Looking Forward to a Beautiful Life of Ministry as new Priests of Providence: Bishop Richard G. Henning to ordain Rev. Mr. Joseph Brodeur on June 29


WESTERLY — “It’s surreal.” It was with these words that Deacon Joseph Brodeur, one of the Diocese of Providence’s most recent candidates for the priesthood, described the immediate lead-up to his ordination.
When one speaks with Deacon Brodeur, they quickly realize that simple sentence reflects a larger trend in his journey to the priesthood, namely that the realization of his vocation was something surprising yet not entirely unexpected.
Deacon Brodeur, 25, is a lifelong Catholic. A native of Westerly, Brodeur and his family are parishioners of St. Pius X Parish, at which his family is deeply involved. His father, Peter, a retired engineer, frequently served as a lector, and his mother, Lora, was one of the hospitality workers at the parish. From kindergarten through eighth grade, Deacon Brodeur attended, together with his three other siblings, the parish school that once stood a block or two away from the church.
“If you take a stroll around the block, you see essentially the first 18 years of my life,” Deacon Brodeur said. “When we weren’t at home, we were usually at the church or in the school.”
As the years passed, he became more involved in parish life, eventually becoming an altar server and getting involved in the parish Eagle Scouts troop. The parish property itself is filled with reminders of his time as a youth in the parish. Standing tall in front of the rectory, for example, is a statue of Pope St. Pius X, the namesake of the parish, that was erected by Deacon Brodeur and his father as a part of an Eagle Scout project.
Deacon Brodeur realized his call to the priesthood gradually.
“In our family, it wasn’t uncommon to play Mass. Our cousins had their own Mass kits. My brother and I had this friendly — or maybe less friendly — competition about who had the coolest vestments,” he recalled.
His journey to the priesthood was fostered through the example of his family and the vibrant parish life. For the entirety of his time at St. Pius, Father Raymond Suriani, was an ever-present example of a great parish priest in the church. He visited Brodeur and his family when Joseph was born, baptized him, and gave him First Communion and First Reconciliation.
“Just to have that stable father figure who you could go to [was important],” Brodeur noted.
The example set by the next pastor, Father Michael Najim, was something only reinforced by the regular assignment of seminarians to the parish during their period of priestly formation.
“For me growing up as a kid, they were heroes and I wanted to be just like them. … A lot of them have been a source of encouragement along the way.”
While his parish life, together with his education and the influence of his parents, created a sense of rootedness in his Catholic faith, what made him examine the possibility of a priestly vocation was a period of spiritual renewal that took place during his teenage years.
“By the time I had gotten to middle school, I was kind of just going through the motions. I didn’t necessarily think much about the faith for myself,” Deacon Brodeur pointed out. “I would go to Mass with my family on the weekends, but it wasn’t something necessarily I was going out of my way to seek out on my own.”
As Deacon Brodeur described it, “There was the beginning of an inkling of this call,” pointing out how this vague feeling that he was called to the priesthood became stronger throughout his high school years, something fostered by his regular attendance at the Steubenville Youth Conference and the discernment retreats at Our Lady of Providence Seminary.
“It’s interesting, because I don’t know that we ever had a conversation with you about this,” said Lora to Deacon Brodeur as they recollected the moment their son announced to them his decision to be a priest. As they remember it, Peter and Lora took Joseph out for lunch on his 17th birthday, and it was during the celebrations that Joseph announced his desire to enter the seminary.
“It was one of those things that was a surprise, but it wasn’t a surprise,” Lora noted. “We never talked about it, but logically, seeing how much he got involved in youth group and the Steubenville youth conferences, there was an eagerness there.”
Deacon Joseph notes that the two biggest lessons he learned during his time of priestly formation were, firstly to trust in divine Providence, and secondly, to trust in God’s abundant love.
“I remember one day, this was my first summer, between my first and second year [of seminary]...I found myself in this chapel in the middle of the Alps in Austria, and I was just like, ‘How did I get here?’ I never imagined that this would be part of my story,” Deacon Brodeur recalls. “By God being providential, we have the assurance that anything and everything that happens to us — good, bad, ugly, indifferent — comes from God and is for our good.”
“God is ridiculously generous, and we’re the ones that are uncomfortable receiving from this generosity, because we don’t deserve it, and we get hung up on that. We want to earn it. But to surrender and accept to receive the good things he has planned for us, it takes a breaking down of our will.”
Following his ordination on June 29, Father Brodeur will serve as Parochial Vicar at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, Bristol, and St. Mary Parish, Bristol until September 3, when he will return to Rome for post graduate studies.