In one of the largest Catholic events of the year, more than 1,900 faithful came out in full force for the 22nd annual Ordinandi Dinner, an opportunity to hear from men on the cusp of priesthood. Organized by the Toronto area Serra Clubs, it's a joyful occasion for our family of faith to support our priests to be and reflect on the vocation each one of us is called to discern in our own journey.
We heard from four men that will be ordained this May for dioceses including Toronto, Pembroke and Halifax/Yarmouth. What struck me most this year was the joy in each one of these men as they shared their vocation story. Each one included the ups and downs of life but all wove a common thread of being drawn to their faith, falling in love with the idea of the priesthod and coming to the point where they could provide the resounding "yes" to the call, not to mention up to 10 years or formation in some cases.
The dinner has come a long way in 22 years, from humble beginnings to where we are today, with virtually no additional room in the banquet hall for any more guests. There were also close to 300 students in attendance, in no small part due to the extensive efforts of Serrans to build bridges with our Catholic schools, encouraging them to be proactive in fostering vocations. In addition to facilitating participation from the students, chaplains, teachers and even Directors of Education were there to demonstrate their own personal support for the event. Yet the concept remains simple: sharing a personal faith journey. It's a fascinating glimpse into a journey that most don't have the opportunity to hear about.
Fresh on the heels of the elevation of Archbishop Thomas Collins to the College of Cardinals, there was a real energy in the room, a pride in being Catholic and a family atmosphere that was akin to old friends getting together once again. We need to harvest that pride and look for opportunities to channel it in our day to day activities and interaction with others.
There's always an opportunity to recognize priests celebrating significant milestones and this year's dinner was no exception. 10 priests were honoured, ordained 50 years ago in 1962 - imagine the considerable service and commitment they have given to the community over the last half century. It was also a special moment to have Bishop Pearce Lacey recognized, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Toronto and still very much engaged in the life of the Archdiocese at the age of 95 and coming up to 69 years of priestly ordination.
If you were looking for inspiration this Lent, you didn't have to go far.
If you'd like to view a special video produced by Salt & Light Catholic Television for the Ordinandi Dinner featuring a number of Greater Toronto Area priests click here. You can also view additional photos of the evening by clicking here.
Kudos to the Serrans and all who were involved in organizing such a joyful, thoughtful and motivating experience. No doubt a number of seeds were planted and nurtured at this year's dinner. The Class of 2022 may well have been hearing vocation stories last night, unaware that they'll be sharing their own at the podium in 10 years.
To consider: these vocation stories surround us. Perhaps this Lent, it's worth asking a priest or religious order colleague to share their own faith journey with you. You'll likely be inspired so be prepared to pass it on.
Ambassadors for Christ? Has a nice ring to it...