Becoming a priest

  • March 20, 2008

{mosimage}Editor's note: Below is a series of short profiles on the men who will be graduating this year from St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto. They will be ordained to the priesthood for different dioceses in Canada.







From theatre to God's stage

TORONTO - For Kevin Belgrave, the future looked bright. A young man studying at Ryerson University’s theatre school, he looked forward to a career working backstage on Broadway. But God had other plans.

{mosimage} “I began to experience what started as a simple unease, but grew into a deep unhappiness,” he explained at the 2008 Ordinandi Dinner held in Toronto. Something was missing from his life.

In third year at Ryerson, he left his studies and headed to Quebec to study French. It was there that he began to realize “just how selfish my life had been up to that point.” After going to his first Confession in 11 years, he began to think about the priesthood.

In 2002, he entered St. Augustine’s Seminary and will be ordained a priest for the archdiocese of Toronto on May 10.

Now 31, Belgrave said he now sees that “God is love.”



Resistance futile for ordinandi

TORONTO - God called Edward Curtis at a young age. He remembers hearing the whispers as early as Grade 3. But becoming a priest was the last thing he wanted to do.

Through high school and university he felt the same way. But he kept resisting.

{mosimage} “God was kind of like that girlfriend who keeps calling — and never taking the hint,” he told those gathered at the 2008 Ordinandi Dinner in early March.

But eventually Curtis became tired of running from God and being restless. When he finally resigned himself to accepting God’s call, “my whole life changed almost in an instant.”

“I fell in love with God in that moment,” he explained. “God was relentless and He found me even when I didn’t want to be found.”

Curtis spent some time at Serra House to discern God’s will before entering the seminary.

Now, at age 29, Curtis will be ordained a priest for the archdiocese of Toronto on May 10.

Canadian winters didn't deter ordinandi

TORONTO - When Francisco Fernandez arrived from Spain a few years ago to begin seminary studies here, and landed at Pearson International Airport, he began to wonder whether the Lord had made a mistake. It was a blistering cold winter day and Toronto was in the midst of a huge snowstorm. It was nothing like his homeland.

Worse, he didn’t speak any English.

This spring, however, at age 34, Fernandez speaks English easily and is ready to be ordained to the priesthood. He’s a long way from his days as a rebellious youth whose father had died when the young boy was 12.

And he’s a little more used to Canadian winters.

Fernandez traces his journey to the priesthood back to his teen years. At age 19 he was invited to join a Neocatechumenal Way community, a Catholic lay movement founded in 1964 by the Spanish painter Francisco (Kiko) Argüello to help form Christian adults.

“I experienced the love of God” for the first time, Fernandez said at a recent Ordinandi Dinner. Suddenly everything in his life changed, his relations with his family improved and faith was a serious part of his life.

In 1997 he attended World Youth Day in Paris where he heard encouraging words from Pope John Paul II. Back home in Spain, he continued his faith formation, eventually asking to be allowed by the Neocatechumenal Way to study for the priesthood. His supervisors in the group sent him to Canada.

In 1999 he entered the Redemptoris Mater Missionary Seminary housed at St. Augustine’s. He will be ordained to the archdiocese of Toronto on May 10.

A late call answered

Alan GlassTORONTO - Alan Glass seemed to have it all: A satisfying career as a structural design engineer with an international consulting firm. A doctorate from Carleton University. A good parish life in Oakville, Ont. But one question kept nagging him: Should he have become a priest instead?

“One might say I had a great sense of regretting that I had missed my vocation,” Glass told the audience at the recent Ordinandi Dinner.

The Montreal native believed the seed for a priestly vocation was planted when he was in Grade 2. His teacher had a wonderful sense of faith and love for her students. The seed lay dormant for many years, but suddenly started to germinate when he was hitting middle age.

Something began to kindle inside when he got involved with the Bible study group at St. Andrew parish in Oakville, where he was also an instructor in the catechism program.

“I talked to a priest and asked: ‘Am I crazy or did I miss my chance.’ ” The answer was no and no.

He decided to begin studies at St. Augustine’s Seminary. Today, at age 50, he is ready for ordination, which will come May 10 at St. Michael’s Cathedral when he is ordained to the archdiocese of Toronto.

Role models led to priestly call

gorman.jpgTORONTO - Joseph Gorman had many role models that led him to the priesthood. His parents — “the first teachers of my faith” — brothers and sisters, teachers and others.

He particularly remembers with great fondness one priest: Fr. Bill Scanlon of the archdiocese of Toronto. Here was a man he wanted to emulate.

Over the years, Gorman had a normal life, full of the joys of growing up in Toronto as a good student and athlete. He played hockey, went skiing, worked as director of the former Columbus Boys Camp and was quarterback of the York University football team.

But, in the end, it all came back to an irresistible call to the priesthood. This call started when he was in Grade 2 and never went away.

Seminary studies began in 2002. Now, at age 31, he will be ordained to the priesthood for the archdiocese of Toronto on May 10 at St. Michael’s Cathedral.


More than a dinner call

TORONTO - Donatello Iocco had an on-again, off-again relationship with the idea of becoming a priest. He thought it was a good idea, but just wasn’t sure if God was calling him.

Then an Ordinandi Dinner in 2003 did the trick. As he sat listening to stories of other men who were about to become priests, about their own calling and response, he had the remarkable feeling that these guys were talking to him personally.

“That night my life changed forever,” he said at this year’s recent Ordinandi Dinner. “God, He was really calling me to the priesthood and He did it through this event.”

That fall Iocco entered the seminary. The decision was proceeded by a long spiritual journey.

