Eric Mason, soon to be Fr. Eric Mason, speaks with some of the 500 students who attended the Ordinandi Youth Day in Brampton, Ont., March 3. Mason shared the story of his call with the youth. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Toronto

Seeds of vocation planted in 500 students

  • March 3, 2015

BRAMPTON, ONT. - Students who have an interest in a higher calling came together March 3 to explore their religious and priestly vocation curiosity. 

About 500 students from the Catholic school boards within the Archdiocese of Toronto and across Ontario took part in the Ordinandi Youth Day, the youth component of the annual Ordinandi Dinner held later that same evening at Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton.

“It is a great opportunity for youth to experience the vocation story of others,” said event chair Jerry Hayes, president of the Serra Club of Toronto, which hosts the event. “It gives them an opportunity of experiencing the story of others that have followed the same path and lets them know that others have struggled with the idea as well.”

“It is important to plant the seeds of vocation so that they (the students) understand religious vocations and what are the options in our Church and community,” said co-chair Patrica Dal Ben from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. “It is a way of igniting some excitement and celebrating all of those men and women who say yes to the Lord.” 

The idea is to expose the youth who may have a calling to the priesthood to those who are to be ordained to the priesthood later this year and who were a few short years ago in the same place as the youth.

The exposure comes through interactive workshops, artistic performances and vocation story presentations put on by the soon-to-be ordained seminarians from Toronto’s St. Augustine’s Seminary.

Dylan Michael, a student from St. Francis Xavier Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont., who is considering the priesthood, said attending the Ordinandi Youth Day has helped him re-imagine priests as real people, making his dream seem more attainable. 

“I was just so inspired to see how priests can be so relatable,” said Michael. “When I think about priests they are so far off and they are so much holier than I am, but to hear their stories and hear how they were at my age gives me hope that I can become like them some day.” 

Michael hopes he will be able to reach the youth of tomorrow just as he has been reached by the priests of today. 

“I want to try to reach out to the youth,” he said. “That is one of the things that has drawn me towards the priesthood.”

The youth at the event — which ran from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. — were selected by their school chaplains. 

“We rely on the chaplains to pick those candidates who are most suitable to come,” said Hayes. “That doesn’t mean that you are going to come here today and walk away knowing that you are going to be a priest or a religious, but it gives people who might be discerning the idea an opportunity to explore it a little bit further.” 

Eric Mason, one of six soon-to-be priests who make up the Class of 2015, told the students about the happiness his call has brought. 

“This vocation really is the source of my happiness,” said Mason, who will serve the Peterborough diocese after ordination. “Just put your confidence in God and trust that following His will will make you happy and that joy will be a sign to others of the truth of your vocation, the reality of it.” 

Mason shared that story again in the evening during the annual Ordinandi Dinner. The youth event grew out of the Ordinandi Dinner when organizers sought a youth component to welcome the younger crowd who often were unable to get tickets to the dinner that sells out each year. 

“We simply were not able to accommodate the number of people who wanted to attend,” said Hayes, noting that more than 1,500 people attended this year’s dinner. “To relieve that we’ve created this youth event during the day.” 

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