Rosary, faithful family, friends lead priest to altar

  • December 18, 2009
{mosimage}The Montreal diocese received an early Christmas present in the form of its newest priest, Fr. François Charette.

Charette, 31, was ordained for the diocese Dec. 11 after a 13-year journey that began with a conversion of heart, involvement in a pontifical lay community, parish work and missionary work in Latin America.

“I am ready to go wherever they will send me,” he said in French. “I think it’s the attitude of availability that’s the most important, to go where the Lord asks and I think that’s when we’re happiest.”

That wasn’t always his outlook, Charette said. Although he grew up in a practising Catholic family in Repentigny, Que., until he was 18 he resisted going to Mass with his parents and sisters.

But with his family’s continuing faithful example, the example of his parish priest and then the influence of some Catholic youth involved in the “Société du Christ Seigneur” community, he said, one day he decided to pray the rosary.

“It was really the rosary, the prayer of Mary, that opened the doors for me and it gave me the desire to return to the church,” he said. “I started going to Mass every week, every day — it was an extremely sudden renewal — and after that I began thinking about the priesthood.”

At first, he really wanted to get married and have children, he said.

“I thought priests were men who had sacrificed everything and who had accepted to be miserable their whole lives,” he said.

Soon, he realized that wasn’t the case and when he eventually accepted God’s call, it brought him a wave of peace. After spending two years discerning at the Grand Séminaire de Montréal, he left to spend three years with the Société du Christ Seigneur community for an apostolic formation, working with children, the youth, young adults and all other works in the community. He returned to the Grand Séminaire to study theology for another three years after which he started to ask himself if he was called to missionary work abroad.

“That’s why I asked if I could take a year-long sabbatical in South America, with a movement called Points-Coeur,” he said.

The international Catholic movement, known in English as “Heart’s Home,” sent him to Argentina where he practised its charism of compassion and presence to the poor and deprived.

The detours Charette took on his faith formation process may have delayed his ordination, Charette said, but it was his time spent in Latin America that helped him realize he is called to work in Montreal. 

“I find that it’s a beautiful challenge to work here in Quebec, which is very de-Christianized, where there is seldom references to God,” Charette said. “I am passionate about meeting people for baptismal preparation because they’re beginning from zero, knowing almost nothing about their faith and then we start from the beginning, talking to them about Christ and the Good News.”

Charette said anti-religious attitudes feel much stronger in Quebec than in the rest of Canada, but that only strengthens his resolve to reach out.

He also enjoys working with immigrant Catholics, who are reinvigorating parishes.

“Here in Montreal, that is a growing help to the church — at youth events, a great proportion of the youth come from immigrant families,” he said.

During his diaconate Charette worked with many Catholic Haitians, he said, but there are also many Filipinos, Latinos, Chinese and Africans from Congo and Rwanda that spice up parish life in the northern part of the island where he  interned.

While there is still great work to be done with evangelization in Quebec, Charette said he is lucky for the support found in meeting monthly with a group of a dozen other young priests for a meal and a chance to talk about their diocesan ministries.

“In Montreal we are fortunate to have a good number of young priests which isn’t the case in all dioceses — we have up to three ordinations per year, so we’re increasing.”

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