Becoming a priest

  • March 23, 2009
{mosimage}Editor’s note: Today we begin our annual series that profiles the men who will graduate from St. Augustine’s Seminary this spring and be ordained to the priesthood for various dioceses.

A void is filled

Jonathan Blake, 33, heard the call to the priesthood in Grade 2 but it would be almost 20 years before he’d respond. As he put it, “I was paralyzed by worldly pleasures.”

After graduating from the University of New Brunswick with a Bachelors of Science in Biology, he did a year program which began a five-year Information Technology career as a computer programmer. He believed his life would unfold typically: marriage, a nice house and family.

“But there was a void in my heart,” he said.

He moved to Pittsburgh and then to Ottawa in an unsuccessful search for happiness. Then one day he answered an invitation in the church bulletin to participate in a night of adoration with the parish youth group. 

“For the first time, I felt at home,” he said. “I felt at peace.”

God opened his heart to the call that He had placed there from the very beginning. He entered St. Augustine’s Seminary in 2003 and is now looking forward to beginning his ministry for the archdiocese of Ottawa.


Roman trip changed his life

After serving at the altar of his home parish for many years, Craig Cruikshank, 28, decided to explore the possibility of the priesthood and entered Wadhams Hall Seminary in Ogdensburg, N.Y. right after high school.

He admits now that he never enjoyed school and always figured he’d avoid any career that required extensive studies. But he spent three years at Wadhams Hall, only to leave formation when the seminary closed its doors.

Two years later, after a trip to Rome, an experience of the roots of the Catholic Church and the faith, he entered formation again in 2003 and spent a year at Serra House before beginning five years at St. Augustine’s Seminary. 

Cruikshank looks forward to serving the people of the diocese of Peterborough.


'Normal guy' finds his calling

Rev. Mr. Steven Dickson, 29, was baptized and received into the church at the Easter Vigil in 1997 at the age of 17.

 He began to feel the Lord calling in his early 20s while at York University. “But I kept saying to myself, ‘Steve, you’re just a normal guy. No way you could be a priest,’ ” he recalls.

It was a providential meeting of a seminary faculty member at a youth rally at Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland that gave Dickson the final push he needed to answer the Lord’s call.

“He asked me if I had ever thought of becoming a priest,” Dickson said.

“He made me think that priesthood was something I could really do.”

After spending some time in discernment at Serra House while studying philosophy, Dickson entered St. Augustine’s Seminary in 2004. He looks forward to serving the Lord and the people of the archdiocese of Toronto in his future ministry.


Priesthood ends spiritual, moral bankruptcy

Rev. Mr. Thomas Lim, 40, was born in Indonesia and came to Canada at the age of four with his parents and seven siblings.

He graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Commerce degree and embarked on a lucrative career in the financial industry in Toronto. His career objective at the time, he says, was “to make as much money as possible.”

And he was good at it. He had money, an expensive car, a home, but felt “spiritually and morally bankrupt,” he said.

“For a dozen years I didn’t practice my faith at all,” said Lim.

Then one winter he committed to attending Mass every day in Lent and, through that process, “became addicted to the Lord,” he said.

Lim gradually discerned his call to the priesthood and entered St. Augustine’s Seminary in 2003.


Family fuels faith formation

Rev. Mr. Paul Magyar, 27, was born in Slovakia and came to Toronto when he was nine years old.

Magyar graduated from the University of Toronto studying East Asian religions and Western Philosophy. As a student he studied martial arts and body building and worked part time for a security company, where assignments included providing protection for rock bands such as the Rolling Stones and AC/DC, for Britney Spears and for Pope John Paul II.

Yet his interesting and active life never overshadowed his initial calling and desire to become a priest.

“I learned my faith through my family,” he said. “I wanted to be a priest since I was five years old.”

Magyar entered St. Augustine’s Seminary in 2004 and during the first two summers he worked as a chaplain for air cadets in Greenwood, N.S.

He retains an interest in martial arts but says he is now more concerned with his spiritual fitness.

Magyar has found and is ready to fulfill his destiny.


Finding fulfilment in God

Rev. Mr. Frank Portelli, 33, was born and raised in Toronto, and as a young adult was much more interested in clubbing and having a good time than becoming a priest.

“I believed priesthood was only for the naive and the wholesome.”

After graduating, he got a job but was unable to find happiness. “I started to wonder what the purpose of my life was,” he said.

Then he started to ask himself the “eternal question: What am I doing here?” He remembers torturing himself with questions about the existence of God and, through faith, finally found a way out of his “conundrum.”

“I began to pray and to sincerely seek God and saw that God wanted something from me that I wasn’t willing to give: my entire heart and life,” said Portelli.

“After much struggle, prayer and discernment, I see that fulfilment is seeking God and loving sacrificially every day.”


Finding God’s way

Rev. Mr. Ricardo Quiñones, 40, was born and raised in Paraguay.

His life changed when he experienced the love of God in a community of the Neocatechumenal Way in his home parish in Asunción, Paraguay. He decided to announce the Gospel with his life when he was working as a teacher in a Catholic high school in Asunción.

He came to Canada in the midst of a snowstorm in January 1999 to enter the Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary.

He is looking forward to serving the archdiocese of Toronto and the universal church as a diocesan priest.



From France to priesthood in PEI

Rev. Mr. Jacques Rigaud, 43, was born and grew up in France. As a child, he says he loved Jesus and spent a lot of time in church.

Following his military service, he felt the call to religious life and joined a community for 15 years. He moved to Canada seven years ago to work in a community in Quebec. From there, he decided with his spiritual director to think about the priesthood. But he was unsure if God would call him because, he says, he had visions of priests being perfect men.

A priest told him that he should consider moving to Prince Edward Island. At first, he said no, but eventually, he says, God opened the way. He discovered recently that he had a cousin in the Yukon, Fr. Pierre Rigaud, who had come  from the same place in France.

Rigaud is looking forward to serving the people and church in Charlottetown as a diocesan priest.



Answering Our Lady's call

Rev. Mr. Eric Rodrigues, 32, was born and raised in Toronto and had dreams of becoming a doctor, getting married and raising a family.

He studied biochemistry at the University of Waterloo and completed a master’s degree in epidemiology at McGill University. He returned to Toronto and worked for a year with a pharmaceutical company, and was in a “fairly serious” relationship with a girlfriend. When he first heard his calling, he was torn because “I felt happy in the church and happy in my relationship.”

He credits Our Lady with deepening his relationship with Jesus, and this led him to enter St. Augustine’s Seminary in 2004.

Rodrigues looks forward to giving glory to God by serving His people in the archdiocese of Toronto.



Colombian ordinand ends up choosing his right boss

Rev. Mr. Carlos Troya, 31, was born and raised in Colombia.

He experienced the love of God in a community of the NeoCatechumenal Way in his home parish in Colombia. While attending a weekend retreat, he felt called to the priesthood.

“If you don’t want to be cheated by your boss, choose the right boss,” he remembers hearing.

So he decided to “leave behind my family, friends, country and culture to risk everything for the Lord.”

He entered the Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary of Toronto in May 1999.

He is looking forward to serving the archdiocese of Toronto and the universal church.

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I greet you in the mighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ. I would really love to answer to God's call to my life to serve him. What should I do

Patrick Kato
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