Erik Sorensen

Erik Sorensen

May 4, 2015
LASHA MORNINGSTAR
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

As a child, Erik Sorensen would gaze up at the planes soaring above the Red Deer Airport and wonder at "the technological marvel of it. It was manmade and metal, yet it was effortlessly flying the through the air."

That wonderment turned into a passion to fly, a passion that nearly kept him from considering the priesthood.

Presently living at Regis College, the Jesuit faculty of theology in Toronto, Sorensen is finishing the first of three years of studying philosophy on the long journey to becoming a Jesuit priest.

Looking back over his 24 years, Sorensen can see God's hand opening doors to his life's path.

"You think you know which way God is leading you and you arrive at some place completely different."

Raised in a faith-filled Catholic family, Sorensen was an altar boy and active in Sacred Heart Parish. The first person to suggest he should consider the priesthood was an assistant pastor.

"But I was so interested in math and science, I could not see how both worlds could come together," recalled Sorensen. "Looking back I can see the seed was planted there. But I was so fixed on math and science."

That passion for planes led to him earn a pilot's licence and to study aerospace engineering at Ottawa's Carlton University.

There he realized going to Mass in Red Deer had been a family affair. If he was to continue attending, it would now be his own decision.

"Nothing was forcing me to go. In all honesty, I was reconnecting to my faith and taking personal ownership of it."

Mass was celebrated on campus, and Sorensen "felt it was very natural to get involved in a supportive community."

He became increasingly immersed in learning about his faith and "returned to what I actually believe in."

Yes, the nudge towards priesthood was still there.

"But I was in the middle of my engineering degree, and I didn't see these two things fitting together."

Come summer, Sorensen returned to Red Deer. He continued to study his faith.

"After that summer I went back and sat down and thought 'I need to explore this a bit more.'"

By this time, he had formed a bond with the university's chaplain and presented him with his dilemma of whether to pursue the priesthood or engineering.

The chaplain guided Sorensen to a Jesuit student in Ottawa who had his pilot's licence.

When he met the man, Sorensen realized he could follow both of his passions. "I could bring that passion for engineering with me."

Over the rest of his degree, the discerning student had dinner with the Jesuit PhD student, went on a Jesuit retreat and discovered the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.

Why the Jesuits?

"They serve others," replied Sorensen. "Growing up, our parents told us we had to have some way of being active in the parish as a service component.

"The Jesuits are an outlet for that."

At Christmas, Sorensen thought he had better tell his parents he was planning to enter the Jesuits.

"So I took some vocational material with me and gave it to them and said, 'This is something I am looking at.'"

His father Mike and mother Denise surprised him with their response. They saw the joy that he was experiencing and said, "We could see you doing this. . . . This would be a good fit for your life."

Sorensen's formation has included six weeks in a l'Arche community, working in an RCIA program and walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Along with the expected blisters, Sorensen said of his pilgrimage, "I had a deep sense of being on a journey with Christ walking with me."

Once his philosophy studies are complete, Sorensen will enter the regency stage that includes two to three years in a Jesuit apostolate anywhere in the world.

"There are so many possibilities," he said, adding he enjoyed working with First Nations and urban refugees.

Sorensen has experienced "tons of surprises" so far on his spiritual journey.

"It's been grace-filled, but not without its challenges, of course."

He said his faith continues to grow as he journeys to the priesthood.

"It's taught me God works with you where you are at. It's very beautiful. I'm not losing part of myself."