BECOMING A PRIEST - Coming to terms with addiction turned a life around

  • April 16, 2007
TORONTO - Kelly Boyden grew up in Orleans, a suburb of Ottawa, under the care of his adopted parents, two devout Catholics. He went to Catholic school and was an altar server, but in his teenage years he drifted away from the faith.
His dream was to work for the RCMP as a regular member, which he realized at 28 when he was accepted into RCMP training. But he got kicked out after two months.

“I hadn’t grown up enough. I was still hiding a lot from who I was. One of the biggest ways I was hiding was I was drinking a lot,” said Boyden, who will graduate into the priesthood this spring from St. Augustine’s Seminary.

He left the RCMP and enlisted in the navy a year later. He spent four years with the Canadian Forces on Vancouver Island, but his drinking problem resurfaced. This time he spent eight weeks in rehab.

There he experienced a turning point. His adoptive parents visited and were encouraged to honestly talk about how his addiction had affected them. 

“My Mom said ‛maybe we weren’t suppose to have kids period. Maybe that was God’s plan.’

“I was devastated when she said that, but I knew behind those words there was a whole lot of love or she wouldn’t have said it in the first place,” he said. “I realized there was something greater going on here and that was this love. If they could share this love I’d received then maybe I could share this love with others.”

He returned to the navy. One evening after a shift as bridge watchkeeper Boyden looked out into the stars.

“The ship and myself seemed so insignificant. I enjoyed what I was doing with the navy, but I thought there had to be something more.”

When he walked inside the ship the chaplain was up watching the film Devil’s Advocate.

“The title made me laugh. I saw the humanity in him and I thought maybe this is something I wanted to do.”

He and the chaplain spoke  about the priestly vocation and shortly after Boyden got involved at the cathedral in Victoria.

“If I were called I wanted to be a priest with the military. I felt indebted to them, helping me grow and helping me deal with the problems in my life,” Boyden said.

He knew he was called to the priesthood after a three-day visit to the seminary in Edmonton. He went back there to spend his first year of studies then transferred to St. Paul’s Seminary in Ottawa to practise his French. In his final year Boyden said he transferred to St. Augustine’s to experience another form of seminary life. 

For Boyden it’s clear how he envisions what a priest should be like.

“Someone who celebrates the sacraments, someone who preaches the Gospel, but more than anything someone who lives the Gospel message, someone who’s deeply involved in the community’s life,” said Boyden.

The 38-year-old will be ordained in Ottawa for the Military Ordinariate of Canada. He will spend the first two years in Canada and he could be posted overseas.

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