A native of Italy, Iocco had come to Canada with his family when he was only three years old.

Years went by and suddenly, at age 23, he “had a powerful conversion” through the example of a priest.

“I began to hear Christ calling me from the cross,” he said.

He decided to go to Serra House, a residence for men discerning whether they should enter the priesthood.

Uncertain about whether the priesthood was for him, he left after a year but kept up his studies in philosophy. He felt he had too many limitations and weaknesses.

But then came the Ordinandi Dinner and the rest is history. Iocco, 35, will be ordained to the archdiocese of Toronto on May 10 at St. Michael’s Cathedral.


Confession led to priestly call

TORONTO - Jason Kuntz found his way to the priesthood through the confessional. It was there, some time ago, that a priest asked him whether he had considered becoming a priest.

The farm lad from Hanover, Ont., traces the roots of his priestly calling to a friend at age 15 arguing that he should go to Confession more often. He discovered that Pope John Paul II confessed his sins once a week. This inspired him greatly: if Pope John Paul felt a need to go to Confession that often, surely he needed to as well.

“Although this was difficult at first, I found it a very fruitful spiritual practice,” he recalled at the recent Ordinandi Dinner.

Participating in the sacrament of Reconciliation also gave him new insights into what it meant to be a priest.

“Going to Confession helped me realize a priest was truly a father. He was someone you could speak to about any problem.”

Kuntz entered the seminary at age 19, right after graduating from high school. He graduates this year at age 25, and will be ordained a priest for the diocese of Hamilton.


'Ordinary guy' answers call

TORONTO - For Kitchener, Ont., native Adam Voisin, a career as a professional engineer seemed eminently more sensible than the priesthood. But God had other ideas.

Voisin was finishing up a Master of Civil Engineering degree at the University of Ottawa and planning on proposing marriage to his girlfriend. But he began to be aware of a deepening longing to know and love God as a priest.

He never imagined that God would call “an ordinary guy like me” to the priesthood. But his heart told him otherwise. In his prayers, he continued to ask God to give him direction. When he finally decided to go into the seminary, he felt an immediate sense of relief.

Voisin finished the engineering degree in 2001 but the following year he entered St. Augustine’s Seminary. His girlfriend ended up getting married to someone else and having children.

This spring, Voisin, 34, will be ordained a priest for the diocese of Hamilton.


Baseball could wait

TORONTO - It was an old Oblate priest who planted the seed in John Nemanic’s heart. The journey would take a few twists and turns, but the call to the priesthood never disappeared.

Nemanic was a nine-year-old altar boy in Regina, Sask., when  he  first heard the call to be a priest. But soon afterwards, his family moved to Windsor, Ont., and the young lad had other ideas.

“I wanted to become a baseball player and get married and have children,” he told the audience at the recent Ordinandi Dinner.

Baseball wasn’t in the cards, not to mention marriage and children. What followed were studies in business at the University of Windsor, during which his mother died (to his great distress and sadness), followed by a quick peak at the priesthood through a Come and See weekend retreat at St. Peter’s Seminary in London.

“I was looking more for a holiday than to discern whether I wanted to be a priest.”

That false start was followed by a year in Slovenia on an international studies exchange. Then, in the summer of 2000, he moved to Calgary to take on a job as director of an international student conference. But the job came to an abrupt end and Nemanic began to wonder whether this wasn’t a sign that God was calling him to something more important.

He decided to stop running away from God and entered the seminary. Now, at age 31, he is preparing to be ordained a priest for the diocese of Calgary on June 18.


Mary's intercession did it

TORONTO - It took Dale Wright some time to realize God was calling him to be a priest. But once he heard the call — and answered — his life changed completely.

“I can honestly say that the past eight years have been the best years of my life and I would not trade them for anything,” he told The Catholic Register in an e-mail.

Wright, 47, was born in Belleville, Ont., and raised in a devout Catholic family. But as he grew up, he slowly drew away from the church. Then, when in his 30s during a bout of disappointment and frustration, he experienced a reconversion.

“My Lord and His church became the greatest desire of my heart. I began to attend Mass on a daily basis and my relationship with God continued to deepen. I really began to wonder what I should be doing with my life and for the first time I asked God in prayer what was His plan for my life,” Wright said.

It dawned on Him that maybe God was calling him to be a priest. He struggled with this, thinking himself too unworthy. He turned to Mary, consecrating his life to Jesus through His mother. And that made all the difference.

“It was through her intercession with her Son that I finally realized that it had nothing to do with being worthy because only Christ was truly worthy to be a priest,” he said.

Sixteen months later he began his formation at St. Philip’s Seminary and then continued studies at St. Augustine’s. On May 17 he will be ordained a deacon for the archdiocese of Kingston, to be followed in the fall with his ordination to the priesthood.


Working in God's hands now

TORONTO - Damian Christopher Young-Sam-You knows there are more things you can do with your hands than fold them to pray. He was, after all, a licensed mechanic before he decided to become a priest.

Born in Guyana, he came to Canada with his family when he was only five years old. Even at an early age he felt the stirrings to become a priest, but he didn’t take this call seriously.

It was only after starting to work full-time as a mechanic that he felt he should at least give the priesthood serious consideration.

“It was on a cold December night in 2000 that I felt this longing in my heart,” he told the audience at the recent Ordinandi Dinner.

He decided to go to Serra House, a residence for men discerning the priesthood, and “it was there that my transfiguration began,” he said.

In 2003 he entered St. Augustine’s Seminary. Now 33, Young-Sam-You will become a priest of the archdiocese of Toronto on May 10 at St. Michael’s Cathedral. 

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. 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.