This father is set to become a Father

  • April 26, 2010
Stephen CrowleyTORONTO - Years of experience as a husband and father provided a natural progression towards the priesthood for Deacon Stephen Crowley, now just days away from his May 1 ordination in Hamilton, Ont.

The father of three adult children lost his wife Maureen, to whom he had been married for 32 years, to muscular dystrophy in 2008.

“I just think that the priesthood now is a logical conclusion or a logical extension of me living out my baptism to the fullest as was my married life,” said Crowley, who worked as a medical laboratory technologist. “I see that they’re both ways of living out my baptism as a Catholic man of God and serving the community, first as a nuclear family and now as a larger family.”

Crowley said he remembers his first inclination to the priesthood, which happened when he was in Grade 4, and reading about the lives of the various saints.

“Especially reading about Fr. John Bosco and thinking ‘Gee I’d like to be a priest like he was,’ ” Crowley said. “I remember being an altar server for many years and my pastors and my family assuming I would enter the seminary and become a priest, but then it came time for high school and I started dating.”

During his youth in his hometown of Peterborough, Ont., he remembers parish-sponsored hockey teams and scout troops, youth Masses, school Masses at St. Peter’s High School and other faith-centred opportunities. He met Maureen when she was in Grade 10 and he in Grade 11.

After they married, it took many years before they would conceive their first child, just after they had begun to consider adoption.

“Those first six or seven years of our marriage where we didn’t have our children allowed us to be rooted in our faith and gave us the graces that we needed to cope with what lay ahead,” Crowley said.

During that time they participated in the Cursillo Movement and various parish missions which helped develop an understanding of church teachings and strengthened their relationship with God.

Signs of Maureen’s illness began to surface after the birth of their first child, but even as her condition worsened, their faith helped them recognize the graces being poured out on their family and on the community. After she had a brain stem lesion in 1992, Crowley asked his priest about becoming a deacon, but was encouraged to wait until his children were older. So he became involved with the Knights of Columbus and helped with various parish ministries, as did his children.

Crowley said because of his obvious passion for serving the church, his decision to study for the priesthood was no surprise to his children. He had already begun taking some theology courses in case the permission to become a priest was given. That happened the day before he left for the Eucharistic Congress in Quebec City in 2008, barely a month after his wife’s death.

Now he looks forward to giving to the parish some of the love he has shared with his family.

“I think it’s the interaction with the people, just the happy, smiling faces in the parish and knowing that you can be there — and serve them from when they baptize their children right through the whole sacramental life of the parish until it’s time to bury the dead — be there just as a member of this larger family.

“I’m looking forward to the idea of trying to find creative ways of drawing people into the church so that they can experience the love of God through the liturgy and just share in our liturgies and our faith with the people in our parish.”

Crowley said it’s the experience of having been in an intimate family relationship, the co-operation that is required and the sacrificial element of the sacrament that will help him be a good priest.

“It can be a great witness and a great understanding that people can hopefully relate with as well, as they go through their own struggles,” he said.

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