Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 7, 2000
Bringing up a priest:
Parents say call to priesthood comes from God
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
There is no formula in raising a son for the priesthood. You don't wake up one day and say "I want my son to be a priest." There is nothing you can put in his drinking water or add to his oatmeal to fuel the vocation spirit.
You feed him, clothe him, educate him, love him and let God do the rest.
"He wasn't treated any differently than his brothers and sisters," said Elda Garden whose son John, 32, is in his second year at St. Joseph's Seminary. "He was the youngest of eight. . . . We didn't do anything differently. It was something that was already in him."
It has been said by archbishops, priests and vocation directors that the call to religious life is a plan of God.
"It's something you have been destined for since the time you're in the womb," said Father Sylvain Casavant, vocations director of the Edmonton Archdiocese. "It's a gift given by God. We're not choosing it, we're discerning.
"St. John Bosco said that at five years old, he knew if someone would be a priest. If he could see that by five years old, you know it's there."
So in reality, we can't simply raise someone to be a priest or nun if that is not in God's plan. But if a call comes knocking, who better to be there for support and encouragement than mom and dad.
Elda Garden was often told by friends, family and even Bishop Fergus O'Grady, former bishop of Prince George, that John was going to be a priest.
"I think the thought was always in the back of his mind," Garden said. "I think he did fight it. He taught school for seven years. At one point we thought he might get married and have children."
Through the years, Garden and her husband Elroy encouraged their son, not necessarily to go to the seminary, but to do what it is that he is called for.
"His dad used to say 'God is talking to you, he's trying to tell you something. Listen to what he's saying.'"
When John finally decided to enter the seminary, his parents gave him their full support.
"We said it would be a good thing for him. He's always been thinking about it. We said, 'If you don't go, John, you won't know and it will always be on your mind.'"
A parent's support should be as encouraging for a son who wants to be a priest as it is for him if he wanted to be a doctor or fireman.
In her book, Could You Ever Become a Catholic Priest, Lorene Hanley Duquin writes, "You have to understand that your decision to become a priest may trigger some of your parents' fears and shatter some of their dreams."
The mother of a seminarian herself, Duquin has had her own doubts. There was a time when mothers and fathers prayed for their sons to be priests. It was seen as an honour, wrote Duquin. But times are changing and the priesthood has become an unattractive vocation.
The results of a 1997 CARA Compendium of Vocations Research showed 70 per cent of the parents interviewed expressed concern that their children would not be happy in the priesthood; 59 per cent felt that a young man would be lonely without the intimacy and support of a spouse; 53 per cent expressed a desire for grandchildren; 43 per cent wanted their children to achieve material success.
Mothers are more likely to emphasize grandchildren while fathers tend to emphasize material success.
Casavant said parents have expressed similar concerns to him.
"They look at all the sacrifices a priest has to make, but they forget about the joys," Casavant said.
The same research found that 48 per cent of parents would not encourage their children to consider a vocation. Another 19 per cent felt strongly that parents should not encourage vocations.
Maurice and Linda Mireau didn't encourage their son Michael, 27, to enter the seminary nor were they averse to the idea.
"We took the attitude that if the Lord wanted him, he'll take him," said Maurice.
They knew it was on his mind, but they wanted him to experience other avenues before he decided what to do.
So Michael went to college. At one point he wanted to be a cartoonist, then a teacher. He completed a master's degree in mathematics and did a stint as a spiritual director at Camp Encounter. Michael is now halfway through his internship at Good Shepherd Church.
"(The priesthood) would come up every once in a while," said Maurice.
Perhaps the call to religious life was genetic. Linda Mireau had considered becoming a nun. Perhaps that call stemmed from the Christian environment in the Mireau family.
"Our faith has always been a source of comfort for our family," Linda said.
Perhaps it was something that was meant to be.
"(Michael) discovered that relationship with the Lord probably in Grade 5," said Maurice Mireau. "And it never left him.
"He experienced this incredibly deep relationship with the Lord."
The Mireaus have thought about Michael being married and giving them grandchildren. They know he'd make a good husband and father. But they believe his calling is to the priesthood.
Whether their sons make it through their formation or not, the Mireaus and Gardens want for their sons what every parent wants - for their children to be happy.
"We've always said we support him whatever he does, he has to be happy with what he does," Elda Garden said.
Not every future priest needs a full pledge of parental support, but it doesn't hurt to offer it either, said Casavant. A child who expresses an interest in a religious vocation should be listened to just as he would if he expressed an interest in any other career.
"You say to him, 'That's nice. You keep on thinking about it and you keep on praying about it,'" Casavant said.
To a child who struggles with the vocation issue or shuns the calling, "You ask him to be open to the will of God, but you don't force the issue.
"Let's face the facts, we always want to do things our way. But God says this is the way."