Road to priesthood started with a simple question


When he was an altar server as a boy, Deacon Matthew McCarthy remembers his parish priest entering the sacristy before Mass and in a thick Maltese accent often asking the same question.

“He would say, ‘So how is my future priest?’ ” said McCarthy. “I was only eight or nine years old so the question didn’t really mean a lot to me then.”

But as he prepares now to enter the priesthood, McCarthy ranks those encounters among his fondest memories from altar serving at his home parish in Brampton, Ont.

“Looking back I can say that it was those conversations with Fr. Alfred in the sacristy that really planted the seed in my heart,” he said. “Then over the next 20 or so years that seed has cultivated and grown.”

McCarthy’s parents were among 1,800 parishioners, priests and people in consecrated life March 7 who attended the 27th annual Ordinandi Dinner. The event at the Pearson Convention Centre in Brampton, organized by the Serra  Foundation of Canada, honoured 11 men who this spring will be ordained into the priesthood.

This graduating class from St. Augustine’s Seminary and the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Toronto represent the largest class since 2009.

“We are delighted to see this year’s number of ordinandi,” said Fr. John-Mark Missio, vice-rector of the seminary. “While the Holy Spirit deserves the credit we also are grateful for the dedication of our vocation directors … who do such a fantastic job of promoting vocations.”

McCarthy will serve in the Archdiocese of Toronto along with brothers Favin and Ryan Alemao, 29 and 32 respectively, Jeremias Inoc, 44, and Antonello Murgia, 41. They will be ordained May 13 at St. Michael’s Cathedral.

The Diocese of Pembroke has three priests on the way as Stephen Helferty, 28, Justin Bertrand, 25 and Anthony Burchat, 31, prepare for ordination.

Kevin D’Souza, 58, will serve in the Diocese of Hamilton, Stephen Bruzzese, 27, will serve the Diocese of St. Catharines and John Orban, 55, will become a priest in Ottawa.

Each of the ordinandi reflected briefly on their vocation journey following the meal. Cardinal Thomas Collins spoke of the power of these personal stories.

“It really touches the heart to listen to each of those who’ve been called by the Lord just before they are about to be ordained, sharing the little touch of God in their hearts with each one of us,” said Collins.

“I’ve been profoundly moved by the way in which this experience unites us as a community. This is a time when we really gather together as a true community of faith.”

McCarthy told the audience it was the witness of joyful priests in his life that led him to “say yes to the Lord.”

“These men were genuinely happy despite the fact that they had given up everything that the world says that you need in order to be happy,” he said. “And their witness to the power and joy of God’s grace was absolutely crucial for me.”

McCarthy asked those attending the dinner to remember the ordinandi in their prayers.

“Pray for me, pray for us, that we continue to say yes for the Lord and yes to serving all of you.”