Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 6, 2006
Fr. Marc Blom: Peace fills this priest's heart
After a step-by-step, long discernment, Fr. Marc Blom answered God's call
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Mark Blom knew all along that he was called to give his life totally to God. What he didn't know was what form that call would take.
His friends and associates would tell him he had the qualities to be a good priest. But Blom was still a young man and thought God maybe wanted him to get married, raise children and still be a dedicated Christian man.
His resistance ended when he confronted God and he gave him a clear sign he was indeed calling him to the priesthood.
"I had the grace to see my vocation clearly at an early stage in my discernment," Blom said in a recent interview. "At a certain point I saw it and I never doubted it. I have a strong visual mind and there were enough pieces of the puzzle that I had to say I see a vocation."
Blom, 42, was ordained a priest for the Oblate Fathers in 2003 and has been a leading preacher in the Oblate Youth Ministries since then. The team gives retreats in Catholic schools throughout Alberta and Western Canada. Blom, who lives with five other Oblate priests and brothers in a St. Albert duplex, also celebrates Sunday Mass at various parishes in Edmonton and surrounding areas.
"Yes, this is what I want to do," he says three years after his ordination. "I am happy. I love teaching the fundamentals of the Christian faith, especially to young people."
Born in Prince Albert, Sask. in 1963, Blom grew up in a family that attended church regularly and prayed regularly. His parents were members of the charismatic renewal movement and always took their two children along for prayer events. The Blom children also attended Catholic schools.
"So I've always had the vocabulary about God, spirituality, the Church, Jesus," the priest recalled. "But I would say that (with) my kind of personality I always had this sense of this other, that there is something with me that's beyond words. For me that was always God."
He thinks that as a young kid he didn't relate to God as much as he believed in God. When he was about 14, he had a spiritual awakening which led him to start praying to God as a person rather than just saying his prayers.
"I would pray for about half an hour before I would go to sleep. And it was the prayer of conversation; it was real prayer," he recounted.
"During that short time, I just began to realize how present God was. It became real. I would pray for my family and I would pray for other kids at school who were mean to me and I noticed how things changed.
"So for me that experience was like a transformation. In my own self I knew that God was real and that if I prayed, God would act in my life. I knew that. I believed that very strongly."
The praying didn't last but the experience remained. "I knew that living as a committed person would be my calling," he said. "I knew some day that I would live more open with God than I was."
At age 21, he left home to work as a meat cutter in North Battleford, where he also volunteered as a fireman. He was alone in this new city and didn't have many friends. "That was a time of loneliness for me. And in that loneliness I began to ponder more about God and whether it was time to open myself to this commitment."
In North Battleford he got to know the Oblates and visited quite often their farmhouse and participated in their prayer sessions.
"I used to go on Saturdays and I would help one of the brothers there with chores on the farm. So I was associated with these men and I started reading their writings and I was very much inspired by the writings of their founder."
He gave his life
His involvement in various prayer groups led him again to an opening of his heart to God. At one point he said to the Lord, "I want to give everything to you. I'll give you my whole life."
"So that was the moment somehow the cross in my heart called for this total giving of myself," he recalled.
Blom wasn't thinking of the priesthood, but of a more deep commitment to the Church as a layperson. "I went to regular daily Mass. I attended prayer meetings. I went to different events. I made friends in the Christian community and they started to say to me, 'Mark, you are single, you pray, you go to church, why don't you think about being a priest?'" he recounted.
"I resisted it because in my heart I felt lonely and I thought that that loneliness required a companion. And so at that time I was still thinking I would get married one day and raise a family and I would still be a committed Christian man."
But God persisted and to find out exactly what he wanted Blom decided to attend a retreat in a Benedictine monastery. There he felt called to the priesthood.
"On a windy, stormy night when I was walking on a gravel road I said, 'Okay God, if that's what you want, I'll give it my best effort.' And after I said that there was a peace in my heart that I can't describe. It was like the peace that I had when a few months before I had told God 'I would give you my whole life.' It was like the peace I had when as a teenager I was praying.
"For me that was an interior sign, a confirmation. It was so clear to me - this was what God wanted."
The interior sign
Immediately he contacted the Seminary of Christ the King in British Columbia and was accepted as a private student at age 25.
"I was thinking about the Oblates but I went to the seminary because I wanted to discern my vocation more without the pressure of being a candidate," he said. "As time went on, it became clearer to me that my character, my gifts would be suited to the Oblates' charism. As I read their writings, my heart was awakened and my own gifts and passion seemed to be like theirs."
The mission of the Oblates is primarily evangelizing "and for us that mean making God's word seem meaningful for everybody."
"I felt that I had a lot to offer to the Oblates and I also felt that the Oblates would be a good community to belong to."
So he eventually joined the Oblates and, after completing a bachelor of arts at Christ the King, he moved to Edmonton to study theology at Newman College. He completed a bachelor of theology in Rome in 1998.
He was ordained in Saskatoon in 2003 and his first assignment was to work with the Oblate Youth Ministries, work he is still doing along with Father Mike Dechant, the ministry's director, and Brother Dan Dionne, the ministry's music specialist.
Blom, who has a gift for teaching the faith, does the preaching and is famous for his well thought out and passionate homilies in which he uses objects and symbols and art to explain sometimes complex theological matters.
He draws and paints most of the art he uses in his preaching. His homilies are so popular , he recently sold 80 CDs with his homilies at $10 each to raise funds for his ministry.
"When I was a young seminarian, my self image of me as a future priest was primarily saying Mass, celebrating the Eucharist in a community; as time went on, my self image of what I would be as a priest was more of a preacher, someone who is proclaiming God's word, explaining it, helping people to see in a new way," Blom said.
"So now the most important moment in my life is the Sunday homily. For me the heart of my priesthood, the accent, is on proclaiming God's word. When I was a seminarian, my focus was more on the sacraments. Now, as a priest, I realize that transforming people's minds, their attitudes, is just as important as transforming the bread and the wine."
Apart from ministering to youth, Blom also says Sunday Mass in various parishes around the city. He performs at funerals when requested and does weddings in the summer time at St. Joachim's. "Doing that helps me to earn a little bit more money for the youth ministry because youth ministry doesn't really earn its own money," he explains.
Despite evidence to the contrary, Blom considers himself shy and says when liturgy is finished he is happy to come home.
"When I was young and I thought about the priesthood I said 'I don't want to be lonely.' Now one of my greatest challenges is finding enough time to myself," he laughed. "I don't visit a lot. I'm happy to do ministry. I believe in visiting people and being among them, but then when the time for that is over, I'm happy to enjoy solitude."