Toronto’s newest priests, Fr. Julien Malenfant, blessing another priest at left, and Fr. Tom Kluger, were ordained April 30. Photos by Evan Boudreau

Toronto welcomes two to a life of service

By 
  • May 3, 2016

TORONTO – Cardinal Thomas Collins, in ordaining the two newest members to the Toronto priestly fraternity, let them know that as priests they are called to be servants of their flock.

Collins ordained Fr. Tom Kluger and Fr. Julien Malenfant to the priesthood for the archdiocese in a ceremony at St. Michael’s Cathedral April 30.

“Priests, they are servants,” said the archbishop of Toronto. “The point is that we are here for the service of God’s people. Servants of the servants of God.”

What priests must offer through their service, in all that they do inside and outside their parish, is love, said Collins.

“Love is at the heart of the priesthood,” he said. “Love must always be deep. We need to know the one we love.”

The one is God Himself, a relationship that is found and flourishes in prayer, said the cardinal. For prayer is an act of making time for God and an invitation for the Lord to be in one’s life.

Collins stressed the importance of making time for the Lord and prayer amid the many pastoral, administrative and sacramental duties soon to be requested of the new priests.

“Prayer is not just an emotional, mystical moment defined by the Lord; it is a daily fidelity of being with the one you love,” he said. “It is in infinite moments of prayer that the word of Christ dwells within you deeply. (So) let the word of Christ dwell in you deep and rich ... (for) then you will know the one you love.”

Friends, family and well-wishers were in attendance for the ordination ceremony at the downtown cathedral that is still under renovation. About 75 clergy were also present for the celebration including Toronto’s auxiliary bishops, Whitehorse Bishop Hector Vila and Fr. Peter Marr, St. Augustine’s Seminary’s director of pastoral formation.

Collins cited the late Bishop Fulton Sheen by suggesting those new to the priesthood get in the habit of spending an hour in adoration before the Lord and blessed sacrament, “and if you are too busy to do that spend two.”

Even before his ordination, Kluger, assigned to St. Isaac Jogues parish in Pickering, Ont., learned of the love fostered by prayer.

Although baptized as a baby, Kluger’s parents were divided on faith and put little emphasis on religious formation, leading their son to consider himself an atheist.

“To make a long story short, in my late-20s my hardcore atheism softened a bit into a mellow agnosticism, so I began this quest of journey in my life wondering what is the meaning of life and that is dangerous because that will almost inevitably lead you to God,” said the 49-year-old Toronto native. “I really felt that actually I wasn’t an atheist, I was kind of mad at God and if you are mad at somebody who doesn’t exist then that is kind of weird.”

This led him to a Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) program. Following his completion of the program, Kluger’s pastor at the time, the late Fr. Joe McCormick, asked him to pray about joining the priesthood.
“I kind of piously folded my hands together and said, ‘Yes Father, I’ll pray about it,’ and inside I was thinking, ‘Oh yeah right, girls are way too pretty,’ ” he said. “So I resisted but ... I truly felt called to be in the parish, to minister to the people of God in their everyday lives.”

And so in September 2010 the former atheist entered St. Augustine’s Seminary — “easily far and above the best decision I ever made in my life” — with a heart filled with love for the Lord and a desire to serve His people.

Although Kluger still thinks girls are pretty, the love he found for the Lord leaves him more fulfilled than all his relationships combined.

“I realized how fortunate I am, how blessed I am, that God in His kindness, His mercy and His sense of humour could call me to this way of life, to minister to His people, and I am profoundly grateful.”

Malenfant, the second priest of 11 children in his family, was moved by the loving mercy of God after leading a life away from the Lord.

“I was a trouble maker and that was a blessing in a sense,” said the native of Quebec who studied at the Redemptoris Mater Seminary affiliated with St. Augustine’s. “I experienced a lot, a lot, of mercy from both my parents and my teachers and I see God’s hands in all of this. This sealed in me that even though I didn’t know Him so much myself … this God of mercy in Christ loved me as I was; I didn’t need to be something else.

“That was the most important thing.”

And as he grew into a man, Malenfant also grew to know God as prayer became a ritual. Then while attending World Youth Day 2005 in Germany, the call to the priesthood came.

“God had been convincing me all of my life through my family and in my life that mercy was worth my life, both for myself and to proclaim to others,” he said. “There was no other meaningful way of living my life and proclaiming that mercy. God willing as a priest I wish to be a faithful apostle.”

Malenfant is to serve at St. Clare of Assisi parish in Woodbridge, Ont.

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