Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 15, 1999
Happy to be ordained
Calgary's newest priest sees ordination as step to building God's kingdom
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
It took Tito Ranola 13 years to become a priest. And that sometimes seems easy compared to the two years it took his palate to familiarize itself with the pasta and salad dishes that were his daily meals at St. Joseph's Seminary in Edmonton.
Raised on a simple staple of rice and coconuts in his native Philippines, Ranola found his first couple of years in Western Canada a cuisine culture shock.
"Everyday we had wheats and salads," Ranola said. "It took me two years to get use to the food. Now I love beef Stroganoff - I like all kinds of pasta."
Such memories of culinary differences were part of Ranola's stepping stones to priesthood. Ranola was ordained at Calgary's St. Mary's Cathedral, Feb. 5.
The priesthood was never an optional vocation for Ranola, who at 27 can easily pass for a college freshman. It was the only choice. Having grown up in a family where both his brothers attended the seminary and his uncles and several of his cousins were priests, the clerical lifestyle became more than just a calling, it was a tradition.
"I thought about being a dentist once," said Ranola, whose uncle, Father Raul Ranola, serves as pastor of St. Mark's Church in northeast Calgary. "But I think that in the priestly life you can always work for someone and something bigger, and that's Christ. I always wanted that over money or any other job.
"Even when I had relationships with girls when I was young, I always said to them that that kind of love is good, but my first love is the priesthood."
At 13, Ranola entered St. Gregory's Seminary 500 km from his family's farm. It was a lonely time for a boy who grew up the youngest of six children, accustomed to living in a rural surrounding filled with the chit-chat of family and friends.
After completing his philosophy degree, Ranola was sponsored by Bishop Paul O'Byrne, to finish his seminary studies in Calgary. When Ranola stepped off the plane on Dec. 14, 1993, snow was the immediate shock to his system, which had spent most its life thus far in weather classified as tropical.
"The environment was also a culture shock," Ranola said. "In the Philippines there are millions of people on the street. Here, I only saw maybe one or two on the road and I wondered where all the people were?"
It wasn't long before Ranola met some of those people, through his pastoral internships at parishes in Brooks and Taber. His first assignment is at St. Bonaventure's Church in southeast Calgary, where he serves as an assistant pastor. At this parish he hopes to begin his crusade for vocations among the parish's youth.
"Priests should come from within your community," Ranola said. "Who better to know the community than someone who has lived in it. They can relate more to the people.
"I want to show (parishioners) that priesthood is a happy life. I see a lot of priests so unhappy and discontent. People see this and it scares them away from the seminary."
Although well spoken, Ranola is at a loss for words when asked his emotional state two days before his ordination. The only words that manage to escape his mouth are "so happy."
"I don't know what more to say," Ranola said. "I'm kind of very excited, at the same time I'm nervous. But I'm so happy.
"Some people tell me that becoming a priest is like getting married. It's committing yourself to someone. If people are scared of becoming a priest it's because they are afraid of celibacy and they needn't be because they are committing themselves. It is like anything else that you do in life, if you make a commitment, it is worth doing."
Ranola added, "It is a great time to be part of the Church - the Church is so alive now. The Spirit is alive and more people are realizing that now."
With more than 13 years of seminary studies and an ordination ceremony that confirms his commitment to Christ, Ranola has still not met his goal.
"I dreamt of becoming a priest and priesthood is a means towards fulfilling my calling," Ranola said. "But priesthood is not the end. For me it means that I'm just a part of that bigger project - the kingdom that we are working towards."