Last week I shared a little bit about my life and decision before I entered seminary to continue discerning God’s plan for my life. I thought this week I would write a part two and focus on my time during seminary.
As I said last week, my decision to speak with the vocation director came after much prayer, some learning, and greater openness to living my life for others. Living in the Archdiocese of St. Boniface, I simply contacted our vocation director at the time– Fr. Marcel Damphousse, and met with him several times. It was shortly after I entered seminary at the end of summer of 2012 that he was then consecrated bishop. When I was accepted by the Archbishop as a seminarian, I then began the formal application process and did the required medical examinations. I was sent to St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta.
I was unsure how well I would do in more academic courses at university, especially since the last schooling I did for culinary arts wasn’t exactly transferable to my undergraduate studies in philosophy. Thankfully I enjoyed my studies, mainly in philosophy, religion, and history, and did well enough in them, especially coming to them from the perspective of faith and seeing how these would be a foundation for my later studies in theology. Many of the other guys who began around the same year as me are still friends of mine, whether they went on to be ordained priests or had discerned out, and I enjoy my time out West occasionally to spend time with them or revisit the seminary. I still need to go back there sometime to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving with the community, as is custom for ordained alumni, but was unable after ordination due to COVID.
Our days usually began around 6:30 am in the chapel with Morning Prayer and Mass as a community, followed by breakfast. Our community usually came together again for Evening Prayer and dinner, and our evenings were usually spent playing some sports game together, going out to an assigned pastoral placement elsewhere in the city for ministry, or trying to scramble together a paper or presentation that’s due the morning after. Many of us would gather again for Night Prayer together in the chapel at 9pm.
While I was in seminary, we were taking courses for 10 months of the year, finishing in June and going back at the end of August. I was also able to come back home to visit family during a 2 week Christmas break. Our summers were short with the Spring semester courses, which made finding a job difficult for many. Thankfully, my first summer I was able to work at the Catholic School of Evangelization and put my cooking skills to work for the children at summer camps, and the following summers I would work at the diocesan centre, cooking for staff and the retired priests living there, and occasionally help with maintenance stuff like cutting the grass. I enjoyed these times because they allowed me to get to know many of the people here better, even though I had to spend much of my year in another province.
After completing my philosophy studies, I had more of a spiritual year of formation, which is now at the beginning of priestly formation rather than in the middle. Priestly formation is often undergoing many changes and adaptations! In this year, we took no formal courses, but still spent time in class at the seminary for different topics. We also had regular days of silence and more time spent in pastoral work. During this year, I spent 6 weeks at the Marian Centre in Regina, part of the Madonna House apostolate. After this year, I began my theology graduate studies at Newman, which were a joy and delight to delve deeper into many of the topics of our faith.
The third year of my theology formation was spent here in the Archdiocese for a year of internship. I was placed at St. Bernadette parish as a seminarian intern for the 2018/2019 year. This was an important year for my seminary formation and discernment, not only because it was a good experience of being in the parish, but also because it was my final year before I would be writing my petition for Holy Orders and ordained as a deacon. Again, like my summers, I appreciated this time to be in the place and with the people I would hopefully serve with. I was ordained to the transitional diaconate on July 16th, 2019, on the memorial of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.
After my ordination, I had a final year of studies to complete my theology graduate program. While in my final year, it was very interesting to be in the seminary now as a deacon, and thinking back about my many years prior when I had always marveled at how close those deacons were to being done. 8 years, the time I spent in total in formation, is a long time– but time certainly flies. My final year was quite busy with my obligations for studies, especially with a synthesis paper and comprehensive oral exam at the end, as well as ministry in a parish every Sunday and starting to regularly preach.
I do recall in early 2020 when things started changing with early COVID-19, and the seminary decided that we would no longer be going out into the wider community so as not to catch the virus. After a week or two though, it became apparent that we couldn’t continue living like that, and that with 40 or more in-house, we would probably end up spreading it to all or end up in perpetual quarantine or lock-down. The decision was made to send us home and to complete our semester studies online.
It was very difficult to finish things from home, and a strange way to finish one’s time in seminary, but I continued to look forward to my ordination which was scheduled for June 13th, 2020. The bishop and I, and the other two to be ordained that summer, decided that we wouldn’t postpone the ordinations due to the pandemic, now seeing that this wasn’t something that would just disappear overnight. And I felt as though God would desire to have another priest maybe especially at this time in the world. I was preparing for a very different ordination than what is usually expected: a small gathering of 10 or so compared to a full cathedral. Thankfully, the indoor capacity increased to 25 a week or so before the date!
I think I had maybe received the news from the bishop in the Spring of 2020 that my posting as a priest would be as the pastor of St. Timothy parish, and I knew then that I had to start praying for the people there. Please continue to pray for me and be assured of my prayers.
I am, in our Lord, yours.
Fr. Brian Trueman
Want to learn more and see more about St. Joseph Seminary where I studied? Check out their website here: https://www.stjoseph-seminary.com/.