January 2013. I was 21 years old and in my second year of philosophy at the diocesan seminary in Vancouver, Canada. As usual, a priest from outside the diocese had come to hold spiritual exercises for us. That year, Fr Vincent Nagle had been invited to preach the retreat, and he stayed with us for a week, addressing the theme, “If Jesus is the answer, what is the question?”.
It was my 7th year in seminary -having spent five in minor seminary before continuing the path into major seminary- and I felt a strong desire to depart for mission. For this reason, during the spiritual exercises, I went to get to know Fr. Vincent. After a brief exchange of words, I asked him: “Fr. Vincent, during the summer, I’d like to go on mission, but I do not know where…how can I figure it out?” “Andrew,” he said to me,”It is very simple. You need to ask Jesus. But you do not only need to ask: you need to beg. I’ve tried this and it works!” At that moment, I had a strange experience. I saw Jesus -not Jesus with long hair and a beard and smiling brown eyes- but I perceived His presence in an unmistakable way. A thought ran through my head: God exists, it is possible to encounter Him and if Fr. Vincent made me encounter God, then I want to go to the place where he was formed. “Fr. Vincent, where are you from?” I asked him. “I belong to a group of missionaries called the Fraternity of St. Charles. We have a seminary in Rome; if you are interested, you could see if it is the right place for you as well.”
That evening, I called my parents to tell them how the retreat had gone. “Yes, yes, everything is fine…listen, I met this missionary priest and he told me that they have a seminary in Rome. I really think I need to go there.” “But…what are you saying?,” my mother responded. “You have been studying to become a diocesean priest for so long, all of your friends are here, as is your family. If you really want to live religious life, why don’t you consider the Benedictine monastery in Vancouver or another community with a longer tradition?” And actually, she didn’t have it all wrong…Yet, my reasoning seemed right: “I met a priest who allowed me to see Jesus and I want to be a priest who shows the face of Christ to others. Therefore, even if I know that I need to leave practically everything that I have now, I need to go, to see if the Fraternity of St. Charles is where God wants me.” In reality, almost two years passed before this decision took on flesh.
I met a priest who allowed me to see Jesus and I want to be a priest who shows the face of Christ to others.
After that meeting, in fact, I wrote to the rector of the formation house in Rome, expressing my desire to join the Fraternity. Fr. Francesco kindly invited me to contact the head of the Fraternity in North America, who referred me to another priest… And from him, finally, I was able to get some answers to my questions. Fr. Pietro said to me, “Fine, fine … but are you familiar with the movement of Communion and Liberation? Our Fraternity belongs to the Movement and you cannot be a priest of St. Charles without belonging to the Movement.” “Ah,” I replied. “I don’t know anything about Communion and Liberation.” “OK, so that’s the point you need to start from.”
In June of 2015, I entered the House of Formation in Rome. During the previous two years, I entered into contact with the community of CL in Canada, but it was in belonging to the Fraternity of St. Charles that I was introduced even more fully into the life of the Movement.
In these eight years of formation, I’ve discovered that everything is born from the first encounter. Year after year, it became increasingly clear to me why God revealed Himself to me in such an obvious way those ten years ago. And on the 24th of June, the definitive reason for my encounter with Vincent will become even more clear, as well as what was born from it: to be ordained a priest of the Fraternity of St. Charles, so as to continue to safeguard my first desire, which was to render visible the face of Christ to everybody that I meet.