Joshua Roldan and Paul Finn Photo by Emanuel Pires

This year's Ordinandi Dinner attracts record crowd

  • March 6, 2013

BRAMPTON, ONT. - The two men who will be ordained priests in the archdiocese of Toronto this spring were honoured at the annual Ordinandi Dinner March 5 at the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton, where they shared the stories of how they were called to the priesthood.

More than 1,700 people gathered for the annual dinner to hear the stories of what led Paul Finn and Joshua Roldan to embark on their path to the priesthood. The annual dinner was hosted by Serra International, an organization promoting vocations to Catholic religious life. For the first year, an Ordinandi Luncheon for youth was also held, which attracted 420 students from schools throughout the archdiocese of Toronto, bringing the total number of attendees to 2,140 people — an all-time record in the 23-year history of the Ordinandi Dinner, according to the event's founder, Mario Biscardi.

At an age when most people are closer to thinking about their retirement plans than planning a new career, Finn is making the journey into the priesthood.

"It's the story of a call that was there for a long time," Finn, 53, told the gathering. "One that I didn't answer until it was almost too late."

Finn spent 10 years working for the Canadian Wheat Board as a policy analyst for Europe and the Soviet Union — Canada's biggest wheat customer at the time. He then brought his expertise to the federal government. But during this career, there was always a nagging call that just wouldn't go away.

"The idea of entering the priesthood never quite went away but once I was working… it was hard to make a change. I had interesting work and exciting travel opportunities," he said, having travelled across central Asia, East Berlin, Moscow and other European capitals.

But the passing of his parents made him reassess his life's direction.

"There were probably as many years behind as there were ahead," he said. He was always left wondering, "Was I really going to be happy at the end of my life if I suppressed this call?" He entered the seminary at 47.

Fellow Ordinandi Joshua Roldan first attended the Ordinandi Dinner in 2002 at the invitation of his high school chaplain, who felt his student might have a call to the priesthood. Roldan remembers leaving the dinner wondering if God was asking him to follow Him as a priest.

"But I ran away from the idea," he said. "From that point on I focused only on myself and my self interests."

Attending the University of Toronto, he had plans of becoming a teacher, citing his "deep passion for calculus." He moved downtown and began to live a life he thought would make him happy.

"The more I lived that life, the more I felt empty. I realized something was missing in my life."

After a friend encouraged him to attend Mass again, Roldan finally found the peace he was searching for.

"I made the resolve to give Him my life and allow Him to do whatever He will with it."

Fr. Hansoo Park, director of vocations for the archdiocese of Toronto, spoke about the important role of parents in fostering and encouraging vocations. He recalled his own story, when his family lost everything in the recession of the early 1990s and his father told him he had nothing left to give him.

"But your mom and I have everything that you need to have," father told son. "Your mom and I believe in Christ and that's the only thing that's necessary in life."

These words never left him.

"It was something about his faith that touched me," he said. "It led me to the pathway that I should walk."

Also attending this year's dinner was John Marcus "Tomi" Asenuga, president of Serra International. Visiting from Nigeria, he encouraged his fellow Catholics to go out and evangelize.

"Let us defend a Church that is constantly under attack," he said.

(Santilli is a freelance writer in Toronto.)


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