ont.

“I thought the Church is good for old ladies. The Church was very boring to me,” was Bartosinski’s starting point.

Deeply affected by St. Pope John Paul II’s funeral, Bartosinski found his way to the Neocatechumenal community.

Stankiewicz praised his mother as he told his story. “Moms are the coolest people on Earth. Women have this warmth, this tenderness,” he said. “A mother reflects the tenderness of God.”

Former CN Tower finance officer Corpus emphasized how his shift to priesthood is also a shift in perspective.

“I have a new metric, a new measure of success,” he said.

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