Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 24, 2009
God called him to build spirits, not architecture
Franciscan friar trod many paths before finding God's mission for him
Fr. Andrew Verdote
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Father Andrew Verdote is a true jack-of-all-trades.
Finding employment as an architect, window assembler and hotel housekeeper, his prayerful attitude and contemplative nature eventually led him to his true calling, that of a Franciscan friar.
The former Edmonton resident and member of St. Joseph Basilica Parish was ordained a priest recently in Jerusalem.
Born in the Philippines in 1955, Verdote was baptized there when he was eight years old and studied high school under the Benedictine sisters. After high school, he undertook a university program in architecture, graduating in 1977, and worked in Manila for about five years afterwards.
In 1982 he immigrated to Canada, finding work in Toronto, albeit not exactly the kind of employment he was looking for.
"It was difficult to find work in my line, in architecture, because of the economic situation then. I was employed as an assembler in a factory, doing air conditioners and heaters. I became an assembler of windows," said Verdote.
While this job paid the bills, it was definitely not his true calling. He did some part-time work in architectural drafting and engineering drafting, but those contractual jobs were short-lived.
Ten years later, he moved to Alberta and found some part-time drafting work through various agencies. He gained full-time employment housekeeping at the Crown Plaza Hotel.
A year after moving to Edmonton, he started working in pastoral care and served as a eucharistic minister and performed other duties at St. Joseph's Basilica.
Whenever he got the chance, he went on personal retreats with monks in Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the United States.
"The way I discovered the Franciscans is that in my childhood we grew up with Franciscan friars. We had friars in our town, but I had no idea about entering the order," he explained. "I read in a Catholic magazine about the order of Franciscans in the Holy Land. I called and did a visit there. After one year, I joined the order as a postulant."
He did one year as a postulant in Washington, and a second in Toronto studying Italian. Next, he was sent to Jerusalem for the novitiate, a prescribed period of spiritual training and proving. After novitiate, he studied philosophy for two years and theology for four.
Despite having a land area of less than a square kilometre, the Israeli capital is home to sites of key religious importance in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Among them are the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque.
The culture shock proved difficult for some novices.
"Living there is very challenging because of the different cultures to live with from different parts of the world. It wasn't new for me because I was exposed at work with different kinds of people from different countries, different backgrounds.
"But the challenge was to study a new language, like Italian. In high school I spent four years studying Spanish, so that helped. Our lessons and exams were all in Italian, so that was the challenge."
Yet another challenge was being a part of a religious minority, with the population 64 per cent Jewish, 32 per cent Muslim, and a mere two per cent Christian.
"You have to live your faith with the majority Muslims and Jews, but it was an excellent experience being where Jesus lived and worked. They have all of the sanctuaries where he did his ministry," said Verdote.
SPANISH, ARABIC READINGS
He was ordained a priest June 29 at St. Saviour's Church in Jerusalem. "It (the presbyteral ordination) was done in Latin. All of the readings were in Spanish and Arabic, so that was the big difference, different languages used for the liturgy."
Verdote returned to Edmonton in early July for his father's funeral at St. Charles Church. During his return visit, Verdote celebrated a Mass of thanksgiving for his ordination July 25 at the basilica. He continues vacationing until the end of August, and then in early September he starts working in Cyprus.
Verdote's fulfillment as a priest, he said, will come through helping people. Formation took about eight years and his next challenge will be to keep learning new things. Before he goes out doing his active work, he prays and goes on monthly retreats to keep up with the contemplative part of his vocation.