Deacon Michael Corpus has been spending most of his time at St. Augustine’s Seminary as he awaits a new date for his ordination. Mickey Conlon

Seminarians’ big plans hit unexpected wall

By 
  • April 15, 2020

Deacon Michael Corpus had family coming to Toronto from California and the Philippines to attend his May ordination to the priesthood. Other members of his St. Augustine’s Seminary graduating class were expecting family from as far away as Poland, South Korea and South America.

They were barely a month away from one of the biggest days of their lives, but the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly ended plans for the seminarians, some after 10 years of formation, to be ordained to the priesthood May 9. In the face of a pandemic that has closed churches around the world, the Archdiocese of Toronto postponed the annual ceremony that fills St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica. Ordinations to the permanent diaconate scheduled for two weeks later were also put on hold.

“Everyone had these big plans, but when things started to happen, I think the natural course was just to surrender to God (and) to understand that in His own time we would be ordained,” said Corpus.

In some ways, Corpus and the other ordinandi are appreciative that Cardinal Thomas Collins postponed the ordinations well in advance of the big day. Otherwise, with travel restrictions in place, it wouldn’t have been possible for about half of the ordinandi to share the event with loved ones.

The ordinations have been tentatively re-scheduled for August.

“We are hopeful this will be possible,” said Collins. “If not, I will make arrangements to ordain our new priests individually.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. In early March, the Serra Club hosted the annual Ordinandi Dinner to fete the 13 graduating seminarians, including seven for the Archdiocese of Toronto. The  pandemic wasn’t on anyone’s mind, said Corpus.

“This was not on the radar. We were all stoked, definitely, with two months to go (until ordination),” he said.

But they know they aren’t alone in dealing with disruption as pretty much the whole nation is affected by this unprecedented situation, said Corpus.

“There’s a unique spiritual experience that we as ordinandi are going through which is kind of a unity and solidarity with the flock,” said Corpus.

“There are those waiting to be baptized, confirmed, waiting to receive the Eucharist for the first time ever, there are those waiting for their marriage and us waiting to be ordained. There’s this unity of longing and waiting for the sacraments. It’s fitting that we endure this crisis with unity and solidarity.”

For now, the ordinandi have either gone home to wait out the pandemic with their families or, for those from afar, are in parishes within the archdiocese. For Corpus, isolation has meant residing at St. Augustine’s and helping the cardinal conduct his daily live-streamed Mass from the cathedral.

Fr. Chris Lemieux is director of the Office of Vocations with the archdiocese. How to handle the ordinations is a conversation he’s been able to have with Collins as they are both resident at the cathedral rectory at a time everyone is encouraged to stay home.

“I guess that’s the reality we’re all kind of facing…. How are we going to restructure things?” said Lemieux.

Lemieux said the hope is for one ceremony in August rather than a number of individual ordinations. That latter option is only a contingency plan if worse comes to worst.

“I think it’s too soon to say (one ceremony) won’t happen,” said Lemieux. “Obviously we hope the men can celebrate and their ordinations can be experienced as one group.”

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