Ordained in 2004, Fr. Jim Corrigan is shown here during his seminary days when the prayer and support of the CWL got him through tough times.
Christmas time, yet the blues swirled around seminarian Jim Corrigan. Indeed, the first semester in a seminary is usually fraught with questioning, searching.
"I was still in the enculturation phase," remembers Corrigan, "learning to be a seminarian, lots of questions and wondering, still with the idea I was going to give it the good old college try and see what happens."
Doubts crept in and Corrigan felt "down."
So God sent his angels.
"It was the holy providence if I didn't receive two or three cards in the mail the next day," says Corrigan. "They said, 'Dear Jim. Thank you for saying "yes" to God's will for your life. Just know that I am praying for you.' The cards were signed by ladies that I didn't know."
The messages on those cards from Catholic Women's League members worked.
"It was an epiphany for me. At that moment I thought 'Corrigan, you have people you don't even know praying for you. You better quit feeling sorry for yourself and get after it.'
"It was very inspiring to me in the sense I knew I was not by myself on this journey. Family and friends were supporting me, but to have people you don't even know commit to supporting you - that was really a very powerful gift for me."
Those angels were members of St. Agnes Catholic Women's League because they had adopted Corrigan under the CWL's Adopt a Seminarian program.
The adoption program was sparked by CWL member Sandra King in the late 1990's. She was taking classes at Newman Theological College and heard people talking about the St. Joseph seminarians in school.
"And it struck me that this was an area that the Catholic Women's League could support - the seminarians' vocation," says King. "They were away from their homes, they were on campus, they need to know the community they are going to serve and this (the adoption program) was one way of connecting them with it."
The convenor responsible for such a venture gave it her OK and today different councils support seminarians who agree to be adopted - spiritually, prayer, remembering their birthdays, inviting them to council special events, sometimes financially.
Corrigan heard about the program before he was adopted.
"I thought it was an outreach for these ladies who by nature have a maternal instinct. I knew the Catholic Women's League serves the Church right?"
So when asked if he was willing to be taken on by a group, he said, "Of course I put my name forward because the idea was these ladies were going to pray for us. There are other benefits, they invite you to their functions, whatever. This was an important thing for me."
Corrigan knew he would need these women's spiritual support during the first year.
"Just like anybody, we are not sure what really God has planned for us, whether we belong there. We know we want to do his will. We are just not sure of what it is."
So the St. Agnes CWL prayed for Corrigan, invited him to brunch and other functions.
"You know it is a great gift to be hanging out with the gals," says the current pastor of St. Theresa's Parish. "These are moms, these are faith-filled women, and they are women of service."
The Adopt a Seminarian Program is voluntary on the part of the seminarian.
But Corrigan says the young men should go for it.
"I would tell them 'You know we cannot do this alone. It is the grace of God and the people of God who are going to help us on this journey. That is the only way we are going to get through it. These people love you.'
"My experience on my journey is if you love the people, they are going to love you back. Certainly the CWL is that personified, really.
"These ladies walk the talk. So if there was anybody humming and hawing about it, I would strongly recommend they humble themselves and allow someone else to love them and pray for them."
Life is a circle and we fast forward about 10 years when Archbishop Richard Smith asked Corrigan if he would be willing to stand as the provincial advisor for the Alberta-Mackenzie Council of the CWL.
"I said to myself 'Thank you Lord,' " says Corrigan.
That was four years ago and Corrigan now says, "I enjoy my time with these gals. They are well organized, they have a very coherent focus, and they are very effective."
A vocations director knows just how powerful prayer can be in a seminarian's life.
Newman Theological Seminary's new president Father Paul Terrio says when both future priests Marc Cramer and Miguel Irizar were interning at Terrio's Holy Trinity Parish, they were adopted by Holy Trinity's CWL. Not only did the women pray for the young men, but they also stitched them a quilt each.
"Both these fellows who received quilts at their farewell of serving in the parish and I am sure the quilts, as well as keeping them warm in the Alberta winter, reminds them of the very real power of prayer from the CWL," says Terrio.
Still the vocations director for the archdiocese, Terrio noted the Edmonton Archdiocese now has 12 seminarians and that he is "grateful to the CWL for asking for God's graces for all the young fellows discerning their call to the priesthood."
Terrio points out how prayer "goes right along with the diocesan pastoral priority of creating a culture of vocations. There are few things more personal than our prayer. Everything flows from our personal motivations. So when we pray for vocations, it is very, very powerful."