The Alemão brothers, Favin and Ryan, right, with their grandmother Crescencia Mergulhão Carvalho and father Felix at Favin’s First Mass at St. Edward the Confessor on May 14. Photo courtesy Favin Alemão

Comment: Mothers have a special place in world of priestly vocation

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  • May 26, 2017

In Toronto the priestly ordinations usually have a maternal character. The customary date is in May, Mary’s month, and usually falls the day before Mother’s Day, which is not a religious feast day, but certainly can be looked upon with the eyes of faith.

This year was more so, because the ordinations fell on May 13, the centennial feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, the queen of the Church’s current Marian age. Then the First Masses of the new Fathers were on Mother’s Day, the Fifth Sunday of Easter. I was blessed to attend the First Mass of Fr. Favin Alemão, ordained on Saturday together with his brother Father Ryan Alemão.

I rarely cry, but when I do it is most frequently at the Holy Mass. Sometimes at funerals, though more often at weddings and ordinations and professions of religious vows. At Fr. Favin’s First Mass I was a weepy mess!

Alice Alemão, the mother of the Frs. Ryan and Favin, died when her sons were in the seminary. Her mother, their grandmother, was present, having travelled from India. Fr. Favin’s First Mass was offered at St. Edward the Confessor in North York, which was the parish of my own grandmother and her daughter, my aunt and godmother. My grandmother was buried from St. Edward’s in 1991. She did not live to see me ordained, but my own mother, still living, was granted that blessing.

The First Mass preacher was Fr. Paul Pearson, who taught me 20 years ago at St. Philip’s Seminary in Toronto and who has remained a friend. I have been hearing him for more than two decades now, so I knew we would be blessed by one of Toronto’s finest homilists.

He preached in part about what it means to be the mother of a priest, a dignity doubly granted to Alice Alemão, please God now in heaven. Her husband, Felix, was present and enjoyed the deserved congratulations as the father of not one, but two priests. Still, there is something distinctive about the mother of a priest.

Our great high priest, Jesus, came into the world by the permission of the Blessed Mother. We priests hope that one day she will present our mothers to her Son in heaven. Perhaps Mary, Queen of the Clergy and Mother of Priests, will tell her Son: “Bless your daughter, the mother of a priest, as you chose me to be.”

At the conclusion of the FirstMass, St. Edward’s pastor Fr. Patrick O’Dea, presented the Alemão brothers’ grandmother with a congratulatory bouquet of flowers on behalf of the entire parish. I daresay at the point I was not the only tear-stained one.

Throughout the Mass I thought how often in St. Edward’s parish my grandmother and godmother received the sacraments, how often their prayers and sacrifices were carried up to Heaven from that altar. There can be no doubt that my own priestly vocation was prepared in part in that parish.

My grandmother was already deceased when I entered the seminary, but when I told my godmother about my plans, she was not at all surprised, even though I had not discussed it with her before. She already knew somehow, something confided to her perhaps in her prayers, in her daily reception of Holy Communion at Mass.

After the First Mass, I went with my sister, Sr. John Mary of the Sisters of Life, to Holy Cross Cemetery, where our grandmother is buried, along with her son and daughter. We prayed the divine office for the dead at their graves — a priestly act on Mother’s Day.

It was moving to see the great numbers at the cemetery on Mother’s Day, families coming to pray for their mothers, entrusting them to the Queen of Heaven, that she might find a place for them in the company of saints around the throne of her Son.

The Blessed Mother, grandmothers, godmothers, mothers — all this is caught up in the mystery of divine election that is the priestly vocation. The piety of the Catholic people knows this without even being taught it.

The year I was ordained, the mother of a classmate was very sick. It was not sure whether she would be able to come to the ordination. When it was time for the Mass to begin, she had not yet managed to arrive. The bishop decided that we would wait, which we all did for a half hour. She did arrive. That ordination Mass began with everyone crying.

The altar of the seminary we attended was dedicated “to the mothers of the sons of alma mater.” That could refer to the seminary itself, or the Blessed Mother, to whom the chapel was dedicated.

From the altar of St. Edward’s, from the altar of my home parish in Calgary at St. Bonaventure, where my parents go to daily Mass, to the altar of the seminary to the altars of the cathedrals where we are ordained — from all these altars go up to Heaven the prayers of our mothers, godmothers, grandmothers. And from those prayers the Lord Jesus returns to us priestly vocations.

(Fr. de Souza is the editor-in-chief of Convivium.ca and a pastor in the Archdiocese of Kingston.)

Comments (1)

  1. Charlotte Colautti

Dear Father De Souza,

Thank you for your beautiful article about the Priesthood.

As the mother of a son who will soon be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate,
I can only urge mothers to always honour the Holy Vocation of Priesthood, and speak
...

Dear Father De Souza,

Thank you for your beautiful article about the Priesthood.

As the mother of a son who will soon be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate,
I can only urge mothers to always honour the Holy Vocation of Priesthood, and speak
thus around their children, grandchildren, and Godchildren. Encourage your children
to be prayerful that God's will for them become known and that they will have the
courage to say their Fiat no matter what vocation God calls them to. Remind them to
sit quietly and to listen to the tender voice of Him Who loves us beyond measure.

A vocation to the Priesthood is a calling from God, and no one else.

Our priests are being "poured out like a libation" They need our daily prayers.
And if you have a little extra Hail Mary for a mother of a seminarian or Priest, it
would be greatly appreciated.

In Our Lady of Sorrows,
Charlotte Colautti
(Windsor)

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