My parents weren’t religious people although they displayed many virtuous and admirable traits. My mother was (and still is) hard working, generous, and full of integrity. My late father was loving, charming, and always the life of the party. Thus, my brother Jason and I had an enjoyable and relatively drama-free childhood.
In high school, I met this cute, humble, unassuming girl named Gail. We were partnered together by chance in our school musical “Lumberjacks and Wedding Belles” (I’ll let you guess who was who) and we quickly hit it off. They say that opposites attract and we’re living proof: I was the loud and boisterous Student Council President while she was the quiet and polite student.
Gail had immigrated to Canada from the Philippines a couple of years prior. Born and raised Catholic, she was very dedicated to her faith. Her faithfulness had a positive and grounding effect on me, even if she didn’t impose her beliefs on me. She’d write simple prayers like the Hail Mary and Glory Be in my agenda book; I’d discover them when I went to write down my homework.
I started going to Mass every Saturday night with Gail and her family – mostly for the free dinner afterwards. At Mass itself, I was curious, respectful, and inquisitive. Gail never forced me to go with her, rather she was inviting and encouraging.
Gail and I joined a youth choir in the Fall of 1992 at the same time I began RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). Now I was at Mass every Sunday morning with a purpose and I was physically closer to the altar. I became more observant and interested in what the priest and servers were doing throughout the liturgy.
My parents remained supportive of me and they never stood in my way of my learning. They simply repeated, “Make sure you’re sure.”
Then, on April 10, 1993, I fully entered into the Catholic Church when I received the Sacraments of Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation at the Easter Vigil at my home parish of St. Paul in Richmond. To this day, it remains the most transformative day of my life.
I was blessed to go to World Youth Day in Denver just four months later. I was in awe to be among 400,000 other young Catholics and in the presence of St. John Paul II. The theme for this World Youth Day was from John 10:10: “I came that they might have life, and have it to the full.”
The two-week pilgrimage was exhilarating, inspiring, and draining. Upon returning to my parish, I joined the youth ministry core team and was part of launching the first-ever Life Teen program in Canada in November 1993.
I continued to serve in parish youth ministry while studying at UBC and then commencing work at a prestigious accounting and professional services from. Then in 1999, just three years after obtaining my Bachelor of Commerce from UBC, I failed my professional accounting exams. This was a dark time for me; my “desert time” so to speak. I transferred departments to human resources, left the firm to work with a financial planner, and then returned to the firm to work in HR once again.
All the while, I married Gail in 2000 and we had Sean Isaiah in 2001. During this period of professional uncertainty, it would have been easy for me to blame God for my failures. Instead, I did the opposite: I leaned in on Him more than ever and asked Him for guidance.
Then came World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. In preparing to go, I asked God to make me a better husband, father, friend, co-worker, and servant. I asked Him to show me His will, and not mine. It was another blessed event, the last World Youth Day of St. John Paul II’s papacy.
Upon returning home, I saw a job posting in the BC Catholic looking for a new Director of the Office of Youth Ministry. I applied on the last day and by the grace of God beat out some very strong candidates.
In December 2002, I started working for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. I’ve been there ever since, spending 15 years as the Director of the Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office. Most recently, I’ve been serving as an Associate Director for the Ministries and Outreach Office.
I consider this a dream job. I’m fortunate to work with some outstanding people with the support of an amazing shepherd (and buddy) in Archbishop Michael. I get to witness young people doing outstanding things in the name of Jesus Christ. And I’m constantly inspired by the many ministry leaders I serve alongside.
I’ve been blessed to travel, to speak, to write, and to make goofy Bad Joke videos. I’ve been able to witness to my faith in my working relationship with the Vancouver Canucks, including helping friends get a Canucks jersey to Pope Francis.
Most importantly, I’ve been able to grow in my faith as I strive to become a better husband and father.
Thus, on my 25th anniversary of becoming Catholic, I am grateful. Grateful for the people, encounters, and experiences that have all shaped my life.
Looping back to the World Youth Day 1993 theme, I indeed have an abundant life.
I am truly blessed.