Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 1, 2008
Fr. Victor Botari: He ran, but he could not hide
At 63, Botari succumbs to the call of Godí
By RAMON GONZALEZ
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Fr. Botari receives a welcome to the priesthood from one of his brother priests.
"He was a man of the world; he lived a very worldly, exciting life before. He did it all. But God called him (and he decided to answer the call). He is very happy and we are happy for him too."
Raised alongside two brothers and two sisters in an Italian family that ate, prayed and attended church together, Botari became an altar server at age eight, rising early to assist the priest before heading to school.
"We didn't have adult servers at the time so the altar servers did a lot more," recalled Botari. "We had a lot more responsibility and, of course, because a good part of the congregation didn't know all the responses in Latin we were the people doing the responses."This involvement inevitably led many boys to think about the priesthood. Botari wondered how it would be. But it was only a childhood dream as the priesthood seemed unreachable for ordinary people.
"All of us who were altar boys who were thinking of being priests got the message that the people who were chosen by God as priests were just something far too special, far too removed from normal people with normal faults."
With the priesthood option closed, Botari sought other opportunities. After completing high school in Catholic schools, he enrolled at St. Jerome College, a Catholic college affiliated with the University of Waterloo. He graduated with a bachelor of arts in English and history, enough to land him a job with the Canadian International Development Agency, CIDA.
For the next 12 years Botari coordinated aid programs for a number of Asian countries. He did some travelling and spent two years on a foreign service posting to Bangladesh, coordinating the Canadian aid program in that country.
He spent the next 12 years teaching mostly at the community college level, including seven years in Inuvik teaching at what was then the Arctic College of the Northwest Territories. He also taught courses on a number of Indian reserves in southern Alberta through Mount Royal College.
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Fr. Victor Botari advises young people to listen to God if they think they might have a religious vocation.
While teaching for Mount Royal, Botari completed studies in education at the University of Calgary and started looking for new opportunities. He landed a job in a large community centre in Vancouver that offered a variety of social programs.
"The programs that interested me were programs helping inner-city people, people who were struggling with their lives," he noted. "After three years with that I started very, very seriously to explore my vocation (to the priesthood) because it had become obvious at that point that this was real and that I had to respond to it."
But the feeling of being unworthy came back.
"What changed that mostly was my parish priest in Vancouver who I had been talking to about my vocation," recalled Botari. "He volunteered himself to be my spiritual director and told me, 'Of course you are a sinner, of course you are flawed. The point is Christ is not. Christ is perfect and he is the one who is doing the work. You are just somebody who he is using as his vessel, his channel. That's what we priests are.'
"And the more I thought about that, the more at ease I felt."
Then he encountered another problem. He had accumulated a significant student loan debt while studying in Calgary. So in 2001 when he got a chance for a better-paying job at Edmonton's Boyle Street Coop he took it. Like in Vancouver, he worked with poor and marginalized inner-city people.
The first thing he did upon arrival in Edmonton was to locate his local parish - St. Alphonsus, which was about eight blocks from his home. Next he phoned the vocations office of the Edmonton Archdiocese and started the process to enter the seminary. He entered in 2003.
One insight Botari offers to young people who are considering a vocation is "Listen to God and do something active to explore that vocation.
"Don't run away because if God is really calling you, he is not going to let go. You save yourself a lot of grief if you just accept it at the beginning."
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