Scrupulous spirit stood in the way of Nemcek's vocation

Deacon Peter Nemcek will be ordained a priest for the Winnipeg Archdiocese on July 3.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Deacon Peter Nemcek will be ordained a priest for the Winnipeg Archdiocese on July 3.

June 1, 2015
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

He was only seven years old. But little Peter Nemcek was scared witless to make his first Confession. He hadn't committed any grave sin, yet he was petrified.

The priest in his hometown parish of St. Nicolas in Trnava, a city in western Slovakia, was known to be strict.

"I had never been to Confession so when my friend confessed and said the priest is kind of strict, I thought, 'Oh, that's scary,'" Nemcek recalled. "I was probably sweating, I was pretty scared."

He rushed through his Confession and soon after, dressed in his full suit and tie, Nemcek received the third sacrament, Holy Communion. As scrupulous as he was shy, the experience did not settle well with the young boy.

But on July 3, Nemcek, 28, now a seminarian at Edmonton's St. Joseph Seminary, will be ordained to the priesthood at St. Mary's Cathedral in Winnipeg - a childhood dream come true for the deacon, whose vocational aspiration was for many years dashed, all because of that terrifying, first Confession.

"I thought that I was unworthy to receive the Communion," said Nemcek, whose nerve-wracking Confession had not met his early standards of perfection. "I thought I didn't confess properly, like 'Should I say this? Should I not?' Feeling that way can be described as scrupulosity."

What began as a little bit of self-consciousness over his first Confession would snowball into exaggerated fears that he had, at just seven years old, committed the mortal sin of profaning the Eucharist.

The belief that he had received the sacrament in an unholy state haunted Nemcek into his adolescence. He continued attending Mass with his family in Slovakia, never telling a soul about his fear.

He did not dare discuss it with any priest, until he came to Canada as a young man to pursue his post-secondary studies.

BOUND FOR MEDICAL SCHOOL

Nemcek was finishing a science degree at the University of Manitoba in 2009 with plans to study medicine when he met a priest, Father David Creamer. The Confession he finally made with Creamer changed the course of his life.

"I felt at ease with him and so I told him the problem was that I felt like at one point I didn't receive a sacrament," said Nemcek.

That day he received confirmation that the belief which had anguished him since he was seven years old - that he had received the Holy Eucharist in an unholy state - was not true. Finally, the barrier that had been blocking his greatest aspiration for so many years was lifted.

"I was so relieved," said Nemcek. "The first thing that came to me after that was 'Well, I could be a priest. There's really nothing in the way.'"

Nemcek started meeting with Father John Kracher, a priest he had met through a diocesan youth group, who he said played a pivotal role in his decision to enter seminary.

BRILLIANT AND FRIENDLY

Kracher, a Marionist priest, described the multilingual Nemcek as "obviously brilliant, friendly, bright and open. He's certainly open," he said, a far cry from the timid little boy in Trnava who feared the confessional.

"I'm just glad that he's offering himself to Jesus and to the Church," said Kracher. "I think that's a beautiful progression."

Nemcek said his penchant for scrupulosity has all but disappeared, but when he's not careful, he could fall back into that trap.

Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon said Nemcek's rich cultural background and familiarity with languages strengthen his ability to relate to people. In addition to English, he speaks Czech, Hungarian and Slovak.

HOPE FOR THE FUTURE

Gagnon said he, along with people across the diocese, are looking forward to the ordination, which will take place at the same time as the ordination of Nemcek's fellow seminarian, Deacon Christopher Dubois.

"Catholics always feel uplifted when there are ordinations because it bears hope for the future," said Gagnon. "It's also inspirational for younger people too to consider what a religious vocation is. So it sort of has an educational aspect as well as a spiritual aspect."

Nemcek's father, mother and brother's family will travel from Slovakia and Prague to attend the ordination.