WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Deacon Roger Rouleau will be ordained a priest Dec. 3 at St. Joseph's Basilica by Archbishop Richard Smith.
When Roger Rouleau realized he was being called to the priesthood, he dropped everything to answer the call. His girlfriend supported him. So did his parents.
Now, after years of theological studies, he feels ready for ordination. "I'm completely convinced that this is what God is calling me to do," Rouleau said Nov. 11.
"I feel satisfied and fulfilled. It's somewhat scary because there is a finality to the commitment that is coming up but I have faith that the Lord will carry me through that and I believe that I am ready to take that on."
Archbishop Richard Smith is scheduled to ordain him at St. Joseph's Basilica Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.
Rouleau, 34, is currently serving as a transitional deacon at Holy Trinity Parish in Spruce Grove and expects to remain there until the archbishop says otherwise. He did his internship at St. Thomas More Parish in Edmonton.
"My goal is to be a good and holy priest and that will be achieved through whatever ministry the bishop asks me to do according to the needs of the diocese."
Born in New Brunswick the second of five children, Rouleau and his family have lived in St. Albert for the past 19 years. He was raised in the Catholic Francophone Community of St. Albert, a mission of St. Albert Parish.
His parents, Gerald and Stella, both members of the Catholic charismatic renewal since the 1970s, played an important role in Rouleau's faith formation.
"Mom and Dad together gave us a very solid foundation so that when it became the time for us to choose our faith for ourselves, we had the capacity to do that," he said.
"They always said, 'As long as you are living at home you have to come to church with us.'"
That not only created a habit but also "gave us the skills to be able to discover the faith and the desire to do so."
During his teens, Rouleau became deeply involved in the archdiocesan youth movement, attending numerous rallies and youth events. Eventually he helped found Solid Rock, a group that offered seminars for young people.
"The first time I felt the call (to priesthood) was during some of the Youth 2000 and the Life in the Spirit seminars that were put on (by Solid Rock) back in the early 1990s," he recalled.
"It was through some of those prayer encounters that I first heard the call but I was still in high school so I didn't put too much thought into it."
After high school, during a homily, Rouleau remembers being overwhelmed and feeling God's presence. "And I remember saying (to God) in my head, 'You want me to become a priest, don't you?'
"That was quite an emotional and powerful encounter for me but I didn't want to deal with that."
He headed back to school, got a two-year diploma in marketing at NAIT, worked for a year and then went to the University of Lethbridge to complete a bachelor of management.
"That's where my faith journey took a bit of a leap because now I couldn't rely on my parents to take me to church anymore," he laughed. "If I wanted to go to church, I had to make my choice and make sure that I got there."
In his fourth semester at Lethbridge, Rouleau became part of an exchange program that took him to Mexico City. There he visited the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe several times.
"Through these encounters I feel Our Lady softened me up a little bit," he said.
In the fall of 2000, a few months after getting back from Mexico, Rouleau, then 23, began dating a 21-year-old Protestant woman who was a faith-filled and active Christian.
Her zeal for her faith infected Rouleau, who learned more about his own faith to share it with her.
"Through that, I started to re-discover the Mass. I finally went back to Confession for the first time in at least six years and I started to pray again and I really started to encounter a new level of my faith."
As the relationship continued, the question of marriage came up. "We were asking each other, 'Is this what God is calling us to do?' And that's when the knock came back and I really felt that the Lord was tugging me into the direction of the priesthood."
One day the young woman became distraught as she looked into her future with Rouleau. "She was saying, 'You are Catholic, I'm Protestant, what are we going to do about the kids? Where are they going to be baptized? What Church are we going to bring them up in.' She was quite distraught. It was a very profound question actually. It showed a lot about her wisdom."
That's when Rouleau broke the news to her. "I had to tell her that I felt that I was being called to at least look at the priesthood. She accepted that. She was actually quite supportive. She understood what it meant to have a call and to follow the Lord and his will."
Rouleau took the necessary steps to answer the call but it was a false alarm. "At the time I felt that God was saying 'Not yet' so I continued to work here in the city for a management consulting firm."
After a year with the firm, he went to Toronto to work for World Youth Day for four months.
"I tend to think that's where things started rolling because by April or May of that year I was getting tired of having 9 to 5 office jobs," he said. "It wasn't fulfilling and I had a stronger sense that God was calling me to at least (try) the seminary."
He vowed to be either in the seminary or at least completing his philosophy studies by that September.
Most people he met in Toronto thought he was already a seminarian. "So I felt now, all of a sudden, that the momentum for calling me to the seminary was starting to get stronger."
Rouleau wanted to join a religious community "because I didn't want to be alone in a parish." But out of the many communities he encountered, "there was never one that I felt was calling me forth."
Thanks to a Montreal priest he met at World Youth Day, Rouleau was able to achieve clarity.
On Aug. 5, 2002, while still in Toronto, he picked up the phone and called his mother in St. Albert. "I told her that I thought it was time to come to the seminary and that I felt that the Lord was calling me to come to the archdiocese. Basically her response was 'It's about time!'"
On Sept. 6, 2002 he learned he had been accepted as a priestly candidate for the Edmonton Archdiocese. Three days later he was headed for Christ the King Seminary in British Columbia to study philosophy.
"So within a month and a couple of days my entire world changed. It was a drastic change and it was an exciting moment."
After two years at Christ the King, Rouleau came to St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton. Upon completing his theological studies he was sent to St. Thomas More Parish for his internship.
"That was a really interesting experience for me because I still had a bit of a longing for the religious life," Rouleau recalled. "I still wasn't sure at that time about how I would handle being in a parish. Being in the parish and living that parish's experience really firmed up for me that I was called to ministry here in the diocese."
Following his internship, Rouleau spent a year in Montreal doing studies in his native French at the Grande Seminaire. "I was really quite happy to do that. It allowed me to re-soak myself into the French culture and the French language. It was a wonderful experience."