Office of Vocations

English and French sector:

Rev.  Michael Goring
St. Columbkille Cathedral
188 Renfrew St.
P.O. Box7
Pembroke, Ontario
K8A 6X1
Tel: (613) 732-8513

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Fishers of Men | part 1


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Bishop Barron: Adoration

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Each priest of the Diocese of Pembroke came to understand his vocation to priesthood as a unique call. Each one heard God’s call and responded. For some that call came immediately after High School and for others it came to them later in life.

The story for each is a unique story. Perhaps in reading about the call of one of our priests you may also discern God’s call for you in your life.

Take a few moments and see if any call experienced by one of these priests speaks to you:



Father John Burchat

I was raised in a Catholic family of 4 children that always, wherever we lived, participated in the various realities of parish life and was always welcoming of our parish priests. Having two aunts as Sisters of St. Joseph meant that the vocation of religious life was respected as a Christian way of life and always considered a personal possibility—if God called. Experiencing a religious awakening as a teenager, I was given two unique gifts: the realization that to live without God is truly “catastrophic” and secondly, I was given a kind of illuminating realization of the reality and implication of the Resurrection of Christ.

During this time, I also went on several weekend retreats where the personal witness of the priest directing the retreat provided further compelling evidence of the attractiveness of a life lived in Christ. These experiences proved overwhelming enough to compel me to consider the possibility that the Lord may be calling me to be a priest. Later, in the seminary, I would realize that Jesus was first of all really calling me to be a disciple and Christian. Without an about change of planning at the end of Grade 12 in 1983, I knew my life was taking a new direction. Discovering their advertisement in a Vocation Supplement to the Catholic Register, and with the blessing of Bishop Windle, I decided to spend a year at Madonna House in Combermere in their Spiritual Formation Program.

It was there that I lived and breathed the culture of Christian faith and life as manifest in the goodness and beauty of this unique Christian community within the Catholic Church. With the help of a spiritual director, the women and men of the Madonna House Apostolate, and the quietness of a year away from schooling of any kind, I was enabled to discern the signs of a calling to the priesthood. This would further be tested and clarified in the 8 years of seminary formation at St. Peter’s Seminary in London where I would also receive an excellent intellectual formation in the Catholic heritage of faith. Ordained in my home parish of St. Casimir’s in Round Lake Centre in 1993, I have since enjoyed working in the Lord’s vineyard beside dedicated pastors, religious and faithful.

Father Garry Cain

Hello, my name is Father Garry Cain. I was born in 1942 and ordained to the priesthood in 1966. The invitation by our Diocesan Vocation Director to write about myself and my calling to the priesthood came as a surprise.

Why me? I’d rather not do it. Maybe I’ll ask him to find someone else. That’s odd I thought! That is how I felt when I first reflected on the priesthood. Why me Lord? Maybe you should ask someone else! I’d rather not, thank you!

My call to the priesthood didn’t come over a loud-speaker. It was more of a whisper gradually discerned over the years. From early on, I remember my mother saying to the kids from time to time: “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God would bless our family with a religious vocation?”

Yeah! Maybe one of my sisters could become a nun, I thought. We are a family of two boys and two girls. No religious vocation for me, no way! But strangely, the seed was planted. I was fortunate to know several good priests during my boyhood. One became a life-time friend. “These are really great guys,” I thought and they had time to share the ordinary fun things of life with us. It is not surprising that is where the whisper to the priesthood began to take shape—in the ordinary events of life.

Peter and Andrew were fishing;
Andrew and John were mending their nets;
Matthew was sitting at the customs house.

And thus it was that at the end of high school, I went to the seminary. I had to go and see. I thought I could check it out, then check out of the place and get on with life. But that damn whisper wouldn’t go away! Over the next 7 years, I slowly began to trust the whisper, that indeed God was calling me to the priesthood. The “why me Lord”—I still couldn’t answer. I remember Ordination morning. Kneeling beside my bed I prayed: “Dear God, I hope you know what you are getting yourself into.”

It has been almost 36 years since that eventful morning, I still hear the whisper now and again. I still give the little I have to give, like the boy with the 5 loaves and two fish. I trust God more now, I believe more in the poem about “Footprints.” I am rather busy as Pastor of a bilingual English-French parish. I could use your help. Yes you, the person reading this. I need your help—so does God. Say a little prayer about it—no matter what else—ask God to guide you in your vocation. If you listen, sometimes you will hear the whisper. And when you do, talk about it to someone you trust. Do not be afraid.

