Be Not Afraid: Father Curtis Berube on the “life-giving” call to priesthood

15 February 2024

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Father Curtis Berube is a priest for the Archdiocese of Edmonton and the pastor of Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church in Innisfail. Fr. Curtis grew up within the Archdiocese of Edmonton as the second oldest of 11 children. He entered St. Joseph’s Seminary in 2012 at age 19 and he was ordained to the priesthood in June 2020. Watch his episode of Be Not Afraid here.

When did you first think about the priesthood?

I suppose my first memories of thinking about priesthood or seeing this as an option for my life, would have started when I was a young altar server at Mass. It was an opportunity to interact with priests a little more closely and be involved in the Mass. I remember a couple of the priests encouraging me to be open to a vocation, to think about if God might be calling me to the priesthood. And so that thought stuck with me as a child.

A young Fr. Curtis Berube circa 1990s.

When did your openness to the priesthood become a firm intention?

Well, for most of my teenage years, it was more in the background. It wasn’t something that I thought about seriously. It wasn’t until Grade 12 that I started to get more connected to my faith through different retreats and youth groups and camps that I was involved in. And at that time the idea of vocation started to arise in me some more. Although, at the time, I was more leaning towards the idea of marriage. But still, there was this idea that I wanted to serve, that I wanted to give of myself in whatever vocation God calls me to.

I think I’ve always had the sense that priesthood is a life that is life-giving, that a priest is a minister of God’s grace in a way that no one else can be. And I think that’s part of what I was desiring during that time: to be that source of grace for others.

A childhood moment with family pets.

What happened in the year after high school, before you went to seminary?

I remember the summer that I graduated from high school, I went to World Youth Day. It was 2011 in Madrid, Spain. And that event opened my eyes up to the universal Church. I remember seeing a lot of priests there, and a lot of religious sisters and seeing the joy that they had.

At World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain (2011).

I remember reflecting on that, during the World Youth Day events and almost hearing from God, this question: “Would you be willing to serve me in that way? Would you be there with my people as a priest?”

And then throughout the rest of that year, that thought didn’t leave me alone. Eventually I got to go on a Come and See weekend at St. Joseph’s Seminary. I felt at home there; it felt like that was the natural place for me to go.

Playing soccer at St. Joseph’s Seminary in 2016, four years before ordination.

Do you ever regret not getting married and having children?

Well, marriage is something that I desired. It’s a natural desire to want children and it especially made sense since I had grown up in a large family, surrounded by brothers and sisters. But I also had the sense that if this is what God is calling me to, He’s going to provide a family for me, which is what the Church is, right? Obviously, to choose one thing is to leave something else behind, but I felt at peace with that, for the most part.

Fr. Curtis is the second of 11 children. Pictured here with his immediate family circa 2020.

Did you ever fear the priesthood, especially in those first, few years of seminary?

Ah, yes, definitely some fear. I guess I always saw priests as strong leaders. I had a sense that priests are called upon to lead their community or give answers to hard questions and all of those kinds of things. I didn’t always feel like I was capable of that. I also sometimes feared all of the studies and everything that I would have to do to become a priest. So I had to work through those things in the seminary.

Do you remember when that fear started to subside?

Well, one of my early fears was the academic work of seminary. I had never planned to go to university or anything like it. And I brought a lot of that fear into my first year of seminary. But then, towards the end of that year, when things were going OK, that part of the fear started to subside, and I knew that I could just take this one year at a time and God was with me. God would help me through it.

And then I brought that understanding into other fears that had to do with leadership or public speaking, those other things that I originally feared.

Sharing a meal with fellow seminarians in 2016.

How has the Lord helped you to confront those fears?

Well, I know that I’m able to leave those fears with Him, and give them over to Him and, to ask Him to give me the grace that I need for today. Anytime that I’m able to do that, I feel the sense of peace that I’m looking for. I often look back and I realize that God has been there with me because He’s called me to this. He doesn’t leave me to do it on my own.

How did your parents and siblings react when you told them you wanted to be a priest? 

I remember coming home from that Come and See weekend at the seminary and sharing with them that this is what I want to do. They were supportive. They were happy about that. There were obviously still a lot of unknowns and they knew it was a long journey. And I was pretty young at the time, so maybe there was a little bit of hesitation but they’ve been very supportive over the years of formation. My siblings were pretty excited about it, too.

Father Curtis at his ordination to the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Basilica in Edmonton in June 2020.

As a priest who has only been ordained for a few years, what has been a challenge?

I would say a challenge is the sheer number of different things that come at me constantly. Between moving parishes a couple of times, people sharing with me about their lives, and then trying to guide them, it can be a big learning curve. Day to day, things that pop up, almost everything is new in these first, few years.

Fr. Curtis was ordained in June 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is one part of your daily life as a priest that brings you joy?

I would say witnessing people growing deeper in their faith or being transformed through the sacraments, especially through the Eucharist or through Confession. At the moment of anointing, I love witnessing those joyful moments that are had at a child’s baptism or at a wedding.

Father Curtis with one of the First Communion groups from Our Lady of Peace Catholic Church, Innisfail.

What do you love about serving in the place where you grew up?

Well, something I love about serving in my own Archdiocese, where I grew up, is that it feels like home. This is where I received my faith. This is where God called me to my vocation. I have connections with a lot of different people in a lot of different parishes within the Archdiocese. And I’m just so grateful that I’m able to now serve with those connections, as a priest.

I also love to see when young people receive the faith. Seeing our young people growing in their faith and wanting to respond to God’s calling, is one of the best parts of my life as a priest.

Fr. Curtis Berube at the Mass for Life at St. Joseph’s Basilica, May 11, 2023. Photo courtesy of Luke Fuentebella.

What are you excited to see more of in our Archdiocese?

I look forward to seeing even more unity in the Church. I’m currently in a small-town parish in a rural community, two hours away from Edmonton. We’ve taken a few steps this year to become more closely interconnected within the Archdiocese, to be more involved with things that are taking place in the city, so that brings me joy.

What advice would you give to a man who is drawn to the priesthood, but he is fearful?

Well, I would want to communicate to him that if God is calling you to this, He’ll be with you.

There’s no reason to fear or to think that you have to do this on your own power or with your own strength. If God calls you to this, He’ll give you the grace and He’ll bring you so many blessings through the life that He calls you to. That’s what I found in my own experience. All of those fears I had were ultimately unfounded.

Watch the video version of Father Curtis’ story here.

Visit the website for St. Joseph’s Seminary.

(This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity)

Jenny Connelly – Archdiocese of Edmonton

Be Not Afraid is a series of videos and companion articles that tell the stories of 12 religious sisters and priests who serve within the Archdiocese of Edmonton. Be Not Afraid tells the stories of local vocations in a way that reveals the joy and fulfillment that comes from opening our lives to Christ.

New episodes are released every Thursday. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to watch new episodes each week.