Terry Mahoney at St. Philip Neri mass gathering May, 2011
I grew up in a parish that is not well known today, but in my day was well known and helped form the foundation of my present life.
I had two good parents who nourished my faith. My mother introduced me—as she did my two older brothers—to church as a youngster. I was further nourished by my good teachers at St. Vincent de Paul School which was directly behind St. Vincent de Paul Church. We had two teachers who were also religious sisters: one in Grade 1, and one in Grade 8, Sister Adele, who was also the principal.
Teachers at the time considered their profession to be a vocation and they taught us well using the Baltimore Catechism for religious instruction. I also spent time as an altar boy in those early years, when we had to recite the answers to the Mass in Latin. To this day, I still remember my Latin responses
Social life revolved around the church. We had the Holy Name Society for men, the Catholic Women's League for women, and the Catholic Youth Organization (C.Y.O.) for youngsters who played hockey or lacrosse in parish leagues.
Saturday was Confession day, when the whole family lined up for reconciliation.
On Sunday, one did not dare miss Mass in the morning, and to return in the evening for Benediction, which the altar boys also served. Television, unfortunately, changed that. Before the coming of television, people did not rush home in their cars after Mass. They usually gathered outside the church to chat. One also never went by the church, which was always open, without going in for a quick visit even if only for two minutes.
Often, Monsignor Kirby, the pastor, would be there praying. He was known as “The Mons,” and although a strict disciplinarian, had been a holy priest who was responsible for many vocations from the parish. During his pastorate, St. Vincent de Paul Church became known for its many vocations to the priesthood and religious life, including religious sisters. This roster includes the late Bishop Robert Clune, auxiliary bishop of Toronto, who served as president of The Catholic Church Extension Society of Canada, now Catholic Missions In Canada, and the Breens brothers, who became priests, and were featured in The Catholic Register recently. (Monsignor Gerard and Father Basil Breen are annuitants with Catholic Missions In Canada. Editor.)
The High Park area was a great place for growing up. High Park was where we played touch football in summer and hockey in winter. On wintry days, we would gather a bunch of guys, choose sides, climb the fence at the duck ponds, shovel the ice, and then enjoy hockey, often returning to the Mahoneys' (our) house for hot chocolate.
I grew up also with both my grandparents on both sides of the family living nearby, along with aunts and uncles. My parents were married in St. Vincent de Paul Church, and my mother, ever loyal to her faith, had kept a Sacred Heart plaque with a certificate of her First Communion on her bedroom wall until the day she died.
I have had a good life and nothing to regret, unless it was not following through on a vocation to priesthood.
I have lived in Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish for the last 45 years, where I am minister of Communion and lector. For 20 years I led a Bible study group and, before that, a prayer group who met in homes. Since 1957, I have been a Knight of Columbus, and currently a member of Toronto Council 1388. I have been making retreats at Manresa Spiritual Renewal Centre in Pickering since 1956, and serve as captain of the May retreat, helping organize and recruit new participants as well as keep the older guys coming.
I firmly believe God is calling many young and older men to the priesthood and women to the religious life. With the Second Vatican Council, many opportunities have opened for lay men to join the diaconate program or for lay people to become lay missionaries.
Often, God's call is not being heard because of the many distractions in the present world. However, opportunities abound for anyone who hears the call. There are retreats, particularly silent retreats, as well as counsellors waiting to hear from people—places where one can study and discern a possible vocation. It is also important for everyone to pray each day for vocations. God will call for vocations if we call upon Him.
(Terry Mahoney is a member of Catholic Missions In Canada's Legacy Circle.)