Vocations fair at St Paul's HS

March 11, 2014

At left, Fr. David Purcell, Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, and from right Sr. Virginia Evard and Sr. Mary Coswin, Sisters of St. Benedict, with special guest Pope Francis in the form of a cardboard cutout.

By James Buchok

There's more to vocations than becoming a priest or a nun, according to the former director of vocations for the Jesuits in English Canada, Fr. Len Altilia, "it's about how God is at work in my life," he said.

Having been involved in vocations for 16 years, the topic is dear to Altilia's heart which led him to spearhead the organization of a Vocations Fair held March 1 at Winnipeg's St. Paul's High School. Altilia was appointed president of the school last summer backed by 23 years working in Jesuit high schools as a teacher, chaplain and principal of Loyola High School in Montreal and Gonzaga High School in St. John's, Newf. During his years as director of vocations he was based in his hometown of Toronto.

This year Altilia is celebrating his 50th anniversary of entering the Jesuit novitiate. He was ordained in 1974.

Although attracting men and women to religious life is of great importance, Altilia believes the Catholic world has been "done a disservice by focusing too narrowly on priesthood or religious life. Let's talk about the vocation of our baptism, to live the Gospel. A vocation is our response to Christ, it's how we choose to follow him," he said.

The fair was held to provide Catholic youth with an idea of the range of options open to them to live their faith whether it be in marriage, volunteering one's time and talent, or in the priesthood or some other religious life.

Representatives of religious communities, dioceses, volunteer organizations, marriage encounter, and others were in attendance to answer questions and provide information.

The steady stream of attendees didn't quite constitute a crowd but, Altilia said, "the ones that are here are the ones that are supposed to be here. We just want to get it on people's radar. There are those who say the call is generic and the response is particular. But you can't pick what you don't know." Altilia said his plan is to hold the event every two years.

Fr. David Purcell was at the fair for The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, The Yorkton (Saskatchewan) Redemptorists, an Eastern Church branch of the world wide Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. They serve the Ukrainian Catholic Church in North America and are based in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Purcell was providing a book published by the Archdiocese of Calgary called Signposts of our Faith, Canadian Witnesses to Vocation and Mission. The book tells the stories of 10 Canadians and their vocations including St. Kateri Tekakwitha and the Vocation to Love, Georges and Pauline Vanier: The Sacrament of Marriage and Katherine Hughes, The Dedicated Single Life.

Of the 23 organizations with exhibits at the fair, 15 were religious orders for men and women while the others represented opportunities to volunteer and minister to the community. These included Winnipeg's Chemin Neuf, Catholic School of Evangelization in St. Malo, Man., the Catholic Health Association of Manitoba, CFC Youth for Christ, Serra Club, Knights of Columbus and Immaculate Conception Church Drop-In.

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