Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
February 12, 2001
Called to be a Franciscan
Fr. David Norman lived the party life, but something deeper was calling
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — The day before Franciscan Father David Norman headed off to the seminary, he threw a bash at his parent's beach house. His friends came and partied all weekend. Sunday morning found them sprawled on the floor among the beer cans and chip bags.
When Norman's parents came out to the house that morning bringing with them some friends and boasting about their son, the soon to be seminarian, they thought they'd have to eat crow when they found the morning-after wreckage of Norman's going away party.
"My parent's friends had this strange look when they said, 'He's going to be a priest!'"
Norman was no choir boy. He'll tell you he was a precocious little boy growing up in Vancouver.
When asked for more details, he volunteers tidbits about his childhood. Like stealing empty pop bottles when he was seven so he could make some money to go to movies, one of his favourite pasttimes.
But Norman was no stranger to a hard day's work either. In high school he wanted to attend a private boys school, so he delivered meat and newspapers to earn money for tuition. In those years he was invited to Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, B.C., for a vocations day with two of his friends. He came back and said it wasn't for him.
He earned a commerce degree from the University of British Columbia. He went to work for CP Rail as a brakeman. A year later he was offered a job with the department of transportation in Ottawa, but declined. "I wanted to give my service to something more than just making a buck," he said.
In his quest for something better, Norman went to see the chaplain, a Basilian priest, at the university and also an old drinking buddy of his.
The chaplain asked if he was interested in the priesthood. The answer had become a maybe.
Working as a brakeman for the railroad gave Norman lots of time to sit and think. He gathered his thoughts and did some research on religious orders, getting names and addresses.
When he started deciding on religious orders, the Basilians were in the running, until he went to visit the Franciscans. It was the writings and lifestyle of St. Francis that appealed to Norman.
"The fact that he was able to turn away from the bourgeois society - some of those writings just made sense to me."
Deciding to enter the seminary was not difficult. Telling his girlfriend of his decision was.
"I was still in love with her, but (my vocation) was pulling at me. It was a choice between two good things. She said, 'I could understand if he was leaving me for another girl, but he's leaving me for celibate life.'"
The handsome and personable Norman never lacked friends, male or female.
He always had a girlfriend and an active social life. And though he had thought about getting married and having a family, he could never commit to one woman.
Norman came to Newman Theological College in 1975 to complete his bachelor in theology degree before being ordained in 1980. And he's never
looked back wondering if he was really called to religious life. "That was the amazing thing, the moment I made the decision, it was going to be a Franciscan life. It was a Franciscan life, not just the priesthood. The thrust was for the religious life."
He completed his master's degree at Newman and spent five years in Switzerland where he finished his doctorate in theology. He returned to Newman in 1991 as an instructor.
The courses Norman teaches reflects his understanding for the Catholic faith. It also reflects his personal side. Every couple of semesters he teaches a course called God and Film. His love for the movies hasn't dwindled much since his childhood. He still likes to take in a movie or two every now and then.
He also loves cooking, jogging and tennis. The half dozen prints on his office wall are a sign of his love for the arts.
One would never guess that Norman was a man of the cloth, especially if the mentality that priests are overly pious characters who wouldn't dream of sitting down with a bottle of beer.
"Your life has to be rooted in Christ. You don't have to be pious. I would be suspicious of people who are too pious."
Norman recalls living with a young priest who refused even to buy stamps because he followed the strict teachings of St. Francis, who said not to touch money because it was like cow dung.
Norman doesn't turn a blind eye if he sees an attractive woman. He admits to liking kids and wondered what it would have been like to be a parent.
But none of these things have given him reason to regret his decision to join the Franciscans.
"You have to be open and honest about these things. If you're directed in your life, you can talk about these things openly, and you're not going to worry about crossing those boundaries. When you start thinking about your own wants, then you get into trouble."
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