As a new group of seminarians begin their formation at St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto and others continue on their vocation journey, Archdiocese of Toronto Vocations Director, Fr. Chris Lemieux, shares his own reflections on working with those discerning a call to the priesthood.
Cardinal Collins and I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days at Mount Mary Retreat Center with most of the seminarians for the Archdiocese of Toronto. This was an opportunity for our seminarians already in formation to meet the 11 seminarians joining them this year. We are blessed, truly blessed. The Archdiocese of Toronto has 56 men in formation in various years at two major seminaries; St. Augustine's Seminary (which includes Serra House Pre-Theology Seminary) and the Redemptoris Mater Seminary.
In light of the current challenges facing the Church, especially related to the behaviour and example of clergy, it's important to ensure that we prepare those pursuing the priesthood faithfully and responsibly. I truly believe that we have very good men who desire holiness, who are servants and who really do seek to be shepherds after the Heart of the Good Shepherd.
These men are not perfect but I can assure you they are self-reflective, honest and generous men and who live in this world but desire something greater than this world can ever offer them: a life always in Jesus Christ, sharing His love with their sisters and brothers. These men need to know and accept God the Father's love first and have a good sense of what it means to be a father to people in this world, modeled on St. Joseph, other saints and other fine examples of fatherhood in the world, often their own fathers.
One of the most important things Cardinal Collins shared with them was a sense of the Lord's mission with them and assured them that they are an important part of that mission in the Archdiocese of Toronto. I am deeply grateful to the Lord to be their Vocation Director. I am aware that this is title given to me to define a role I have – because Jesus Christ is and always will be their true Vocation Director.
One of the challenges most Vocation Directors face today is a reluctance on the part of many to come forward. In many places, Vocation Directors resist the urge to take just anyone when they don't have a lot of men presenting themselves in the first place. Most Directors also hear from many people that they should be more open to the men who do come forward. We don't have as many men entering as represents our Catholic population of over 2 million in the Archdiocese of Toronto. We could have more than double the men in formation that we have right now but I want to be sure to have strict enough requirements to help the right men enter formation, but not so strict that I discourage an authentic and true calling because of my own limitations. That is why it is important to empower a team to help me in this task.
We are truly blessed that these men are the men the Lord has given to us, to discern for us and please God to serve us in the future. To have an abundance of diocesan priests is not the Lord's desire, but to have the right ones – is. That's what I hope and pray for, and I hope it's what you will pray for too. As seminarians being another year of formation, May the Lord who has begun the good work in them, bring it to Glorious Fulfillment.