Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 27, 2003
From truck Driver to the priesthood
Parenteau heard God calling him
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Hundreds of well-wishers, including about 60 priests, joined Archbishop Thomas Collins Oct. 21 in celebrating the ordination of Father Arlan Parenteau.
St. Joseph's Basilica was rife with song and praise for a man who entered seminary life later than most.
But he did heed the call, which should serve as an asset to his ministry given the richness of his life's experiences.
"A long time ago, maybe 20 years, I saw a bishop (Archbishop Joseph MacNeil) and told him I think I have a vocation to the priesthood," said Parenteau, 44, who was baptized and confirmed in 1984. Even before his baptism, "the seed was firmly planted.
"I had my own truck and I was moving furniture across Canada and into the U.S. I was also a trained heavy-duty mechanic. I did a lot of hard labour. I enjoyed that," he said in an interview.
"But on my trucking journeys, I was meeting a lot of extraordinary people and they all seemed to be Catholic. My partner's sister is a Grey Nun and she would always ask me if I knew Jesus. I then started doing some reading and eventually, it all came through."
Archbishop Collins spoke about listening to the voices calling us, for they are the instruments of God's grace.
"Listen, unite and abide are three key words to consider in our lives as disciples of Christ, and particularly to one who is to be ordained in the priesthood.
"Be attentive to what is around us and to the word God speaks to us in our hearts. Listen to what others around us have to say. Listen to the silence of the heart when we are called to a vocation, particularly to the call to the priesthood."
Parenteau said a Grey Nun, on her deathbed, told him he would be a priest one day. He was praying and had been living a Christian life, but becoming a priest was far from a reality.
"But the call grew stronger," he said. "I studied at Christ the King Mission in B.C. with the Order of St. Benedict. I was with the monks for four years, beginning in 1991 until 1996, having taken a year off in the middle to deal with financial interests. But the calling had become very strong.
"The year off gave me time to discern and I felt I had to do it. There was an inner calling I could hear through my prayers. It's a big decision to become a priest."
Parenteau returned to the monastery to complete his degree in philosophy. "It was a great place to discern the process and vocation to priesthood."
"Priesthood is a sacrifice. It's giving everything that you have to serve God's people, to love them to be there for them. To hear their confessions and absolve them. To nourish them with Christ's body and blood," he said.
"I think Christ is the one who shows us sacrifice by sacrificing himself on the cross.
His mother, Loretta, was baptized 10 years, to the day, after Parenteau, he said. Her background was Mennonite and she was compelled to the Catholic faith by her son's example.
"The first time I told my mother I thought I had a calling to the priesthood, I was sitting in her kitchen. She asked me if I was crazy. I said no. She looked dumbfound and bewildered. She asked me why and I told her it was something inside of me calling me to be a priest.
"I couldn't explain it," he said.
Loretta went through the RCIA program with Sister Annata Brockman. She too was baptized and confirmed by MacNeil.
She said her son is a natural born leader.
"I am very touched. I cry a little happiness every day. I think I am so blessed," she said of her son's ordination.
"When Arlan went to B.C. to study, that's when I knew he would become a priest. I found peace and comfort in that. I had a little talk with God and told him, 'Here he is. If you want him, he's yours.'
"And I gave him away," she said.
"He has strengthened our family with his love and I'm sure he will continue to do so for everyone who meets him."
"Priesthood is . . . giving everything that you have to serve God's people."
- Fr. Arlan Parenteau
Parenteau helped to launch the Alpha program at Holy Family Parish in St. Albert as part of his internship. He lived with Father John Hesse and Father Stephen Hero who was then the vocation director for the archdiocese.
Florian and Gladys Borstmayer are Holy Family parishoners.
They were also part of the 12-member group that started the Alpha project.
"Arlan is quite spiritual," Florian said. "And because he had his own business, I think it will help him be a very good priest. He has an understanding of what it is like in society. I heard it hit him all of a sudden and I thought, 'What's he doing moving furniture when he could be saving souls?' I mean, he's old enough to know better," he quipped.
Gladys said they had Parenteau over for dinner on a couple of occasions.
"Arlan thinks things through before he acts. I think that shows his maturity," she said.
"I think we are very fortunate to have such a kind and loving young man as a priest. He can relate to people. He is very wholesome and genuine. We have been praying for him since we met him that his vocation was to the priesthood. Many times people come so far and they don't take that final step."
Parenteau will go to Sacred Heart Parish in Red Deer to minister with Father Don Stein. His plans include travelling to the Remand Centre, and perhaps to the Bowden Prison chapel, to minister.
"A priest is always a mediator between God and humanity," he said.