Deacon Szymon Karol Sorbian at his diaconate ordination Mass in October at Toronto’s Holy Rosary Parish. Photo courtesy Szymon Sorbian

Corporate life proved to be a wrong turn

  • February 29, 2024

After finally landing an all-important corporate gig that allowed him to overlook the CN Tower from his desk in downtown Toronto, Szymon Sorbian expected to feel a sense of true accomplishment. However, despite finding himself well-positioned in the rat race he had worked so hard for, he felt anything but. 

“After the initial ego boost and feeling like I had made it, I noticed that there was this kind of dryness and hollowness to the experience. As amazing as I thought this all would have been, it wasn’t,” Sorbian recalled. 

Now, eight years removed from his experience in the corporate world, Sorbian is just over two months away from being ordained into the priesthood as his formation at St. Augustine Seminary draws to a close. If you asked him now, Sorbian would have never imagined his vocation to have unfolded as it did. 

As you might expect, Sorbian grew up in a Catholic family where attending Mass on Sundays and taking steps to better learn the faith was commonplace. He described his experience with Catholicism, as far back as elementary school, as being more transactional as opposed to deeply rooted. 

It wasn’t until high school that the idea of a life dedicated to the faith entered his mind, thanks to close family friends who were priests, some of whom were Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

“Amongst these priests and religious brothers, I always found inspiration although, at that time, I couldn’t articulate it. There was this intrigue about their life,” Sorbian said. “It wasn’t directed at wanting to become like them, but there was this strong admiration and respect for them that I had.” 

Doubling down on his stance that would see him blaze his own worldly path, Sorbian recalled multiple instances where he verbally rejected the idea of living a more divine life. Now, he looks back on his attempts to sweep his growing intrigue under the rug as he entered high school.

“A few priests sort of suggested that maybe I’d be interested in joining the seminary… At that time, it just totally hit me where I’d say uh, no, thank you,” he said. “It was this thing where I thought I have my plans, I have to go get a degree, get a job. I had this preset idea of how life is supposed to look like. I respect priests, but that’s for somebody else, definitely not me.” 

In what looked to be a career-defining move, Sorbian entered the Chemical and Physical Sciences program at the University of Toronto Mississauga. It was there while completing his studies he fondly remembers his priorities in life suddenly beginning to shift. 

“I was in this marketplace of ideas and I was feeling that if I don’t set my roots and decide what kind of man I want to become, then I will just get swept up somewhere in one of these currents and just go wherever it takes me, most likely for the worst and not for the better,” he said. “It was there at university where I really started taking my faith personally and seriously.” 

Sorbian was persistent that his plan was the right one, saying in retrospect that his intrusive thoughts were more than likely God pulling at his heartstrings and awakening something within. 

After completing his program, he found himself working in a corporate position for Metrolinx, an opportunity he had strived for in his professional life. In his eyes, everything was beginning to fall into place, but it was in the aforementioned office where he reached the climax of his spiritual awakening. 

“I had some of my most powerful prayer moments and spiritual battles within me in that office cubicle overlooking the CN Tower,” Sorbian said. “My ideas, my wisdom, my sense of how my life should be and what has gotten me to this point and yet it feels like this isn’t it, that somehow, somewhere, I took a wrong turn in the road.” 

It was during those periods of deep reflection that God spoke to Sorbian, telling him to seek out the associate’s program in the archdiocese, which he inevitably did under the guidance of Fr. Chris Lemieux. From there, he was assigned to a pastor shadowing program under Msgr. Paul Zimmer at St. Clement’s Parish.

“At that time in my contract, I was working Monday to Friday with Saturday and Sunday evenings at the parish. I had one foot in a career and one foot in discernment during that period of time. I found that my weekends at the parish were giving me a lot more peace of heart, clarity and fulfillment than what I was doing Monday to Friday.” 

With his doubts proven wrong, he applied and was officially accepted into St. Augustine’s Seminary where he has been working towards the completion of his Master of Divinity, now in his seventh year of studies.

Fr. Michael Corpus, vice-rector at the seminary, understands the rather convoluted path that led Sorbian to begin his studies. 

“What’s intriguing about Szymon, much like myself, is that he was called from the working world,” Corpus said. “Upon seeing what material success could look like, I think there was a longing for more fulfillment, completion and satisfaction… Our vocation was to serve Christ in this more intimate way and to serve His people more directly.” 

His journey at the seminary has seen Sorbian grow his faith substantially through years of prep, prayer, theology studies and internships. In October, he was ordained to the transitional diaconate, marking the next step of his journey to the priesthood which will cement itself at his ordination on May 11. 

As that day moves closer and closer, Sorbian noted that although it may seem like the end of his path, it is truly only the beginning. He cited many aspects he’s looking forward to once the day arrives. 

“Just seeing people turn to God and salvation, seeing their soul being saved and seeing them want to turn to God, that is the reward,” he said. “That’s what I’m looking forward to, working in God’s vineyard for the salvation of souls. It’s not about enterprising and establishing big buildings and whatnot, but it’s about the individual soul, and each individual soul is so important.” 

Sorbian will be ordained alongside four of his classmates, Jeremy Zou, Marko Busic, Daniel Lee and Ryan Nigli, all of whom are from the Archdiocese of Toronto. They have the full support and prayers from Corpus and the formation team at St. Augustine’s as they enter into their next chapter. 

“I pray that (Sorbian) continues to draw upon his unique and special gifts like St. Joseph, who was quiet, humble and focused on sacrificing and placing his community and his family at the centre of his life, words, thoughts and actions,” said Corpus. “I pray for all of them, including Szymon, that they continue to acknowledge their gifts… They know what they are.”

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