Cardinal Thomas Collins with the soon-to-be ordained priests at the last Ordinandi Dinner before the pandemic moved the annual dinner to the virtual realm for two years. (Photo courtesy Archdiocese of Toronto)

Ordinandi Dinner back on track

By  Angelica Vecchiato, Register Correspondent
  • March 2, 2023

The annual Ordinandi Dinner is back this year with its first in-person event since pre-pandemic days in 2020. 

The past two years have seen the annual dinner make its appearance on the virtual scene due to COVID social-distancing rules and capacity limits in indoor settings.

Crowds are slated to gather March 9 at the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton, Ont., to celebrate the forthcoming ordination of the 2023 Ordinandi class from Toronto’s St. Augustine’s Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Seminary. 

The Serra Clubs of Toronto, whose mission it is to increase awareness of religious life vocations, will be collaborating with St. Augustine’s Seminary to host the event.

Eight seminarians will share their story this year: Mirko Ljuba (35), Carlos Alberto Torres Marquez (28), Matthew Cole Powers (31), Sean Raphael Jacob (31) and Sávio António Bruto da Costa (46) from the Archdiocese of Toronto; Michael Chris El-Nachef (28) from the Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall; and Peter Long Hien Tran (38) and Joseph Son Quang Do (39) from the Bui Chu diocese in Vietnam.

Celeste Iacobelli, an executive on the planning committee, is pleased with how the program is materialising, though there were a few concerns at the start. 

“We did have some concerns about whether our patrons would return or whether COVID concerns and the lingering pandemic would continue to keep many away,” said Iacobelli, also a member of the Toronto Central Serra Club. “The result for both the Ordinandi Youth Event and the Dinner was very gratifying as our concerns were overtaken by the enthusiasm of our Catholic community wanting to hear from these men dedicating their lives to the service of our Lord and His Church.”

The dinner, observing its 33rd anniversary, will follow on the tails of the Ordinandi Youth Event, where the soon-to-be priests will share their vocation stories with students from across the Archdiocese of Toronto, encompassing six Catholic school boards from the densely populated, metropolitan Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) to the northward Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board.

Jacob recognizes the vital importance of fresh perspectives on the discernment path — an opportunity he says the youth event provides.

“Most of the time, young people assume they are just called to one vocation which is marriage,” said Jacob. “Being exposed to different vocations at an early age gives an opportunity to at least know that religious life or priesthood are also other ways to live out their faith and deepen their relationship with Christ. This gives an opportunity to be more intentional in the way they may want to live their faith life.” 

In previous years, as many as 800 high-schoolers have taken part in the youth event. Numbers for 2023 are projecting around 700 total attendees, the majority coming from the TCDSB. 

Loretto Abbey chaplain Cosmo Femia is bringing 65 students to the event. He says it is important in developing the faith life of his students.

“Whenever we go to Ordinandi, the soon-to-be priests and nuns come from all walks of life,” said Femia, a religion teacher at the all-girls Catholic school in Toronto. “Some were formerly lawyers and CEOs, but they left their worldly life to follow Christ. Just to hear their stories is inspiring and contagious for our students. There is an emphasis on following what we’re called to do — the great things to which God has designed for us,”   

The youth event — beginning at 10 a.m. and concluding at 1 p.m. — will also take place at the Pearson Convention Centre where Cardinal Thomas Collins will be the keynote speaker. Collins will also make an appearance at the Ordinandi Dinner.

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