Father Bill Kenney

When I look back on my call to the priesthood, I first of all think of my family life and the witness I received from my parents and family life. Prayer, Church and celebrating faith life was an important part of growing up. As I came to the end of High School I gave serious consideration to the priesthood although it had been on my mind for some time. My final decision to become a priest came about in the final years of theology. I remember coming to the realization that I could find happiness as a married person or as a priest, and that I was free to choose—the decision was mine to make.

Now after more than twenty-five years of priesthood I look back on many years of happiness in God’s service to His people. The blessings that have come my way as a result of my vocation are too many to count. If any young man feels the calling to serve and love God through the priesthood, my advice is to check it out through talking to a priest or through arranging a visit to the seminary. Often God’s call is understood through the feeling that this is the right thing to do. I am quite sure that if the priesthood is not a young persons call it will become evident in the process of searching.

All that I can say to one who is looking is that through prayer, talking and searching, you will come to know God’s call for you.

Father Mitch Beachey

There is nothing exciting about my call to the priesthood. I was raised in a small town and grew up like every other kid in the town. I felt called to the priesthood at a young age but there were so many things that I wanted to be when I grew up.

I went to work with my father in his construction business. I drove dump truck and operated heavy equipment until I was 26. It was then that I finally decided to see if God was calling me to the priesthood.

I entered the seminary at age 27. I did three years of philosophy and then entered theology. At present I am a deacon and I will return to the seminary for my final year of preparation for the priesthood.

The years I have spent preparing have been the most rewarding years of my life. It has not always been easy, but with perseverance and the grace of God, I manage to get through all the difficulties, in fact, they have made me a better person.


Neil Kuisma

I was raised in the Lutheran faith as a child and continued to practice until I got married at the age of 23, I married a Catholic girl. For a few years I continued to attend the Lutheran church and also the Roman catholic church with my wife Marilyn. As the years went by I attended the Roman Catholic church on a regular basis with my family. During our years in Elliot Lake, I was first introduced to the Diaconate program as there were several Deacons practicing in Elliot Lake, I was fascinated by their role.

About 1992 I began to seriously consider converting and finally was confirmed into the Roman Catholic church in April 1995, the Diaconate was still in the back of my mind, and I began to search for a formation program in the different parts of the country that we traveled to. Finally, after our move to Deep River in 1997 I found a program in 1999 in Ottawa.

My reasons for continuing the journey that I started with my conversion, left me on a high and a need to further deepen my understanding of the church, its teachings and what it meant to be a disciple. I felt a need to serve the church in some capacity, this need was fulfilled partly by my participation in various lay ministry roles, but I felt this need to look for opportunities to deepen my understanding of discipleship and service and felt that I could do that through the Diaconate formation program.

As I continue this formation program it has deepened my understanding of the concept of discipleship and service that we are all called to. The program is helping Marilyn and I to understand some of our strengths and weaknesses and as we continue this journey of formation and discernment. The program offers opportunity to share thoughts, aspirations with others and to ultimately prepare both of us for a life of service to the people to God.

Don Smith

I have known for many years now that God was calling me. Back in the late fifties, I was a novice with the Christian Brothers and loved it. However, because of my eyesight, I was refused admittance to Teachers’ College so the brothers released me since they are a teaching order. As God would have it, I became a high school teacher after graduation from university and had a wonderful career in education. There was however always that pull in the background. The problem for me was how to answer that call as a married man.

Several of the Pembroke clergy encouraged me to become a Permanent Deacon. I did not even know that this ministry existed, so I began enquiring about it and reading about it. The deacon is above all a servant to God’s people and his prime purpose is to serve. The stole worn diagonally over the shoulders is symbolic of the towel Christ wore at the Last Supper to wash the feet of his disciples. My own interest has been to serve in the ministry to the sick and to the bereaved, but deacons are involved in any ministry that serves people. Deacons are self supporting and in return for their service are allowed to officiate at various liturgical functions, and to administer several of the sacraments. Over the past 21 years, Nancy and I have been active in a number of ministries such as Marriage Preparation, and RCIA. We have helped to put on marriage courses in Arnprior, Renfrew and Round lake. I had the privilege of serving on an RCIA team for three years and was further privileged to sponsor a young man into the church who is now on the team. For a number of years now, I have been the spiritual advisor to the Cursillo group here in Arnprior, an appointment made by the pastor. Now that I am retired from teaching, I hope to serve the people of God in a much more direct way. Last year, Bishop O’Brien consented to sponsor me in the four year discernment and formation program for Permanent Deacons. The wives take the program with us so Nancy and I feel blessed to be part of this process. We are enjoying every aspect of the program and the new friends we are making in the process. We look forward to the day when we can serve the people of the Church of Pembroke in a deeper way as a Deacon couple.


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188 Renfrew Street
PO Box 7
Pembroke, Ontario
Canada K8A 6X1
613 . 732 . 7933 ( t )
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