Once a carpenter like Jesus, Curtis Berube now aspires to serve as His priest

21 June 2019

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

In his call to the priesthood, Curtis Berube turns to his family as a continued source of inspiration.

“I don’t know if I can pinpoint a certain moment where I knew I was called to the priesthood. But whenever I reflect on my call to service, I always see the good example of my parents and my family,” said Berube, the second child in a family of 11.

Curtis Berube

“Through being such a big family, each of us has to do our part to support one another. And the way that my parents gave themselves completely for the good of the family and to raise and provide for us, that’s definitely a big part in my vocation to serve.”

Berube will be one step closer to fulfilling that vocation on June 27, when he and fellow seminarian JD Carmichael will be ordained to the transitional diaconate for the Archdiocese of Edmonton. The ordinations will take place at St. Joseph’s Basilica.

Since he entered seminary at the age of 19, Berube has faced doubts, challenges and temptations along the way. But it’s unwavering trust in God, he says, that keeps him directed on his path to priesthood.

“It’s an important reminder that it’s not because of what I can do on my own that I’ve been called to this; it’s about how much I’ll allow God to work through me,” said Berube. “Every seminarian has those moments. Sometimes when you get too focused in on yourself and your own abilities, whether or not you’re the perfect fit for becoming a priest, you lose sight of how God and the Holy Spirit works through the ministry of a priest.

“There are times where I’ve lost sight of that, and started thinking things like ‘Wouldn’t it be easier if I was just an ordinary guy, working a job and having a family?’ But I know I would be running away from my calling. Those temptations are not what He’s called me to do.

“I just trust that God will give me the grace when I need it, and He will guide me through my ministry.”

Growing up on an acreage just outside of Sherwood Park, Berube was home-schooled from Grades 1-12 by his mother. He says one of the main reasons for his parents’ decision to home-school was to ensure that Catholic faith was firm and foundational in his education.

Curtis enjoying some time with the family pet.

Berube was an altar server as a young boy. It’s in those early years that the seeds of priesthood were first planted. He saw the priests as positive role models; they often encouraged young Curtis to consider a future in ministry.

As a teenager Berube began working with his father in carpentry, and thoughts of becoming a priest faded to the back of his mind.

“I got the idea that that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” he said. “To follow in Dad’s footsteps, maybe start a business of my own or become a journeyman carpenter.”

But after his 18th birthday and the completion of his high school education, Berube had the opportunity to attend World Youth Day in Spain. There his childhood thoughts of priesthood abruptly re-blossomed.

“Seeing the universality of the Church, all these young people gathered together, all these priests and religious amongst them…that was a big inspiration me,” he said. “These people were like me, passionate and interested in growing their faith. And seeing all the young clergy there and the joy that they had – it opened me back up to the idea of the priesthood.”

That was in the summer of 2011. When he returned to Alberta, he continued working with his father. Externally they kept busy at their work as finishing carpenters, but on the inside, Berube was weighing his life options. He was uncertain whether he was meant to be a priest of Christ, or to live Christ’s former occupation as a carpenter.

In the fall a friend invited him to a ‘Come and See Weekend’ at St. Joseph Seminary. This twice-annual event offers a free weekend-long experience for men who are discerning a call to the priesthood.

It was there that Berube realized he didn’t have to know something for certain before taking a chance. He decided he needed to give the seminary a try.

“Those guys in the seminary were in the same situation as me – just trying to find God’s will in their own lives,” he said. “That really opened my eyes. I didn’t have to have it all figured out, I didn’t have to know for sure if I was called to the priesthood. But from that point onward, I knew I had to pursue it further.”

Berube brought his intentions to the family, then applied and entered the seminary in the fall of 2012.

“I don’t know if it was a big shock to my family, but they’ve always been supportive through this whole journey,” he said. “They raised us to be open to God’s will, whatever it is.”

Having been home-schooled all his life, Berube worried at first about how he would handle the academics. But as the years went on, delving more and more into the sacraments and complexities of theology provided some of his most rewarding moments. Gaining a more profound and scholarly understanding of the Church further encouraged his certainty that the priesthood was his vocation.

A young Curtis practices his archery skills.

“Studying theology really deepened my faith,” he said. “I already knew what the sacraments were, but learning the history, the way they are rooted in Scripture and the life of Jesus, made me think so much more about why the Church teaches what she does.

“Everything the Church teaches is not just something arbitrary. It all comes from deliberations through the centuries — the councils, different scholars, and of course the inspiration of the Holy Spirit too.”

Berube will soon finish his internship at St. Anthony’s Parish in Lloydminster. Since September of last year he’s assisted at masses, helped lead the altar servers, and played a key role in starting a new youth group. That group, catering to students in Grades 4 to 7, now averages as many 40 students at each event. Berube expects it will continue long after he completes his internship.

“It’s exciting to see how the kids have responded to it,” he said. “They have an opportunity to connect more with each other, with the parish, and to get more in touch with their faith.”

Curtis is the second child in a family of 11.

“It’s been a good year. I’ve made good friendships; many parishioners I will miss seeing. But I hope to get back there and visit, maybe as a deacon but definitely as a priest. I hope to assist Mass there as an ordained priest and give thanks for everything that I’ve gained from that experience.”

Working with Rev. Antony Michael SAC and Rev. Selvaraj Rayappan SAC, Berube says he discovered so much through witnessing their ministries. He saw the fluctuations of the Church year, like the work preparing for Christmas and Easter and the slowdowns in between. As well, he saw the priests networking to bring the people of the parish together to ensure events, initiatives and other work of the parish run smoothly.

“They’ve been good mentors for me. Both of them are very generous men who give themselves completely to serving God, His Church and His people,” said Berube. “I saw how being a priest is being a leader in the community too. A priest needs to give all that he can, but realize too that it’s not all up to him. You have to try and get other people involved in the planning and the responsibilities that come.”

With his 26th birthday on June 1, it’s now been a seven-year journey for Berube. As he prepares for his next major step into the transitional diaconate, he says the goal of priesthood feels more real than ever.

Berube fishing with family.

When he comes home to visit now, he is continually met with questions from his younger siblings, about the faith and about his new role as deacon. Despite the interrogations, Berube says the support of his family is something he always considers a blessing.

After diaconal ordination, Berube returns for a final year at St. Joseph Seminary, including his synthesis for a Master of Divinity degree. With a couple of weddings in his summer schedule, Berube looks forward to arriving there in his new role as deacon. He will also be given a new parish placement in the fall, so he hopes to gain more preaching experience and to have the opportunity to baptize someone into the Church.

But all of this is leading up to the crucial moment when Berube will petition Archbishop Richard Smith for his full ordination to priesthood. Through his unwavering trust in both God and the example set by his family, Berube is determined to see his vocation through.

“The biggest thing I’ve learned is that I just need to trust in Him,” said Berube.

“I don’t need to have all the answers right now. I just need to trust that when the moment comes, He will give me the help and the inspiration to live out my ministry and work through me.

“This whole journey  ̶  it’s been a process of learning to trust in God. I hope I can carry that into my diaconate and eventually into my priesthood.”