Despite life’s struggles, the call kept pulling Llames to the seminary

By  Sara Loftson, The Catholic Register
  • April 17, 2007
TORONTO - Leo Llames first thought about a vocation to the priesthood when he was 10 years old during elementary school in Tacloban City, Philippines. He was inspired by the life story of St. Maximilian Kolbe and how he died a martyr for the faith, but he pushed those thoughts aside and continued on with life.
Then for eight years he studied architecture part-time while working in construction.

“I encountered life’s struggles and a few times my pastors and peers brought me back to the church. Sometimes I would go and fall away again until I asked what is the meaning of my life? Why is there suffering?” he said.

Once Llames finished his degree, he found answers to those questions at his parish through the Neo Catechumenal Way. This international lay movement helped him rediscover his calling as a Christian, said Llames.

A few years after he joined the movement his vocational call returned. At first he said it felt like an escape from the troubles he was dealing with. For three years he wrestled with it, thinking it was an infatuation because he had nowhere else to go.    

Then in 1995 Pope John Paul II brought World Youth Day to Manila, Philippines. At the pilgrimage when he heard the words “do not be afraid” Llames realized “it’s the church that calls me to take a risk, to take up one’s cross and follow Christ.”

During World Youth Day the pope made a call for vocations and Llames said it was then that he stopped escaping.  

He went through a pre-formation period. “It was a test to see if this is ‛real gold,’ see if there are any impurities.”

In September 1998 the Neo Catechumenal movement asked him to go to Porto San  Giorgio in Italy for a large vocation discernment gathering. He was selected to go to the seminary and at random his name was picked to study for the archdiocese of Toronto.

“I didn’t know where Canada was. I went to a map when I got home. I thought it was like Nunavut.”

When he arrived that winter there was a huge snow storm. He didn’t think he’d survive coming from a tropical country, but after studying the life of the Canadian martyrs it made his own problems seem small. Now nine years since he’s arrived in Canada he will be ordained a priest this May for the archdiocese of Toronto.

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