Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 30, 2010
Careers abandoned as young people answer God's call
A gnawing emptiness prompts professionals to keep seeking
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
SHERBROOKE, QUEBEC - Jennifer Y.M. Lee, gave up a promising career as a concert pianist to consecrate her life to God.
Martin Bilodeau, 34, left behind a professional salary and glamorous travel as a mechanical engineer to live in community in lay consecrated life at Famille Marie-Jeunesse (FMJ), a new religious community that began about 25 years ago in Quebec City.
Andrée-Ann Brasseur, 25, an accomplished violinist, knew from the time she was 18 that she belonged with FMJ but she had to wait eight years until she was old enough to consecrate her life permanently.
Lee and Brasseur recently made their permanent commitments to God and FMJ while Bilodeau made temporary vows. They were among 10 young people who made commitments in Sherbrooke's cathedral on the vigil of the Assumption, Aug. 14, at a Mass celebrated by Sherbrooke Archbishop Andre Gaumond.
Lee, who was born in Calgary of Korean parents, had won international competitions as a pianist, had experienced the media spotlight and was on her way to a life on the concert stage. But she found that the pleasures of performing were fleeting. "I was looking for happiness that would last," she said.
Lee also tried the happiness the world offered, but found after every party, she still felt empty. Though her parents were both third order Franciscans, Lee put her Catholic faith "on the side" as she struggled to find meaning in her life.
She discovered FMJ because she was asked to act as a translator to a group of Koreans who were visiting the FMJ motherhouse in Sherbrooke, which used to be a Franciscan monastery.
Later, during a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, during a mountain prayer time, Lee said she cried out to God. She felt that her musical talent was God-given and she must develop it. But she also felt drawn to consecrated life.
Through prayer she had a profound realization. "God loved me for who I am, not what I did," she said. She felt God's profound love for her through Mary. The word that came to her was, "If you knew how much I loved you, you would cry with joy."
FMJ founder Real Lavoie encouraged Lee to finish her master's degree in music. She spent weekends at FMJ, getting her "oxygen of happiness" and plugged away at her music the rest of the week in Montreal, praying all along that everything would be for God's glory.
She did her recital for her master's at the Anglican cathedral in Quebec City and received a 98 per cent. She entered FMJ the week after.
She thought she would be sacrificing the piano, but found her talents put to use in choir direction, music direction and composition inside FMJ.
At the 2008 Eucharistic Congress, she played the piano before a crowd of more than 20,000, before cardinals, bishops, pilgrims and her family. "It was for God."
Bilodeau spent eight years as a mechanical engineer, earning a lucrative salary in the auto-racing field and then in designing snowmobiles.
A NEW DREAM
"I thought I had the job everyone dreamed of," he said.
But he began to find the constant travel and the 70-hour weeks exhausting, despite the glamour of the racing world.
His life got turned around at the 2002 World Youth Day (WYD) in Toronto. Though he had no time to go to church, he was a baptized Catholic and thought he'd go pay his respects to Pope John Paul II.
He arrived in Toronto totally unprepared and found himself having "a meeting" with the pope even though there were 400,000 other pilgrims between him and Pope John Paul who was but a white speck in the distance.
Here he was, 25 years old, "dead tired, working for a race car to go from point A to point B as fast as possible," and John Paul II, was over 80, with Parkinson's, in a wheelchair, "travelling all over the world, bringing people together, bringing them hope," he said.
"Maybe something has to change now in my life," he thought.
He moved to Sherbrooke, and took on a job with Bombardier working on snowmobiles. He also sought escape in extreme sports, like dirt bikes. He found that his efforts to change his life did not bring the results he wanted.
CALLING ON GOD
Finally, he came to the end of himself. "Okay God, now I need help," he remembered praying.
"The sky did not open, no dove came down," he said, but he found himself led a few weeks later to attend a four-day youth gathering at FMJ. As he saw the huge tent, and mingled with the 300 young people in attendance, and experienced the smiles and the welcome despite the fact no one knew what he had done, he knew he was being accepted for who he was.
He knew that meeting God personally meant availing himself of the sacrament of Reconciliation. He confessed he had been trying on his own to find a good life and he had reached the conclusion he had failed.
Bilodeau decided to join the one-year school of evangelization, a way for young people to try out a year of consecrated life.
That year allowed him to "say 'yes' to God's call," he said. In his three years at FMJ, he has experienced his spiritual poverty. "Regardless of my poverty, all God wants is everything I have, even if it's just a dandelion."
GIFT OF WILL
He realized the most precious thing he had was his own will. He realized the biggest gift he could give God was turning his will over to him, "giving him what I value most."
"I give him everything, but he gives me everything, even more than I hoped," he said. "It's a good exchange."
Brasseur, 25, a native of Sherbrooke, encountered FMJ at age 17, while in high school.
Her family prayed the rosary every evening; she grew up with Jesus, she said. Her parents had had two children born with a serious but uncommon degenerative muscular disease. Her brother died at age 12, her older sister died at age 39.
Her own life was a "miracle of good health" for her parents, who expected a lot from her, she said.
She studied the violin, did well in school, had many friends, and in all respects had a beautiful life. But in her heart, she experienced a sense of difficulty, "a darkness."
Brasseur encountered a crossroads. She had a boyfriend, but her family did not approve her choice. They urged her to take a year with FMJ "for you, to think."
That year, she "met God in my heart."
"He is alive; he is risen," she said, "I tasted something very strong and there was no point in going back." She remained with the community ever since.
She surveyed the young people who had joined FMJ for a dinner of corn on the cob and diced ham mixed with rice and vegetables.
"These young people, they are our life," she said. "We give our lives to them, to help them find God with our testimonies, like an instrument in the hands of God."
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