Greg Smith-Windsor, a seminarian for the Saskatoon Diocese, is offering a cup of coffee and some vocation-centred outreach while he serves his pastoral year at a Saskatoon parish.
Smith-Windsor is making himself available for an hour each month at a local coffee shop, ready to answer questions or just chat about discerning the priesthood, seminary life or serving in a parish.
"Once guys enter the seminary, they have a real sense of fraternity. But there is no real sense of fraternity for someone who is simply thinking about the seminary," said Smith-Windsor, who is studying at St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont.
"My idea was to give someone who is thinking about the priesthood some sense of camaraderie."
At the same time, he says he is willing to open up the conversation to anyone who is curious about his vocation, and about the life of a seminarian – or who simply wants to talk. "I am not going to put limits on how God wants to use this idea, or whatever conversations might happen," he said.
On occasion, seminaries will hold open houses, where anyone interested can come and learn about the day-to-day life of seminarians. But for those living in Saskatoon (where there is no Catholic seminary), one option is to simply talk to a seminarian about their experience, he noted.
"At the very least, those who come by can get a free cup of coffee," he adds with a smile about the initiative that he has dubbed From Mochas to Melchizedek.
Smith-Windsor has been working with Myron Rogal, co-ordinator of the diocesan vocations office, to get the word out about the coffee opportunity, to be held for an hour on the first Tuesday of each month at Starbucks on 8th Street.
Currently serving at St. Patrick Parish in his pastoral internship year, Smith-Windsor is involved in parish activities and liturgies, as well as providing outreach to elementary schools, a nursing home, and working with altar servers.
He is also co-ordinating a 10-week sacramental preparation program for those who might have missed the opportunity for first Reconciliation, Confirmation or first Eucharist at an earlier age.
As for his own vocation discernment, Smith-Windsor highlights a mission trip to Vancouver several years ago, where he was struck by the words of a vocations prayer.
It petitioned God for faithful priests, deacons, brothers and sisters "who will love you with their whole hearts, and will happily spend their whole lives making you known and loved by all."
While the prayer greatly moved him, at the time it seemed to be a prayer for others – those who would step forward in response to God's call – and didn't directly involve his own life, Smith-Windsor recalled. However, praying those words gradually brought the prayer closer to home.
It was the Church's teaching on celibacy that next captured his attention, when six months later, he was watching a debate between a Jesuit priest and a Protestant pastor, in which the priest said as a celibate priest, he is married to his bride the Church, and pours himself out for her, just as a husband does for his wife.
"The beauty in that statement was just too powerful for me to ignore. I just had to discern at that point," said Smith-Windsor. "Even on my worst day, I can't see myself having more joy doing something else. It's a very joyful life."
Smith-Windsor adds that it is the goodness of the People of God that motivates him to keep going, and to try and do better each day. "I just want to serve."