Men in Black

Priest by Francisco Osorio

Priest by Francisco Osorio

I was 15 years old when my father left my mother for the neighbour’s wife. It came as a complete shock to me. I didn’t know about my mother’s relationship with my father. Or my father’s with my mother. I identified with her challenges and struggle by default and didn’t have a man to look up to. That is until, Fr. Rhéal.

Father Rhéal our parish priest supported me, my mother, brother, and sister. He was there for me and my family – both as a support for the family, and a spiritual support for me.

My parents’ separation and eventual divorce was hard on me. I was shy, and this accentuated it and I became even more introverted. I struggled with opening up, with family, with friends, with prayer, with God. Looking back, I’m not sure if Fr. Rhéal sensed it or not. But one day, he told me something that has stuck with me ever since.

“At some point in life, everyone always goes through a period where you to experience doubts.  At that time you will question things – God, the church, your faith. You may even fall away from Church. It’s normal. But also know that at some point, you’ll find yourself coming back again.”

At the time, I didn’t know how profound or true it would be for me. I struggled with doubts. Questions challenged me. I became an occasional Catholic. I might go to church on Christmas and Easter, but not by much. I wasn’t practising my faith.

I kept working and living my life. When 2004 arrived my life changed. I was working full time with the Naval Reserves and my contract was ending. Three different work opportunities arrived. They were hundreds and thousands of miles away. I took a job move that moved me more than 3000 miles away.

I found myself in  Southern Ontario (Windsor). I was a stranger in a strange place. No one there knew me. I felt trepidation but also a certainty of being on the right path.

This new path required settling into a new town. I found it easy to focus on working and living alone at home. As an introvert I didn’t have the energy or the interest to connect with people outside of that.

I finally got tired of being stuck in this loop between work and home after about three months. It was Saturday and I had just purchased groceries. I felt a subtle emotional pull on me to take side streets without a destination and see what happened.

ed ahead of me what appeared to be a church steeple. Out of curiosity, I turned towards the church. I slowed down as I approached it and discovered that it was a Catholic Church – St. John Vianney. This pleased me, as I had been looking for a church to go to since getting to Windsor. I kept driving down the street and found after only two blocks that I was at home! I lived only two blocks from the church.

I decided to go to church that Sunday. I’m not sure why- perhaps it was because it was so close. Perhaps it was because I yearned for a greater sense of connection.

I went into that church that Sunday. I immediately had an emotional experience of being at home. I felt the confidence and took the initiative to begin participating more in the life of the parish.

The parish priest was Fr. Thom. He was a dynamic, warm, and joyful man. I call that being ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’. I continued going to that Church and became familiar with him. His fatherly presence and mild paternal authority reminded me of Fr. Rhéal.

After feeling at home at Church I began to have the strength to realize i had to go further. My excuse was that I had lived no better or worse then most other people who had never even believed. Looking back now I realize I was not living the life God wanted for me.

Fr. Thom one Sunday morning preached a powerful homily on reconciliation. I had the strength now to listen. I felt comfortable at home and knew I could change more. I knew it would be difficult and challenge me on the inside.

Eric Parker -  Priest Hurrying to the Traghetto

Eric Parker – Priest Hurrying to the Traghetto

I went to confession six days after that. I sat in the pews, feeling at home but also alone. I thought over all  the sins I had committed over the last 17+ years. I somehow found the strength inside of me to enter into reconciliation with Fr. Thom.

I later learned Fr. Thom and Fr. Rhéal served together in the united states military. Maybe it’s a coincidence that two Priests who were so important in my life knew each other. Yet, I feel it was an act of the Holy Spirit that brought me 3000 miles away from where I started- and still brought me home.

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