Francis Tesalona, Matthiew Gratton and Luke Tamayo were among 15 men who attended a recent Come and See retreat at St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Francis Tesalona, Matthiew Gratton and Luke Tamayo were among 15 men who attended a recent Come and See retreat at St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton

December 1, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Luke Tamayo has been thinking about the priesthood for years. But before making a decision, the 28-year-old St. Albert architect wanted to meet other people who felt called to serve the Lord as priests.

"I wanted to meet the full spectrum of people who feel like me," Tamayo said in an interview.

On Nov. 21 Tamayo came to a Come and See retreat at St. Joseph Seminary and found plenty of company – 14 others who were pondering the same question.

"After meeting with all of them I felt I'm not alone," Tamayo said. "I was happy to see there are other people like me."

St. Joseph Seminary offers two Come and See retreats a year – one in winter, the other in the spring. Seven attended last year's winter retreat, compared with 15 this year.

Throughout the Nov. 21-23 weekend, participants experienced seminary life by attending Mass each day, learning about life in the seminary, listening to vocation stories from current seminarians and taking part in fun events.

This year the seminary is packed with seminarians so there wasn't even enough room for all those attending the retreat. At least three had to be placed in alternative accommodations.

The seminary began its fall term with 53 seminarians, the largest number in almost 50 years.

Seminary rector Father Stephen Hero called the weekend a success.

So did Tamayo, who now understands discerning a vocation is a process and that he has options. "When I came here I was afraid I was going to be sucked into something that I was not expecting," he said. "But there was absolutely no pressure put on me."

Matthiew Gratton from St. Vincent, a small community near St. Paul, came to the retreat "mostly to learn" about what it takes to be a priest.

In his parish, the 17-year-old serves at the altar and on a number of committees. He and his brother attend Catholic camps and an annual youth rally called Youth for Truth.

"The priesthood has been on my mind for as long as I can remember and I want to see if God really wants me to be a priest," Gratton said. "Otherwise, I will join the trades and become a power engineer or something."

At the retreat, Gratton learned he has choices. If for some reason he can't become a priest, he could become a permanent deacon. "Coming here has opened my eyes," he said. "And I made some awesome friends."

Francis Tesalona, a Filipino who has been in Edmonton for about five years, is familiar with seminary life so he felt at home during the Come and See retreat.

Back in his home country, the 48-year-old man had spent three years with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He left the Oblates when the order refused to renew his vows. He never knew why but suspects it was because he couldn't keep the vow of poverty.

"Now I'm here reconsidering my vocation," he said of his attending the retreat. "I want to be a priest for the Edmonton Archdiocese. If the archbishop accepts me, I would be a happy man."

Tesalona is supervisor at a gasoline station and member of St. Theresa Parish. His pastor, Father Jim Corrigan, encouraged him to attend the retreat. "I'm glad I came. Being here is like being home again."