My life began to take a marked change (although this was
unbeknownst to me at this time) when I decided to attend Sudbury High for
Grade 13 in order to play on the High School basketball team – a sport
that by this time I was totally devoted to.
The year at Sudbury High led me to consider going to
University in order to play more basketball, and school was, at that time,
a secondary issue. My first choice was to attend the University of
Victoria due to the fact that Ken Shields – the former Laurentian
University (Sudbury) basketball coach – was now coaching there. After
inquiries with Mr. Shields it was decided that it would not be the best
thing for me to attend that University. Instead, I decided to attend the
University of Saskatoon where one of Mr. Shield’s star university
basketball players at Laurentian was coaching at the time. His name was
Guy Vetrie. In retrospect this move, like all the others, was
providential. It was my first move away from home and I began to do a
great deal of thinking. While living in Saskatoon, I was not going to
Church on a regular basis, but I was beginning to reflect on my life. I
began to understand the many blessings that God had bestowed upon me, in
particular, my family – which had gone through its challenging times.
While this did not a first lead to a radical conversion in my life, it did
lead me to buy my first Catechism: The Teaching of Christ. I read this
book with great hunger and it began to trigger even more thoughts about
God and my Catholic faith.
After the year in Saskatoon I moved to Victoria to join
the University of Victoria Vikings. This was, in many ways a difficult
transition for me, as I had been used to playing almost 35-38 minutes a
game while attending the University of Saskatoon. When I starting playing
with the Victoria Vikings, which by that time was on the verge of being a
national championship team, I played perhaps two minutes a game. Like I
said – it was a difficult period for someone to whom basketball was
almost everything! There were some who thought I wouldn’t weather the
storm (so to speak) but I persevered.
During the basketball season, one Sunday, I went to Church
with a basketball teammate of mine (Eli Pasquale). The priest who was
offering the Mass and preaching the sermon "made sense." Shortly
after attending this Mass, I met Fr. John Laszczyk (the priest who had
offered the Mass) –of the Diocese of Vancouver Island – and we began
to talk about faith and develop a long friendship.
I can’t remember when "it" happened but one
day it struck me that God wanted me to be a priest. It is hard to explain
how I knew – I just knew that something was there or
"something" or "someone" was calling me in that
direction. Now, while you might think – ‘that’s what you were made
for’ – I can assure you that this thought had never entered
into my thinking before. My concept of the priesthood, up till that point,
was based on a memory of my parish priest when I was growing up. The only
time I saw him, he was saying Mass or tending to his garden. The life
style didn’t exactly excite me. Nevertheless, this "thing"
wouldn’t let me go. In the meantime, I was meeting many evangelical
Christians on the University Campus and they were getting me to think
seriously about Catholicism. They were all good people and good friends.
In a strange kind of way they helped me to rediscover my Catholic faith
and the beauty of it.
All was not so easy though. Once I began to realize the
priesthood meant celibacy I began to question and struggle. This was not
so much from a disagreement with the Church but whether or not I
could "do it." I struggled for about a two-year period –
continuing to play basketball and going to school at UVIC. In my third
year of University I began, for the first time, to really love my studies.
Up until that time studies served as a means whereby I could play
basketball. In my third year I began to take a keen interest in my studies
and really wanted to do well. At the end of my fourth year – the
basketball team had won four national championships, and by this time –
I knew that I had to enter the seminary and find out from God if he wanted
me to stay or leave. I entered the seminary and they didn’t ask me to
leave – what is more important, as I moved through the courses I became
more convinced and clearer in my intellectual and spiritual perception
that God was calling me to the priesthood. The only thing that was left
for the "stamp" of approval was the acceptance from the
Archbishop of Vancouver. On June 26, 1987, that "stamp" of
approval came when his Grace, Archbishop James Carney, ordained me to the
Sacred Priesthood of Jesus Christ.
One of the great blessings of my priesthood is that I’ve
never regretted one day. In fact, I would contend that the Army, in its
motto "there’s no life like it," is not exactly 100 percent
true. For those called to the priesthood –and nobody is worthy of it!
– there is no life like it. Another of the great blessings (I
could list many) is that I received my father into the Catholic Church on
the 40th Anniversary of my Mother and Father’s marriage. I
still wonder at the truth that Father Hamilton brought his father –
Giles Hamilton – into the Church. He brought me into the world and I
brought him into the Church. I am thankful to God every day of my life,
and despite the fact that I am unworthy and he could have chosen many
others better qualified, He decided to choose me. While there have been
challenging days (who doesn’t have them) I can honestly say that I’ve
never looked back and I’ve always experienced deep joy that Jesus Christ
called me and in this major decision of my life … I got it right.
In the event that young people will read this I would hope
that you find some light in it. Consider that God might be calling you. I
would never have thought –when I was young – that God would call me.
Yet, here I am. This life – this vocation – might also be for you.