Fr. James DeBeer

Fr. James DeBeer

July 7, 2014

Men who consider joining the priesthood were likely encouraged to do so by a priest, yet many priests are reluctant to talk to youth about religious vocations, says Father James DeBeer, director of vocations for the Winnipeg Archdiocese.

"The most successful invitations come from pastors and parish priests," says DeBeer, adding, "A great majority of priests do not encourage the young to join them."

DeBeer made the remarks at an Evening for Vocations June 4 at Winnipeg's St. John XXIII Parish.

"Why is it so difficult to ask a young person to consider religious life? Priests say they once felt pressured, and didn't like it, and don't want to put that same pressure on someone else.

"There is also a fear of rejection, and perhaps embarrassment because of abuse scandals, and fear of what the parents of those young people might think if they bring it up with them. Other priests might say they just can't relate to young people."

DeBeer was ordained in May 2008 and is pastor at Christ the King Church in Stonewall, Man.

"We're all in this together – one Church, all building up the kingdom of God," he said. "Our job is to work together to find the people who can be leaders in our Church."


"It is because of so many people that I was able to discern that God was calling me to the priesthood. I always laugh when I talk about God's call for me," he said.

He recalled a pre-ordination talk with previous Archbishop of Winnipeg James Weisgerber who asked him when he expected to be ordained. DeBeer began with "Well, the Good Lord willing. . ." Weisgerber stopped him, saying, "No, you willing."

"It's important for all of us to invite; we are all vocations directors for each other," he said. "In our world today young people are pulled in all directions."

DeBeer quoted Mother Teresa, saying. "'God calls us not to be successful but to be faithful.' Life is not about trying to be what the world wants us to be, but being the person God wants us to be and this, I believe, is our vocation."

The main reason a person does not consider a religious vocation is because they were never asked, he said.

DeBeer said each of the ordained bring different gifts and skills, "but what transcends them all is that our vocation is rooted in our Baptism, we all share a call to holiness."

"Many people do not understand the word 'vocation,'" DeBeer said. "They think of it as a trade. Perhaps we could do a better job of getting people to understand that a vocation is the calling of their life."


Benedictine Sister Mary Coswin told the gathering that being a sister "is not about being perfect or unbroken. God called me to be a Benedictine sister not because I was especially holy."

Coswin is vocations director for the Sisters of St. Benedict north of Winnipeg.

Pope Francis, she said, wants a Church not of promotion but of attraction. Her own schooling at St. Benedict's Academy "attracted me. I was attracted by the sisters' goodness. They worked hard and they were strict, but they loved the girls."

Coswin described the chapel windows as "glorious in the morning and evening. God was reaching me through those stained glass windows and through the prayers. That was more than 50 years ago and I am still trying."

"Wake up the world," she said. "Be witnesses of another way of living. By sharing our goodness we wake people up to how Jesus lived, a life of welcoming and compassion and service."

The father of a recently ordained priest, and another son currently in seminary, said those sons and their siblings grew up in a home that was "pretty ordinary" but their mother "taught the kids to pray about everything."


Kerry Wilson, whose son Father Kelly Wilson was ordained in the Winnipeg Archdiocese in May, said "it's pretty significant stuff to pray as a family. It is the answer in many ways, even if sometimes you want to run out the door instead of saying a prayer."

Wilson does not believe he and his wife Kate "produced" a priest and a seminarian. "It's everybody's job," he said.

Wilson said too often a young person who shows some interest in religious vocations gets that door slammed shut by someone else.

"They say, 'You don't want that, there's no money in that.'

"Let's stand up for what the Church stands for. People are drawn to things that require strength and courage and the Gospel is full of strength and meaning and those that deliver the Gospel have very meaningful lives. It's not like anybody else's job."