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February 7, 2016

A seven year old boy told his widowed mother: “I want to be an altar server.” “Great,” his mom answered.  “But you have to learn Latin and go to church on certain days.  Can you manage that?”  “Of course, I can,” the boy eagerly replied.

His mother continued, “Tell me why?”

“My older friends told me that every week the altar servers had a great supper with the pastor.”

Tears came out from the mother’s eyes.  She could only provide rice and soya sauce to her six kids for most of the family meals. 

The boy served at the altar and enjoyed better suppers with the priest and other boys for a few years.  When he was in grade 5, he had a better idea.

“Mom, I want to become a priest.”

“What happens? And why?”

“Priests always have great suppers.”

His older brothers and sister had quit school since their mom couldn’t afford to pay school fees.  They all went out working at whatever to bring a few coins back to the family.  The boy took the entry exam along with 350 kids.  He was among 60 kids who passed and were accepted into a junior seminary.  Mom had one more thing to worry about.  Every month she had to find enough funds to pay for room and board for the boy.  In that junior seminary, the boy didn’t have great suppers every day, but at least he had enough nutrients for his growth physically and spiritually.

The boy had grown to a young man.  Delicious supper did not motivate him to follow the call anymore. Seeing the conflicts, wars and suffering of his people, the young man decided to spread Jesus’ message of love and peace through the service of ministerial priesthood.  Day after day the grace of God continued to form him into that ministry…By the way, most of his suppers now are leftovers.

This story is one of many stories about vocations in the Church.  God uses any means to call people to serve in the priestly life.  Isaiah, Peter and the first few apostles answered to the call in their awareness of unworthiness.  The grace of God stood behind them.  God declared to Isaiah, “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.”  Jesus also confirmed to Peter, “Do not be afraid, from now on you will be catching people.”

The shortage of priests in the western Catholic Church is a reality.  For instance, the majority of priests in our diocese were born outside of Canada.  Many come from India, The Philippines, South America and Vietnam.  Some have Poland as their original country.  We are grateful to them as they always face challenges in the new environment and new culture.  Their service may be a short-term solution.  In the long run, we need to cultivate vocations in our own backyard.  There are only 10 seminarians who are studying for our diocese and we may not have any ordinations in the next 3 years.

We need your help.  First of all, we should pray to God every day that our young people open their heart to the call of God.  Secondly, tell your children, grandchildren and friends, that religious vocation is another choice for their life.  Thirdly, your religious practice has to be obvious.  Remember, it’s very rare to have a priest or a nun from a non-practicing Catholic family.

This week we pray as Isaiah did, “Here am I, send me.”