Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 1, 2006
Priest's dream comes true
Fr. Gary Lee is ordained at St. Joseph's Basilica
- WCR photo by Bill Glen
Archbishop Thomas Collins blesses Fr. Gary Lee's hands during Fr. Lee's ordination at St. Joseph's Basilica.
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Father Gary Lee's childhood dream of becoming a priest came true April 18 when Archbishop Thomas Collins ordained him during an emotional ceremony at St. Joseph's Basilica.
A large representation of Filipinos joined some 90 priests, nuns, deacons and seminarians with other faithful who filled the basilica.
Lee, 30, walked the centre and side aisles for an hour prior to his ordination, returning every smile and shaking every hand offered to him.
"I'm tired but I feel wonderful," Lee said later. "My father is here from Australia where my family lives now. It was his first ordination and it happened to be his son's."
During his address, the archbishop said priestly vows are an absolute commitment to the Lord for him to do his will.
"There is nothing vague about it. Something this profound cannot be entered into in a tentative way," Collins said. "There is only one priest - the Lord Jesus Christ. For those of us who are called to share in his priesthood, we will be instruments of his grace to the service of us all. We are called to give ourselves totally to the service of the Lord."
As a young boy, Lee pictured himself draped in priestly vestments. Little did he realize that his dream would be fulfilled half a world away.
Aside from his immediate family, among Lee's role models was Bishop Pedro Dean, who often visited the family home. A friend of Lee's grandfather, Dean continually encouraged him to a vocation in the priesthood.
"It became a reality the night Archbishop Collins anointed my hands and laid his hands on my head," Lee said. "I noticed his hands are very strong. I don't know if it was the weight of his hands, but something really heavy came into my head."
Lee entered the seminary at 16, obtaining a bachelor's degree in philosophy. For nearly three years, he served as master of liturgy for the bishop in his home city of Tagum, at Christ the King Cathedral.
In 2000, the bishop told Lee he had received a request from the bishop of St. George's in Newfoundland for priests and seminarians for his diocese.
Lee was dispatched to Canada and sent to St. Joseph's Seminary.
He eventually requested a transfer to the Edmonton Archdiocese where he has assisted in several parishes in Edmonton and Red Deer.
Currently assisting Father Paul Kavanagh at St. Mary's in Red Deer since Feb. 1, Lee is not alone in hoping he will stay put when the archbishop announces his pastoral appointments in the coming weeks.
Kavanagh says it has been a joy having Lee in the parish. He is well respected and appreciated.
"I know the people of St. Mary's have come to love him in the few months he has been here," Kavanagh said. "He has embraced them in so many ways. He has the true heart of a priest."
Kavanagh admires Lee's willingness to humbly serve people.
"Not only for myself, but for Father Don (Stein) over at Sacred Heart Parish, having another priest in Red Deer is a great help. Both parishes are really growing," Kavanagh said.
Lee sees his ministry as a "presbyteral" priest, leading and guiding people through Christ. He is looking forward to spending free time in prayer.
"I have to be available to everyone as much as I can and be accommodating to their needs. It is my goal."
The day following his ordination, Lee celebrated a "solemn thanksgiving" Mass for the seminarians at St. Joseph's, where he has made many close friends.
"It is an important place in my heart," he said. "We know the seminary is the heart of the diocese forming our shepherds. I made it a point to say the Mass in gratitude for the Sulpician priests who formed me, headed by Father Shayne Craig.
"I think of my seminary brothers every day. I pray for them that one day, they will also celebrate the same joyful event that happened to me."
Lee wanted to thank one more person.
"I am grateful to Archbishop Collins for his trust and confidence in me. I will be very obedient to him."