Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 21, 2004
Corrigan wants to serve others
Former pipefitter ready for ordination
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
God may not have knocked Jim Corrigan to his knees with a bolt of lightning but he did know how to point him in the right direction.
A dozen years ago Corrigan was a pipefitter and a party animal with a penchant for nightlife and little understanding of celibacy.
Today, at 46, he is anxiously awaiting ordination to the priesthood. "I am very much at peace right now and relaxed and I look forward to the ordination but I see it as a next step in the journey," he said in an interview.
Archbishop Thomas Collins will ordain Corrigan a priest June 28 at 7:30 p.m. at St. Joseph's Basilica.
Corrigan is as excited about his ordination as a groom before his wedding. He even has an engagement ring: "I have worn this engagement ring all the time I've been in formation and I wear it as a symbol that I'm engaged."
What kind of priest will Corrigan be? "I want to be a pastoral priest," he quickly replied. "I want to be able to listen to what the people have to say. They say the ideal priest is the guy that leaves his own agendas at the door and goes in there to see what are the needs of the people. Nobody is perfect but I hope I'll be able to do that."
Agendas aside, Corrigan vows not to stay idle in the face of injustice. "I do believe in equality and fairness and I hope I can play a role in the Church having an active voice in social justice issues," he said. "When we look at the Church's many social encyclicals we see that the Church has a good stance on social issues. Unfortunately sometimes when it gets down to the grassroots it doesn't come through strongly and I think our job in the trenches is to create awareness."
In 1999, Corrigan quit his high-paying job as a pipefitter and project manager with Sheritt-Gordon because he felt a call to the priesthood.
But before making that decision Corrigan had to deal with a few personal struggles. He had been a party animal and a heavy drinker whose short marriage ended in divorce.
When he found himself in the darkest moment of his life, he sought a way out and found comfort in God. He learned "it was the good Lord who was calling the shots, not Jim Corrigan."
Aided by counselling, Corrigan became sober in 1993 and became actively involved with the Church.
The idea of the priesthood first came to his mind when he realized he was 38 years old, single and male. But he quickly rejected it because "I was sure God didn't want a sinner like me working at his Church."
Corrigan also had problems with celibacy. "At the time I did not understand the theology of celibacy and (therefore) could not accept it." Now he does. "As I've grown through my formation (I've come to understand that) celibacy leaves a priest radically free to serve the people of God and if that's what you are in it for then it is a good tool."
Corrigan now says he put the idea of the priesthood in the back of his mind because he was afraid to face it. But his outlook changed after his parents suggested God might be calling him.
"I didn't want to accept the idea of priesthood but when my mom and my dad voiced it, I knew I had to take an honest look at it," he said.
And so Corrigan visited Father Duncan MacDonnell in Fort Saskatchewan who suggested a religious vocation.
He also became deeply involved in the Church. He began doing prison ministry, took the lay formation program at Newman College and helped the Oblate mission team when it came to his parish.
"All these things just made me thirstier because, really, I was growing in my relationship with the Lord and it seemed to be getting better," he said.
"God didn't knock me to my knees with a bolt of lightning or anything but it is amazing how a bunch of little things seem to come together and start to point a guy in a particular direction."
Corrigan finally realized he was running out of excuses. And so in 1999, after 24 years at Sheritt-Gordon, he quit his job and enrolled at the seminary.
Doubts about his worthiness have been constant but Corrigan has found affirmation. When he went to Lloydminster to do his internship after his second year of theology, he wasn't sure he had a lot to offer or that he could find the love he needs to be a healthy functioning pastor.
"I spent a year in Lloydminster and did find out I had something to offer the Church and I found out where I'm going to get the love that I need and it's from the people," he said.
When he returned to the seminary for his fourth and fifth years, there were no longer questions in Corrigan's mind. "It felt like I had been shown that this is the direction that the Lord wanted me to move." He has been serving at Holy Family Parish in St. Albert since his ordination to the diaconate last year.
Corrigan says the priesthood is about relationships. "I think your relationship with God translates that into your relationship with people and that's where the joy of the priesthood comes from."
That's why he plans to get people involved in the life of the parish, wherever he goes. "I think that we make our circle of influence so much larger when we involve other people."