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Journey to Priesthood As part of Catholic Education Week 2018 (May 6-11), PVNC grad Deacon Stephen DeCarlo reflects on his path to priesthood and his faith formation in Catholic school

As a Catholic high school student at Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School in Peterborough, Deacon Stephen DeCarlo remembers the excitement he felt when the parish priest would enter his school to celebrate mass or to simply walk the halls and chat with students.

“It’s one thing for somebody to see a priest at the church where they may or may not get a chance to even shake his hand, it’s another thing when he comes to you, comes to your school. That very presence is very impactful and very meaningful,” the 29-year-old said.

That relationship between the church and Catholic school community is top of mind for Deacon Stephen. In just a few weeks, on May 25, Peterborough Bishop Daniel Miehm will ordain Deacon Stephen to the priesthood.

Peterborough Bishop Daniel Miehm will ordain Deacon Stephen to the priesthood at the Cathedral of St. Peter-in-Chains in Peterborough on May 25 at 7 p.m.

Deacon Stephen will then take on his new role as Associate Pastor of St. Mary Parish in Lindsay, where he will be serving four PVNC schools – St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School and St. Mary, St. Dominic and St. John Paul II Catholic elementary schools.

“ONE THING THAT WILL BE REALLY IMPORTANT TO ME AS A PRIEST IS TO REALLY ESTABLISH A RELATIONSHIP WITH THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY."

“If I was to reflect on my time in the Catholic school system…I loved it when I saw the priest come to the school, so I believe the presence of a priest in the school is very important,” he said. “One thing that will be really important to me as a priest is to really establish a relationship with the school community."

Having recently finished his studies at St. Augustine’s Seminary in Scarborough, where he earned a Master’s in Divinity, Deacon Stephen paid a visit to Holy Cross CSS last week to reflect on his time there (2003 to 2007).

He was joined by PVNC Director of Education Michael Nasello, Fr. John Perdue, Director of Vocations at the Diocese of Peterborough, and recently retired Holy Cross religion teacher Warren Chambers.

The group spoke about the theme of Catholic Education Week 2018 – Renewing the Promise.

From left, retired Holy Cross religion teacher Warren Chambers, Deacon Stephen DeCarlo, PVNC Director of Education Michael Nasello and Fr. John Perdue, Vocations Director at the Diocese of Peterborough. Photo credit: Clifford Skarstedt/Examiner

“I think Catholic Education Week is all about celebrating the fact that the mission of Catholic schools is the mission of the Catholic Church and we’re very much engaged in forming young minds, young hearts and young spirits into the life and mission of the church,” Nasello said.

“Our students have the opportunity to learn about the faith, but they also experience faith through liturgical celebration, through the works of social justice and the works of forming themselves into a Catholic community.”

"We’re very much engaged in forming young minds, young hearts and young spirits into the life and mission of the church."

Deacon Stephen echoed those sentiments, reflecting on his faith formation as a student.

“Coming from a Catholic high school…that environment was influential to me. It reminded me that the Catholic faith is part of me. It was also a place where faith and knowledge were not opposites, they were really two sides of the same coin,” he said. “It reinforced that faith isn’t just something I do on Sundays. Faith accompanies me every single day. To have faith every day, that really struck me.”

Upon graduation, Deacon Stephen began to seriously consider his vocation. At the encouragement of his parish priest at Sacred Heart Church in Peterborough, he joined the precursor to the Saint John Paul II House of Discernment (JPII House), which helps young men to grow in their spiritual lives and to discern whether or not they are called to serve as priests.

“I remember Stephen being fairly quiet, but he had this grin that told me as a teacher that he had this sense of humour, and he was a real thinker, a deep thinker,” Chambers recalled.

"He was a real thinker, a deep thinker."

Deacon Stephen went on to spend three years at St. Philips Seminary in Toronto, earning his Philosophy BA before being accepted into St. Augustine’s, where he has spent the past six years.

Fr. John said he was struck by the fact that a PVNC grad has come full circle, returning to his home Diocese to become a priest and about to serve another generation of PVNC students in that role.

“For a young man to come forward and lay down his life for the service of the gospel and the people and God, this is a great story of hope,” Fr. John said. “There is a lot of beauty in a graduate of PVNC now going on to be of service to the community and a potential role model for other young men who may be considering the same path.”

And for good measure, Deacon Stephen, newly ordained as a priest, will return to Holy Cross to celebrate the final mass of the school year in June.

“That will be a pretty special occasion,” he said.

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Galen Eagle
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