by Deacon Serge Buissé
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
I hope to be able to express in words some of my experiences of my pastoral internship year and demonstrate how good God is and how, if we choose by the help of God’s grace to place our trust in Him, He will be able to bring about so much good even from what appears to be only darkness and evil in our sight.
I had already been a seminarian for six full years before I came face to face with the joyful opportunity to finally embark on a pastoral internship year in a parish, back in my home Archdiocese of Saint Boniface, Manitoba. I had been waiting for this opportunity since my first day of being a seminarian because I felt called to journey with God’s holy people, the Church, and thus serve God by laying down my life for others.
The internship year, which had been on my radar for so many years and which was just around the corner, was met, ironically, with another reality – the coronavirus. It was an overconsuming and undeniable reality which placed a large mark on my radar and the radar of the whole globe.
Thankfully, those of us who were at the beginning of the internship year received the green light to proceed with the adventure – regardless of how different an experience it would be for us, and for the whole Church and its shepherds.
I would come to discover right away, however, how necessary it would be for me to have an open heart and mind for any sort of fruitfulness to come from this strange and yet deeply desired year.
The night before I would make my way to my internship parish, I received a text message from the pastor explaining to me how I wouldn’t be starting until after I finished a time in quarantine. This was because the parishioners had heard that I had just come back from a retreat at the seminary.
I was saddened and frustrated that I had received this news just before I was finally to go and begin my internship. That’s when it hit me. This is not my internship, but “it is yours O Lord, and you are leading me.” I had to place all my hopes and desires into the loving arms of God and trust that He would be able to provide for me and lead me through a time of great uncertainty.
How thankful I am now that I was learning this lesson early on in my experience.
After that, I didn’t take the opportunities of ministry I received for granted, since in a real way I could acknowledge that God was permitting them to happen.
I found great peace and joy in living out the present moment instead of idealizing what my experience could be like without the coronavirus. Thus, every encounter with the people of God at the church, the office, Zoom events, or meetings were all sources of great joy for me.
I had the opportunity to teach catechism to children who were in Grade 3 and prepare them for their first Holy Communion.
The first meeting we ever had was in person, yet all of the following encounters would be through Zoom. Again, this experience was an opportunity to place my fears, desires, and feelings into God’s providential care anew.
By the end of my time with those children, I felt so blessed to have journeyed with them, nonetheless by Zoom. I truly believe that God blessed our time together in such rich ways that it will have created a longer-lasting impact on those children and be a source of God’s presence for them who, like all of us, were living in challenging times (and still are).
Always recalling how God’s ways are higher than our ways, I discovered during my internship year how impossible it is for the priest to do all things as I thought I would have to do. My pastor had many years of experience and was busy with all sorts of tasks, responsibilities, conversations, and unexpected needs or circumstances that demanded that he place himself last.
I tried putting myself in his shoes and realized that if God made me a priest, then I would need help and have to truly depend on others from the community to carry the load of ministry to provide for the needs of God’s family here in the parish.
This was a humbling experience, and it made me appreciate the skill of good communication and to see the parish as a larger family. Thus, my once ignorant desire to do all the ministry in the parish myself as a priest was gladly transformed into a more realistic and healthy understanding of what parish ministry would look like, and to understand the diversity of help that is needed so as to bring greater glory to God by serving the needs of all peoples.
On Aug. 4, at the end of my internship year, I was humbly ordained a transitional deacon.
As I continue my last year of studies here at St. Joseph’s Seminary, and as I prepare to become a priest in the summer of 2022, I give thanks to God for His providential care and His great love.
Even though I could have all the reasons in the world to be afraid as I become one of His priests, I have discovered that it would be all in vain, since God’s ways are higher than ours and He truly does want my happiness and those of others, but we must place our trust in Him.
-Deacon Serge Buissé is from East Selkirk, Manitoba, and is in his final year studying to be a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Boniface. Deacon Serge’s Mass of Ordination, presided by Archbishop Albert LeGatt, was held on Aug, 4, 2021 at Saints-Martyrs-Canadiens Parish.