Sister Anne Karges from the Congregation of St. Joseph of Canada addresses the dinner on behalf of all the 50-years jubilarians, some of whom are seated behind her. Photo by Tony Gosgnach.

God's plan sidetracks Hamilton priest's golf dream

By  Tony Gosgnach, Catholic Register Special
  • May 5, 2014

HAMILTON, ONT. - He tried to push it aside and ignore it, desiring marriage, a family and retirement at age 50 so he “could play golf all day,” but God had other plans.

That’s how then-deacon and now-Fr. David Walter recalled the inner struggle he had over God’s calling on his life to become a priest. It was a story he told for more than 500 people who attended the Serra Club of Hamilton’s 11th annual Celebration of Priesthood and Religious Life Dinner at the Liuna Station banquet centre on April 29.

Walter was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Hamilton a few days after the dinner, on May 3.

Growing up in the village of Chepstow, Ont., near Walkerton, Walter was instilled with a strong faith by his parents and appreciated how they put such a strong emphasis on that. As a youth, a grandmother told him he was going to become a priest, but he thought nothing of it at the time.

He went on to graduate from high school in Walkerton, then the University of Guelph, before beginning a career in the investment industry and as a purchasing and logistics manager for a manufacturing company.

“But as I started my career, I did find that something was missing,” he recalled. “Upon reflection, I began taking my faith more seriously.”

About 10 years ago, he began reading books about the faith in earnest and “things started to really make sense. At that time, I really started to fall in love with the Church.”

Still, he tried to suppress thoughts of priesthood, even though they wouldn’t go away.

“It seemed the more I tried to ignore it, the stronger the desire became.”
He decided to take steps to convince himself he was unfit for priesthood — a poor public speaker and someone too shy to work with people. But after taking a public speaking course and volunteering in a position that involved a lot of personal contact, he actually found he was good at both.

“God has a sense of humour and He was removing these barriers that I had placed between me and this vocation … It took a few more years and a few more signs and, after prayerfully struggling with the idea of priesthood for a long time, I finally stopped resisting, threw up my hands one day and said, ‘Lord, I give up. If you want me to join the seminary, I will do it.’ ”

That was six years ago and, though he went in “kicking and screaming” at the time, he said a peace has come over him that he can’t describe.

“In all truth, I can say I am now the happiest I have ever been and have absolutely no regrets … At this point, I am truly full of joy and can’t imagine doing anything else but becoming a parish priest. I feel truly blessed that God has called me to this incredible vocation.”

Unlike Walter, Sr. Lucille Godfrey of the Congregation of St. Joseph of Canada has long been a serving religious — she was honoured as one of the 50-year jubilarians at the dinner and has served as a teacher, on her congregational leadership team and in compassionate ministry. Still, some of her experiences have mirrored those of the new priest.

“My parents were the first who taught me about the faith,” she said in an interview. “We did have a very faith-centred home.” She also had a great aunt in the Congregation of St. Joseph of Canada who was praying that if Godfrey had a vocation, she would respond.

“It was in Grade 11 that I began to think seriously and felt this restlessness that there was something I should be looking at. So I made inquiries and entered.”

Looking back, Godfrey said, “You never understand why God’s calling you. It’s part of the mystery. The thing is to respond and try to discern where God is calling you … It’s been a good 50 years. You have up days and down days, but I really feel that the more I’m in the convent, the more I realize that this is where God wants me.”

Now in a form of semi-retirement, Godfrey intends to keep doing what she has been all along: “Bring the healing compassion of Jesus wherever I go. Because that’s what it’s about.”

Godfrey was recognized with other 50-year jubilarians from her order: Srs. Carla Marie Contestabile, Anne Karges and Patricia Valeriote. Also honoured were Mother Catherine of Our Lady of Providence from the Order of Discalced Carmelites, Srs. Patricia Carson and Paulette Tomlinson from the School Sisters of Notre Dame and Frs. Robert Liddy, Terence McGuire and Lord Keasey of the Congregation of the Resurrection. Honourable mentions also were given to religious celebrating other significant anniversaries, including Sr. Elise Diemert at 80 years.

Marjorie Mullen, president of the Hamilton Serra Club, noted the annual dinner has come to be appreciated by many people in the Diocese of Hamilton and paid tribute to the work done by her organization’s members since the chapter was chartered in 1965.

“Serra has a unique and particular charism in the life of the Church, both in this country and in many countries throughout the world. That charism is to involve laymen and laywomen in the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life,” she said.

(Gosgnach is a freelance writer in Hamilton, Ont.)

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