Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
March 15, 2010
Called by the people of God
Michael Schumacher's priestly vocation was apparent to others before it was to himself
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
People, some of them complete strangers, asked Deacon Michael Schumacher if he had ever considered becoming a priest.
To a young man still in college at the time, the suggestion came as quite a shock. It caught him off-guard, he said, and even scared the living daylights out of him initially.
"I was seeing the priesthood wherever I looked. I was feeling the tug on my heart," he said.
If the calling was genuine, he was convinced that it would not go away. The idea, although inescapable, went on the backburner for many months. Schumacher prayed for answers.
"I was always praying, 'Lord, I don't want to be a priest, but if you want me to be a priest, change my heart.' I prayed that for at least a year and a half, maybe two years. It worked. My heart gradually began to open to the idea, and now it's been a joy," he said.
His priestly ordination is set for 7 p.m. Friday, March 19, the feast of St. Joseph, at St. Joseph's Basilica.
Schumacher, 30, had a Catholic upbringing in rural Alberta. Born in St. Albert and raised on an acreage near Villeneuve, his family attended Mass regularly. He served as an altar boy for about seven years and later sang in the church choir.
The call to the priesthood occurred while attending college. Studying visual communications and majoring in illustration, he was vying for his bachelor of design - a grueling, intense program. The demands of school, coupled with a family crisis, had him asking questions about what was most important in life.
A Protestant friend also asked him questions that challenged his faith.
"In order to answer her questions, I began to look into the faith more than what I had done in the past and found pretty soon that I was doing it more for myself than I was for her. It was some time after that I heard the call, basically," explained Schumacher.
Post-college, he went to John Paul II Bible School in Radway to explore his Catholic faith. About halfway through the year he realized that the call was not going away and in some ways had intensified. He decided that going to the seminary was necessary for further discernment.
"I think most people have a really difficult time in the seminary, and I did as well the first year, especially because it's such a change for the orientation of your life. You're grappling with yourself and letting go of things you've held onto for a long time. Year after year it got progressively better," said Schumacher.
His hope is that, as a priest, he will be able to bring God to the people and the people to God. He wants laypeople to take stock of their faith and take ownership of their faith through involvement in the Church in some capacity.
When Schumacher started his pastoral internship at St. Thomas More Parish, he met the pastor, Father Sylvain Casavant.
"What's nice about Deacon Michael is that there's a gentleness in his speech. There's genuineness in his love for Christ. You put those two together - the genuineness and the gentleness - and you have two very good things necessary for a priest," said Casavant.
Humbleness, caring for people and his definite enthusiasm for Christ are qualities that he will bring to his new role as priest, said Casavant.
"He has a gentle manner and he's able to listen attentively to people, to help them understand a little more of the faith. I think those are necessary qualities in the priesthood," said Casavant.
Schumacher has always been methodical in his assigned tasks at the parish. Casavant admires that Schumacher recognizes immediately that something needs to be done and he does it without being told to. The response from St. Thomas More parishioners towards him has been tremendous.
"The parishioners are thrilled. My experience of the parishioners with Deacon Michael has always been positive. They are very happy to have him around, and they find him an enjoyable personality, one that easily converses, even with people he hasn't met before."
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