You never know who God will call—or when.
From The Ottawa Citizen in Canada:
At age 60, Léo Villeneuve can look back on much: life as a father and hockey Dad, the joy of grandparenting, a full career in nursing, the sudden plunge into widowhood.
All of which prepared him, strangely, for Friday, when the short, amiable man shatters Catholic convention. Villeneuve was to be ordained a priest in a ritualized ceremony in L’Orignal, his hometown about 80 kilometres east of Ottawa.
“Nervous? Yes,” he said one day this week in his office at francophone Sainte-Marie parish on Innes Road. “But not doubts, but nervous for the celebration. It’s a great, big moment in my life.”
Villeneuve said he had flowers waiting in his car, to be placed on his wife’s grave before the service. He married Claire Pilon in 1975, only to suddenly lose her in 2005 from an apparently undetected combination of heart failure and cancer.
It was a week after their 30th wedding anniversary, celebrated in hospital. She was 52.Here was a man who grew up saying the rosary while kneeling on the kitchen floor on the dairy farm, led by Cardinal Léger on the radio, which he can still picture alongside his mother’s devout presence.
A crisis of faith? You bet it was.
“It did shake my faith,” he said of his wife’s death in the same year they were making retirement plans. “At one point, I gave up. I kinda gave up.”
For about 18 months, he couldn’t even attend Sunday mass. “I was angry at Him.”
Well, time heals. Eventually, he was asked to take a leadership role as a layman at a small church in Eastern Ontario. He agreed. Meanwhile, he tried dating again, but it wasn’t to be.
He found solace in liturgical studies and became a deacon. Eventually, he enrolled at a seminary in Montreal, where he studied for two years. There were retreats, spiritual counselling, a lot of prayer, pastoral work at the Orléans church.
After one weekend retreat in particular, he felt ready. His grown children, Josée and Francis, supported him.
“For me, marriage was my first vocation. The priesthood is another vocation.”