Sr. April Cabaccang added some music to her presentation on vocations to youth at the Pearson Convention Centre on March 7. Photo by Michael Swan

Vocation stories brought to life at ordinandi youth event

  • March 7, 2018

There was a sea of youth in a Brampton, Ont., convention centre on March 7 to meet four men about to be ordained priests, plus an array of habited sisters there to explain their lives under vows.

About 800 high school students with exams and March break looming attended the seventh annual Serra Club ordinandi youth event at the Pearson Convention Centre. The morning event preceded the 28th annual Ordinandi Dinner at the same venue.

It was guitar-wielding Salesian Sr. April Cabaccang who captured the hearts of the youth. In between bits of her vocation story, Cabaccang had the kids singing along to songs that may or may not have had much to do with how and why she now wears a grey Salesian habit.

The former business student spoke about how at one point she decided to work up a cost-benefit analysis of the prospect of living under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

“I still was not ready to give up getting married and having a kid,” she told the students.

She had even chosen a name for the prospective daughter, Gabriella-Therése.

“And I’m not even Italian — or French,” she said.

Even though she grew up in a devout, Filipino family, attended a lively Salesian parish in Vancouver and had friends who either considered or even chose religious life beginning when she was in high school, Cabaccang describes her gradual approach to religious life as a slow cha-cha, with hesitant steps forward and more frequent steps to the side. 

She graduated with a business degree, worked and travelled before she spent time in a Salesian community in Toronto and decided to apply.

“I found out that it gave me life,” she said.

Rather than trying to stampede her young audience into religious life, Cabaccang emphasized closeness with God.

“You really want to know God’s will for you? Pray,” she told them.

Archdiocese of Kingston ordinandi Deacon Brian Russell, who will be ordained a priest in May, described his unhappy, lonely and directionless life before making the decision to apply to the seminary.

“I pretty much ignored that inner voice,” he told the students.

Russell’s dour, serious devotion to his religion when he was young did not push him towards a vocation. In fact, it was a paper-thin shield he used to make up for what he thought was lacking in his life.

“Religion for me was a way to cope with loneliness,” Russell said.

His experience with his university chaplain Kelowna, B.C., and then with a parish priest in Spencerville, Ont., showed him the way to building a relationship with Jesus. His six years at St. Augustine’s Seminary have shown Russell how knowing and sharing his experience of God makes life worth living.

“I’m experiencing deeper happiness, deeper joy,” he said. “This is only the beginning of my journey with Christ.”

Manuel-Jerico DeJesus confessed he wasn’t even sure how to pronounce “ordinandi.” The Grade 10 student had conflicting reasons for attending the giant youth event with students from six different Catholic school boards and some private Catholic schools.

“I needed a break from school,” he said. At the same time he hoped the day would “give me a new perspective. That’s really what I want from any experience. Just give me a new perspective.”

Archdiocese of Toronto ordinandi Deacon Ray So said the value of the event has more to do with celebration than recruiting future seminarians.

“I wasn’t really all that into my faith back in high school,” So said. “It’s just a celebration of the various ways to serve in the Church. It’s just a celebration of the Church.”

Toronto’s Cardinal Archbishop Thomas Collins rushed over to the Brampton event for high schoolers from a meeting with bishops.

“I love this. This is great,” he told organizer and MC Sophia Trozzo, who serves as the junior student trustee on the York Catholic District School Board and is a Grade 11 student at St. Jean de Brebeuf.

International Serra Club president Dan Jones, visiting from Portland, Ore., told The Catholic Register the club aims to create an environment in which vocations to priesthood and religious life are encouraged and nurtured through youth events like the Toronto gathering with ordinandi.

“God is calling,” he said. “We can provide the environment for that calling to be nurtured.”

There are now 18,000 to 20,000 Serra Club members spread across 40 countries, Jones said.

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible, which has become acutely important amid the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.