*Please see important update at the end of this article.
Dedication to the Eucharist and devotion to the Blessed Mother have helped seminarian LeeAllen Fortin realize another step toward his vocation to the priesthood. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades will ordain the South Dakota native to the diaconate at 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 4, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne.
“I lived out on a little hobby farm, and we had to travel 25 miles to my local home parish, Immaculate Conception,” Fortin recalled. “It’s actually really beautiful — I was baptized in Immaculate Conception Parish, and I’ll be ordained in Immaculate Conception Cathedral.”
Bishop Rhoades assigned the seminarian to St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Fort Wayne, this summer. There, he led a Bible study on the minor prophets.
Fortin attributes his having answered the call to the priesthood to an experience with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
“I had a real powerful experience of our Lord’s presence — His true presence — in the Eucharist at a Catholic summer camp,” he said. After a friend suggested he begin going to daily Mass during his first year of college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, it soon became clear to Fortin that he should enter the seminary.
Fortin graduated college seminary in Fargo, North Dakota. During his subsequent pastoral year, after a discussion with another friend, he decided to travel to Fort Wayne to visit the Poor Brothers of Saint Francis — known as the Franciscan Friars Minor order — that existed at the time.
After a second visit to Fort Wayne, Fortin joined the Franciscans. And while he thought he had found a path to holiness with the brothers, in 2020 the order disbanded.
“That grace came was so clear. I thought I was called to be a brother for the rest of my life unless God took the community away — and then He did.”
Fortin had to reevaluate his vocation. He realized God would provide opportunities for him to pursue his vocation to either radical Franciscan life or to the priesthood.
“My spiritual director said it was pretty clear: There are two things you’re drawn to, and there’s an open door to one of them and there’s not an open door to the other. So, it seems like you should go where there’s the open door. So, I continued on toward the priesthood.”
For those discerning their own vocation, the seminarian suggests devoting time to prayer — beginning with the Mass.
“Give as much time to prayer as possible,” Fortin recommended. “The vocation is about how God wants you to receive and share His love for the rest of your life. And that’s what prayer is: It’s receiving and, in a sense, sharing His love.”
Some, however, may find it difficult to engage in quiet, contemplative prayer at first. Fortin suggested reading about saints who immersed themselves in lives of prayer in order to “better understand the value of it, and thus to cultivate an ardent desire for prayer and sanctity.”
“What makes us desire something is understanding how valuable it is. So, my encouragement would be to read about the saints. Read spiritual theology. Learn about the importance of silence.”
“To be inspired,” Fortin continued, “you have to encounter the prayer and sanctity in the source where it’s kept: the lives of the saints.”
Fortin had received the name “Joseph” as a brother at Our Lady of the Angels Friary, the home of the Poor Brothers. He said that name highlights his heartfelt relationship to the Blessed Mother — a devotion that Fortin believes aided in his journey to the diaconate.
“So much of the journey has been characterized by her intercession in so many different ways, but at the same time it’s a constant. My devotion to other saints leads to a greater devotion to her.”
Fortin attended high school in South Dakota. He has a younger sister and a nephew. Adopted at birth, he also recently connected with his birth mother and sister and has found that this experience of family mirrors what he has experienced in realizing his vocation.
“It kind of speaks to my whole journey in general, as I’ve gotten into my vocation. My family just keeps growing,” Fortin said, also mentioning his more than 20 Franciscan brothers.
Fortin expects his family to continue to grow after his ordination to the priesthood.
“It’s like Jesus says: ‘Who is my mother, my brother and my sister? He who does the will of My Father.’”
After his ordination to the diaconate, Fortin plans to use the following nine months before priestly ordination to “grow in friendship with the Lord and fellow seminarians through all that is to come.”
UPDATE: The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend shared the news Thursday, Sept. 2, that the diaconate ordination of LeeAllen Fortin set for Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, is being postponed because of illness. As soon as a new date is set, it will be shared throughout the diocese.
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