By Fr. David Purcell, C.Ss.R.
On Pentecost Sunday, I was tremendously blessed to celebrate my 30th anniversary of priesthood at St. Patrick Church in Toronto. We had a whole range of Redemptorists and people interested in Redemptorist life, gathered at the noon Mass that Sunday…young and old, our novice directors and novices, and 5 men who had gathered for a Come and See weekend.
As you know, St. Alphonsus wrote a whole book about the “Dignity of the Priesthood.” Many are familiar with the notion of married people being blessed to join God in the beautiful mystery of creation. Alphonsus introduces another meditation on how we join in this mystery of God (pages 32-33 in the 12th volume of Grimm’s edition of the Works of St. Alphonsus Liguori): “As in creating the world it was sufficient for God to have spoken, ‘For God spoke and it came to be’ (Psalm 32.9), so it is sufficient for the priest to say ‘This is my body,’ and behold the bread is no longer bread, but the body of Jesus Christ. As St. Augustine has written, ‘O happy vocation of the priest! He that created me, shares with me the power to create him; and he that created me without me, is himself created by me’!”
I am grateful for the life and faith given me by God through my parents and family, and through the nurturing and direction of my Redemptorist confreres and partners in mission. For thirty years I have been continually impressed, in awe, and always grateful – that through faith of people around me, my own faith, and through simple words spoken by me, God works miracles of healing, conversion, peace, and the creation of new life in my life and the lives of so many people whom I have served.
And of course there was the usual great hospitality by the confreres and staff at St. Patrick monastery for a great lunch after Mass!
“The Spirit is a-movin’ all over this land” is a line from an older song used to celebrate Pentecost and used at prayer meetings to call upon the Holy Spirit. This line often comes to mind when I hear people claim, “there is no interest in Canada in the priesthood and religious life.” My experience is quite the contrary. “The Spirit is a-movin’.”
In St. John’s, Newfoundland we had a good example of this. On the 24th of May our Redemptorist Community, worked together with the Knights of Columbus Council and Jim Fleming, the local archdiocesan seminarian. They hosted a Men’s Vocation B.B.Q. Seven participants showed up to hear about the priesthood and religious life and to have their questions about these vocations answered in a relaxed setting. The Knights of Columbus as you know, help to promote and encourage vocations to the priesthood in many ways. At this evening, they presented donations to Mr. Jim Fleming and to our own seminarian, Mr. Graham Hill in support of their education.
Our St. John’s community also gives us an example that despite our busy lives, it is important to open some time for inviting people to come and join our community. Here they are taking a well deserved break after recording in the Death Register for St. Teresa’s Parish, the 50th funeral they had celebrated between the 1st of January and the end of May. In the midst of these funerals and the many other ways they serve the people of St. John’s, they were able to hold a very fruitful evening where they promoted the Redemptorist Missionary Charism!
Likewise, “the Spirit is a-movin” through central Canada. Our confreres in Saskatoon work at a whole rainbow of ministries and even provide missionary outreach to the Northwest Territories. Despite their busy lives, they hosted a full day of reflection with our Partners in Mission. At the Queen’s House retreat centre, we discussed Our Redemptorist Missionary Charism and ways to promote that vocation in Saskatoon and area.
Through their ministry, Saskatoon Redemptorists are meeting young people who want to dedicate themselves to service in the church. They met one man whom they have encouraged to become a Redemptorist enquirer. Along with the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary, I hosted a reflection day about religious life at Discernment House. This man along with two women participated in a day of reflection about Religious Life.