Adrien Rondeau, 17, has been thinking of the priesthood on and off since childhood. As a matter of fact, the Cold Lake youth took his Grades 8 and 9 at the minor Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, B.C., in pursuit of his dream.
Rondeau was supposed to finish high school there and maybe continue studies for the priesthood afterwards but it was not meant to be. He left at the end of Grade 9 and returned to Cold Lake, thinking that perhaps the priesthood wasn't his calling.
That feeling didn't last. Shortly afterwards, Rondeau began feeling regret at his decision to leave the seminary and felt a need to get closer to God.
Not knowing what else to do, the young man switched from the public to the Catholic school system and next summer he will graduate from Assumption High School.
In the meantime, God continues to reach out to him. "Whenever I'm at Mass, for instance, and I see the priest lift up the host, I always feel a little tug in my heart," he explained. "And during prayers at school I also feel that tug."
To sort things out, Rondeau spent the first weekend of November at St. Joseph Seminary praying, talking to members of the formation team, meeting seminarians and attending Mass.
He was one of seven young men who took part in the Come and See Weekend, a three-day event organized twice a year by the seminary for young and not-so-young men who feel they may have a call to the priesthood.
If anything, the weekend helped with Rondeau's prayer life "because in recent times I haven't been praying as much as I wanted to."
"As to fully deciding whether or not the priesthood is my calling, I'm not sure yet," Rondeau said at the end of the weekend. "However, the weekend sort of gave me more belief that it may be what God wants me to do."
Moreover, "this weekend took away some of the fears I had about leaving family and about it not being as much fun here." Rondeau has four younger siblings, including an eight-month-old baby. "Leaving them in a year without them really knowing me is really tough."
Rondeau is currently deciding between joining the seminary right after high school and going to Grant Mac-Ewan University to study psychology. "I'm really hoping to make a decision before I graduate as to which route I'm going to take."
Sedney Polinar, a 26-year-old Filipino who has lived in Canada since February, attended the Come and See Weekend to learn more about his priestly vocation.
At age 24, a close friend back in his home country tried to persuade him to become a religious priest. "I decided to seriously consider this kind of vocation," he recalled. "So the next year I went to apply to the Oblates of St. Joseph (for admission) but unfortunately my visa (as a permanent resident) to Canada was approved and I had to leave."
Polinar said he had second thoughts about coming here because his heart at that time was with the Oblates. Family, however, pressured him to come to Canada, which he did. "It's more for obedience to them that I came here."
Had he stayed, the St. Theresa parishioner is sure he would have been already accepted by the Filipino Oblates.
Polinar is convinced he should become a priest "but this weekend helped refresh my mind and gave me encouragement," he said. "It was somewhat like an affirmation that I should be open to the God's will for me."
Saïd-Mahad David, 40, has been thinking about the priesthood for 20 years and he is still unsure. That's why the native of Djibouti, a country in east Africa, attended the Come and See weekend.
In an interview, David said he has spent practically the last 20 years "trying to remove this call," but God persists. "It's a permanent call; always there. I have tried very hard to remove God (from my mind) and build my own life. But even in the darkness, God's call was there all the time."
David came to Canada in 1996 and lived for 12 years in Montreal before he moved to Edmonton, where works as an oilfield safety worker and serves at St. Benedict Chapel. He is currently taking training to serve as an adult server at St. Joseph Basilica - his official parish.
"After 20 years, I have decided to face this call and try to give a chance to God," he said at the end of his weekend at the seminary. "Now I just want to follow God's path and, if it's a real call, I will know it."
In a conversation with a member of the seminary's formation team, David said he learned that he should stop the waiting game.
Fr. Robert Gauthier
"I learned I have to do my part," he said. "God has been calling me for 20 years; now I have to make a decision."
Sulpician Father Robert Gauthier, a new member of the seminary's formation team, said young people attend the Come and See weekend because the grace of the Lord is in action in their life.
"They want to see and hear how a priest is formed," he explained. "When they see the building, the formation team, the future priests and the study program then the priesthood is less of a vague idea. It gets more precise."
In short, said Gauthier, who joined the formation team in August after years teaching at the Grande Seminaire of Montreal, the Come and See Weekend is designed "to help someone in his discernment."
The formation team "deeply recommends" the young people who attended the event have a spiritual director who can help them with their questions, fears and concerns, he said.
On the second day of the event, all members of the formation team were available for an hour in the morning to greet participants and answer their questions.
Participants also toured the seminary, had social and sports events with seminarians, heard vocation testimonies, took part in Morning and Evening Prayer and attended the Holy Eucharist with Bishop Greg Bittman.
"I would say it was a successful weekend," Gauthier said. "These young people were happy to be here."