Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 27, 2004
A young man's dilemma: 'What kind of father am I called to be
Group of 16 attends vocations workshop
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Justin-Georges Coulombe has felt a call to the priesthood since age seven. Now, at age 20, he feels it's time to respond.
To help discern his calling, Coulombe attended a vocations workshop at Camp Oselia Sept. 17-18.
He went to the workshop feeling torn between being a father and being a priest. "I feel that I'm called to do both and I am not sure how I'm going to do both. I feel that I am meant to have children because I work very well with them and I feel that I am meant to work with children; so it's a dilemma."
Coulombe said the vocations workshop opened his eyes. "Being in contact with other brothers and religious people who (already) made the decision has helped me further discern the fact that the priesthood is the direction I want to go because (as a priest) I can help more than I can just being a father."
The Alberta Vocation Directors' Executive holds the retreat annually to provide an opportunity for those sensing a call to a religious vocation to explore that call more deeply.
This year, 16 participants from across the Edmonton Archdiocese, the St. Paul Diocese and the Ukrainian Eparchy gathered to pray, contemplate and listen to speakers share their experience of priesthood, religious life and secular consecrated life. Sister Geraldine Kelly of the Ursulines of Jesus led the retreat and gave participants some tools to help them out.
Prayer is the key
Kelly believes prayer is key to discerning a vocation and, accordingly, she shared with her audience a number of prayer practices designed to help them feel the strength of sharing their faith with others.
"Prayer is number one," she said, urging participants to develop a spiritual life so God can answer their questions.
And she said those discerning a call must seek the support of others who have already walked that road, good mentors who can guide them through their journey in an environment of prayer and contemplation.
Some anxiety about the future is normal while one is discerning a call but overwhelming fear isn't, Kelly said. "If you have an overwhelming fear of making a decision, you better take a second look (at your vocation)."
The best way to arrive at a decision is to talk to Christ. "Tell Christ how you feel," Kelly suggested. "Ask God for a second opinion."
Father Paul Moret, the archdiocese's director of vocations and one of the retreat organizers, said the idea behind the annual event is to help people recognize God's call.
"God is calling people all the time but if we don't do anything they may miss that call," he said. "We want to give them the tools so they can keep fostering that call."
Currently 18 men are studying for the priesthood for the Edmonton Archdiocese, including 10 at St. Joseph Seminary. There is even a 16-year-old candidate studying for Edmonton in Mission, B.C.
Coulombe, a member of Edmonton's St. Joachim Parish, is a youth counsellor for the Columbian Squires and a fourth degree member of the Knights of Columbus. He is currently forming the first French Columbian Squire circle this side of Winnipeg.
He has being talking to religious orders and one day he might join the Spiritan Fathers. "I want to work with the Spiritans because they work with youth of all ages," he said. "If I finish my bachelor's and the Spiritans will take me."
Emily Schietzsch, a Grade 12 student at St. Joseph's High School and a member of St. Josaphat's Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral parish, attended the workshop because she is discerning a call to religious life.
The 17-year-old has been wanting to join the Ukrainian Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate ever since she heard her mother talk about a lack of religious vocations five years ago.
"A lot of things in my life are pointing me in that direction," Schietzsch said in an interview. "I feel that's what God wants me to do. I want to serve where the need is greatest."
She said the weekend workshop helped her realize she is not the only one facing difficult choices. "It showed me that even people who are already consecrated religious or lay people are going through the same struggles that I am," she noted. "It's not easy."
But Schietzsch takes her struggles in stride. "I would miss having children of my own," she said. "I love children but in some ways I already have children of my own because I work with many of them."
In addition to being a member of the Ukrainian Catholic Youth group at the cathedral, Schietzsch is also a member of the eparchial Catholic youth executive.
Another dilemma she is facing is what career path to take on her way to being a sister. The choices are many because the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate in Canada serve in any area that there is a need, be it social work, teaching or nursing.
At this point Schietzsch is looking at careers in social work, psychology or early childhood development. One priest at the retreat suggested Schietzsch complete her education before entering an order so she would have something to provide the order. "I think that's a good idea," Schietzsch said. "I want to join an order as soon as possible but if (finishing my education first) is a good idea, then I'm willing to wait."
Michael Debusschere, a 16-year-old Grade 12 homeschooler from Clyde, is also willing to wait a little to fulfill his dream of becoming a priest. "I'm thinking of going to the John Paul II Bible School in Radway next year to prepare myself for the priesthood," he said.
And he admits he needs preparation. He enjoys serving as an altar boy at St. Patrick Church but he is terrified when it comes to doing the readings. "I know I can't talk in front of a big group but I'm willing to practise with my family." He has six sisters and one brother.
Debusschere began thinking of the priesthood at age 10 after an older family friend told the young lad he could see him as a priest one day. That suggestion touched him deeply and changed the course of his life, leading him to becoming more active in his parish and community.
In addition to being a member of St. Patrick's youth group, Debusschere is a member of groups such as Rock for Life, a pro-life group, and Youth for Truth, a group that prepares young evangelists. He has also attended Mannafest, a Catholic prayer festival, for the past two years.
"It's like I've been preparing myself for the priesthood all along," he said. "I know the call is really there."