On June 28, 2003, Ed and Donna Sousa watched as their son, Father Ed Sousa, Jr., was ordained as a priest in the Providence, Rhode Island Diocese. My husband, Al, and I had been blessed by witnessing this event.
It was May of 1998, when I had met both Ed Sousa, Sr., and his son, Ed, Jr., on my pilgrimage to Medjugorje in Bosnia. My book A Healing Heart tells the story about how Ed, Jr. had followed God's call to become a priest. There were many occasion when Father Ed had spoken in public events about the changes in his life that had lead him to this change. I would like to share his story with my readers.
Here is his beginning conversion. "Come follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men" (Mt. 4:19). When I was a teenager, I could remember hearing this saying of Jesus read at Mass, but never did its importance actually affect me in my life, until I turned the age of twenty-six. I would say that I began to experience a turning point to respond generously to this call.
When I was a child, up to my teenage years and into my early adulthood, I had no desire whatsoever to become a priest. In fact, I remember sitting in a Career Day lecture in high school with an image in my mind of an ideal planned life for myself. I would go to college, get a good education, earn a decent amount of money, get married, have a family of my own, eventually become a grandfather and, finally, see retirement in my old age.
So, what happened to me between the years of my childhood into early adulthood? Well, my desire to follow my set plan in life grew stronger and I had a set goal of getting a good education in the field that interest me. I developed an interest in culinary arts and decided in my senior year that I wanted to become a professional chef. Therefore, upon graduating, I enrolled at Johnson & Wales University. Two years later I graduated with an Associate of Occupational Science degree in culinary arts and I was what you would call a "professional chef."
I made decent money and was happy. All during this time I was what you would call the "average" Catholic. I went to church every Sunday, although many times half-heartedly, and was doing the best I could to be faithful to my beliefs. I was always a person with much joy, and had a wonderful family. I also dated off and on, and I had many friends.
However, I felt that there was still something missing. I was searching and looking for a meaning to my life. I began to out that the things of the world could not provide me with this so called "purpose" and "meaning" in life. I realized that maybe it was only God that could truly provide me with what I was looking for.
I slowly developed a desire to pray the Rosary. I always had a devotion to the Blessed Mother. The more I prayed, I felt my love and relationship to Jesus growing. I started to understand what many great saints throughout the Catholic Church have said for centuries. The main purpose of our love for the Blessed Mother is, "to lead us closer to her Son for the good of our salvation."
I found myself paying more attention to the Holy Mass, feeling a hunger for God's World, and remembering the bible readings. I was going to confession more frequently. In my spare time, I went to Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament rather than going out with my friends.
I began to get involved in church through the generosity of my current pastor, Father Reinaldo Cardoso, in all area of the parish life. My mother asked me, "Have you ever thought about priesthood?" The question caught me off guard. I tried to avoid the question with nervous laughs, but I began to realize things were changing in my life and it would only be a matter of time. I spent time asking myself, "Why would God be calling me?" I was not sure if God was truly calling me.
It was May of 1995, during a special holy hour at my parish, that I met a young visiting priest from East Timor. He asked me, "Have you ever thought about priesthood?" I felt a moment of grace and the question hit me like a "ton of bricks." This time I did not shrug it off. It was then that I met with Father Cardoso, and told him my thoughts.
My parents were not surprised and were extremely happy with my desire to follow Christ in the priesthood. In August of 1995, I left my paying job and in September I entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Providence. I enrolled in Providence College and began the first two-year program.
I can find no way to measure the tremendous experience I have had in the course of spiritual formation. In the summer of 1996, I traveled to a popular Marina shrine at Medjugorje, in Bosnia-Herzegovina. During my visit, I met a married couple, Patrick and Nancy Latta, who were originally from Canada and now living in Medjugorje.
I told Nancy that I found my seminarian very difficult and at times, I felt like giving it all up. Without hesitation, she looked at me straight in the eyes and said to me, "Edward, always remember one thing. God does not want you to do great things, but to do simple things with great love." I felt at that moment, God's infinite mercy and grace. From that day forward, to this present day, I have never again looked back in God's calling to the priesthood."
Thanks to our priests both the young and the
they have helped us in so many ways, untold,
teaching and guiding us in all of our ways,
spending their lives, both the nights and
in sacrificing their lives and time for all,
who need assistance in any way at all.
We appreciate and love you for what you have
and pray for you, to the Father and His Beloved Son,
that they keep you and hold you ever in their care,
and every blessing to you they do not spare,
but impart in abundance for the lives you have lived,
for all the service to them that you did give.
We say, as from the Father you one day will
"Well done, good and faithful
servant", to us you are dear,
so do not despair,
when at times life treats you unfair,
for your reward will be great in our
with your brother priests there you
will never be alone.