A lifetime with strong Catholic roots, service as a member of the Knights of Columbus and a career as a sculptor have slowly but surely placed a call to the priesthood before Ed Gibney.
This fall, he will enter a seminary in Rome for those discerning a vocation to the priesthood later in life.
Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen has recommended that Gibney attend the Pontifical Beda College in Rome, an English-language seminary.
"I really consider that God has called me to be an artist. I believed that was my vocation - and I still think it is part of what I'm supposed to be doing."
At the same time, the idea of a vocation to the priesthood has always been there, first suggested by his uncle, Father Charles Gibney, who served in the Regina Archdiocese (and was a mentor to Bolen).
"I was going off to university for a fine arts degree. And my uncle took me aside one day and said it was about time a Gibney showed artistic talent, but also said: 'You're still single, so keep the priesthood in mind,'" recalls Gibney. "And I didn't!"
For some 25 years, Gibney pursued his career as a sculptor, creating artwork in stone in a range of styles, including abstract works such as the Soul of the Land, which is part of the City of Saskatoon's permanent outdoor collection.
He has also created more realistic designs, such as a statue of St. Anne with her daughter the Blessed Virgin Mary and the child Jesus, which was recently unveiled in Saskatoon.
Born in Canora, Sask., in 1962, Gibney moved to Saskatoon at the age of 16, where he graduated from Holy Cross High School, a classmate of Murray Chatlain, now archbishop of Keewatin-LePas.
Although faith was always part of Gibney's life, his prayer life and his commitment began to deepen when he was elected to the Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus state board 11 years ago, serving in various positions before finally serving two years as state deputy.
Gibney began to focus on spiritual development in the Catholic men's order.
"When I became state deputy, I got to the point of saying that I think all the men in the Church need to be a little stronger in their faith."
At a clergy sports day organized by the Knights of Columbus state council, Bolen commented on Gibney's monthly messages and suggested he discern a call to the priesthood. Surprised, Gibney continued writing his monthly messages and deepening his prayer life.
"When all of these things were happening, it just seemed like it wasn't 'me and faith,' it was 'faith and the Knights of Columbus,'" explains Gibney. "Finally, when we had the second sports day, Bishop Don came over again and said, 'Okay we talked a year ago, I think it's time to put a little more thought into it.'"
This time, Gibney did begin to spend time on discernment. He asked Benedictine Father Demetrius Wasylyniuk of St. Peter's Abbey in Muenster to be his spiritual director.
"Something Father Demetrius said one day tied it all together," says Gibney. "He was telling me about the things that made him recognize God in his life when he was discerning, and I suddenly realized, 'Yes, God has been there all along, I just haven't been noticing.'"
God was there when he needed inspiration to complete a bust of Spiritan Father Michael Troy, who had served many years as state chaplain of the Alberta Knights of Columbus. God was also there when Gibney lost himself in thought and prayer for an entire day, meditating as he was sculpting.
"These were some of the moments where I felt that God was at work in my life," he says. "After that, I spent a week in December in Muenster, at the abbey, just on my own. It just seemed like anything I looked at said, 'Trust.'"
"So I decided: 'Okay, I'm going to trust Bishop Don sees something in me, that God has a plan for me . . . I wouldn't say there has been a flash of lightning or anything. It has been a steady call to discern."