Fr. Anthony Cruz's family's faith filled life gave him the foundation to discern his priesthood.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Fr. Anthony Cruz's family's faith filled life gave him the foundation to discern his priesthood.

September 28, 2015
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

There was little doubt Antony Cruz would one day become a priest. As a little boy in India, Cruz loved to play at being a priest, making himself a chasuble out of an old towel. He also made a chasuble for his doll out of a piece of cloth. Then he made a cross with sticks and planted it near a lake for his own pilgrimage.

"From my childhood days, I am a Catholic Christian. My family is traditionally a Catholic family," Cruz, a Pallottine priest, told those attending the Catholic prayer breakfast at the Chateau Louis Conference Centre Sept. 12.

"I came to know Christ through daily prayer. As small children, we knelt down before the holy pictures of Jesus, Mary and the saints and prayed the family rosary."

As soon as he could, he became an altar server. Born Oct. 11, 1978 in Virudhuvilanginan, Cruz grew up with five brothers and one sister in Pattabiram, a suburb of Chennai, capital of the province of Tamil Nadu.

"My grandfather, a rich man in those days, donated the land for the church to be built. In the place where I was born, the Church still remains strong." Today that church is a shrine and, like Cruz, is named after St. Anthony.

There was no Sunday without Mass and catechism for Cruz and his siblings. They had to attend if they wanted breakfast. That sacrifice helped the Cruz children to receive each sacrament at the appropriate age.

Cruz said his parents' faith and piety, their devotion to the Eucharist and the saints, his relatives' faith and the many religious celebrations his family participated in over the years, "All of these inspired me to choose this way of life."

"Even today my mother kneels down before a priest and seeks blessings of priests. Our family has special concern for priests. We have a few priests as friends."

The call to priesthood Cruz felt as a child was forgotten for a while "but the Lord reminded me of my vocation."

Cruz was confused about what life path to choose. Some recommended the militaary or other fields, except for his parish priest, who urged him to go to the seminary. Cruz opted for the priesthood and made his motto the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: "My vocation is love."

"I discovered that God's call to me was more of a background whisper, a realization that in the ordinary events of my life, God was acting and guiding me."

Cruz spent 13 years of formation in Pallottine seminaries, and was ordained a priest May 1, 2009.

Cruz is now in his seventh year of priesthood. The first year, he served as associate pastor in a parish in Tamil Nadu. The second and third years, he was prefect of seminarians and vocation director in Tamil Nadu.

He also continued studying for a master's degree in psychology. He spent his fourth year of priesthood lecturing in philosophy and psychology in Goa, India.

CANADA BOUND

In late 2013 his superior sent him to Canada to serve as associate pastor at St. Theresa's Parish in Edmonton. After four months, he became an associate pastor at OLPH Parish in Sherwood Park where he still serves.

Cruz believes events shape our lives and lead us to choose our vocation. In his case, family, culture, parish, relatives and friends opened doors to his way of life.

"I would say my call was not miraculous but event-oriented, reflective and well-discerned," he said. "I found that if the Lord wants me, he will provide opportunities after opportunities."

Said Cruz: "My priesthood is the joy of the moment when Jesus looked at me. It is a contemplation of the beginning of a journey or an event initiated by Christ when the nets were left on the shore. It is his initiative. I have accepted freely."