Vocation to the priesthood prophesied at baptism

| May 25, 2011 | 0 Comments
Deacon LaLiberte

Deacon Nathan LaLiberte, right, helps Bill and Judy Lewis of Divine Mercy in Faribault stock food shelves at the St. Vincent de Paul Center for Charitable Services in Faribault. Bill is the president of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Divine Mercy Conference. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Deacon Nathan LaLiberte said that his grandmother saw his vocation long before he could speak.

“I was baptized on the Easter Vigil and my grandma leaned over to my mom and said ‘that means he has to be a priest,’ which was never mentioned to me until I entered seminary,” Deacon LaLiberte said.

“She would take me to church,” he said. But, he added, he would misbehave so badly that he had to be taken out of the church. “I think it was all the older ladies in the church that prayed for me to behave that led to my conversion.”

Although he was baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith, Deacon LaLiberte said he had a nominal Catholic upbringing.

“I didn’t start thinking about the priesthood until my senior year of high school,” he said.

“I started questioning who I was, what I was, what is truth. . . . I began to go through a conversion of just appreciating what Catholicism was,” said the deacon, now 26.

“My generation grew up with the Internet, so if you have questions you Google them. I Googled a lot of things about the church,” he said. Although he found some things that were false, he also found information that was inspiring, along with being guided by God to a friend who was devout in his Catholic faith.

Only one option

“I decided my senior year that I wanted to go to a Catholic university because I wanted to continue with my faith,” Deacon LaLiberte said. He applied only to the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, despite his mother’s advice to be open to other options. “I said there are no other options.”

While meeting with the campus minister before starting at UST, Father Jeff Huard, spiritual formation director at St. Paul Seminary, came by and asked if he had ever thought about the seminary.

“I said, ‘Father, I don’t even know what a seminary is,’” Deacon LaLiberte said. When he went on an overnight visit at St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul, he thought it was not for him.

“But the Lord has a mysterious way of working,” he said. “The archbishop at the time was Archbishop Harry Flynn and he invited me on a discernment retreat in December at Villa Maria, so I went down with him. . . . He is a great witness to the priesthood, but I did not feel a calling to the seminary.”

Despite his initial hesitancy, Deacon LaLiberte applied to SJV.

“My first years in seminary were like catechesis 101, learning basic prayers like how to pray the rosary, how to go to confession,” he said. “I wasn’t in the best shape going in. But I can tell you that after eight years of formation, it definitely works. My relationship with Christ has become incredibly important to me and has changed and transformed my life.”

Saints stand out

Deacon LaLiberte said he finds the saints refreshing and inspiring.

Two men — St. Vincent de Paul and Blessed Charles de Foucauld — especially stand out because they share the same French heritage that he has, he said. Deeper then that, however, is how they lived as young men and then turned their lives over to God.

“Blessed Charles de Foucauld lived a very pagan, hedonistic life growing up, very self-centered, which was my experience,” Deacon LaLiberte said. “Then he had a very profound encounter with God, through nature, in the desert of Morocco.”

The deacon also learned from reading about St. Vincent de Paul that he became a priest because he wanted to make money from the vocation. But, after he was held in slavery, it changed how he ministered to the poor, Deacon LaLiberte said.

As he looked back at his seminary experience, the deacon said each year of formation added something to help him become an integrated person and more available to the Spirit’s prompting.

“That phrase that it takes a village to raise a child, I’d say it takes a presbyterate to raise a priest. There are so many priests in this archdiocese who have had an incredible role in forming me. And some of the lay parishioners have had a huge impact on how I enter ministry,” he said. “The things that the Lord has knit together are completely beyond me.”

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Category: Ordinations