The following is taken from the Fall/Winter edition of the St. Augustine's Seminary newsletter, In Deum. To read the full publication, please click here.
If there was ever an inspirational story about the joy of the priestly life, it would be that of Fr. Ron Cote - ordained 68 years ago from St. Augustine’s Seminary for the Diocese of Hamilton.
“Looking back 93 years since I was born and the 68 years since I was ordained, I am happy that I am a priest,” he says. “I was involved in education as a teacher and principal at a couple of high schools in Hamilton, and I had the privilege of being a pastor for the last 25 years of my active priesthood. In retirement, I’ve been able to pinch-hit and help out on Sundays here and there when someone needed help. But I decided now I had better act my age. I don’t have the same resilience that I had.”
Fr. Cote is part of the Class of 1955 from St. Augustine’s Seminary - a class of 55 seminarians, the Seminary’s largest graduating class. It included 11 ordinandi from the Hamilton Diocese.
“You have to remember I entered the Seminary after the war,” he says. “I watched as people sacrificed their lives for the country. Why couldn’t I give my life to the Lord? I think that was the climate when I entered. Others probably thought the same way I did.”
It’s a decision he has never regretted and he is grateful that the challenges he has faced have never outweighed the rewards.
“Looking back, I would be happy to do the same thing that I’ve done for the last 68 years if I had to do it over again,” he says joyfully. “I think it is a very productive way to live a life. You become part of many families. You become part of many communities. Even when you’re retired, you meet people who cherish the days when you were helpful to them in one way or another. There are many rewards to this life, apart from what we hope to receive when our visa in this life on earth expires.”
He recognizes that, despite his age, God is not done using him just yet.
“Even now, I will get phone calls from individuals and I’ll be able to help them work through an issue. You never become useless. You are a priest forever.”
He advises young priests to “have friends who are priests and support each other.” One of his fondest memories of being at St. Augustine’s Seminary was the wonderful camaraderie he had with his fellow classmates.
“One of my classmates was Aloysius Ambrozic. A group of us would go cliff climbing together. He was a great cliff climber. I remember one day the Prefect of Discipline complained about someone having left mud on the chapel floor. Though I don’t know for sure, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Al Ambrozic. He was probably the most dedicated cliff climber in our class. He had the right kind of boots for it and he had a big screwdriver, which is all you needed then. The Prefect of Discipline interpreted the mud as a potentially negative sign of the vocation of the unknown culprit. Of course, if it was Ambrozic, he went on to become Cardinal Archbishop of Toronto, a fairly positive endorsement.”
“As a young priest, I much appreciated the legendary priestly fraternity of our Diocese. Although many priests have come from overseas, we still see them as brothers.”
In Deum is published three times each year by St. Augustine's Seminary. St. Augustine's is the Major Seminary of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto. It also welcomes candidates from elsewhere. Its primary purpose is the preparation of candidates for ordained priesthood in the Catholic Church. This preparation for diocesan ministerial leadership embraces and promotes spiritual and human formation, theological education, and field training. The Seminary is also mandated to form men and women aspiring to other ministries in the Church. To subscribe to In Deum, please click here.