By Terry Vanderheyden

OTTAWA, December 23, 2005 ( – One of my most memorable Christmases was the Christmas of 1996. I had begun the process of discerning whether God wanted me to serve Him as a priest, so I attended a retreat in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a religious order there.

At the same retreat was a young man from Ghana who, unlike me, was fairly certain of his call to the priesthood. Unfortunately for Peter, the seminaries in West Africa were not only full, but had a waiting list of three years or more. His parents had saved from their modest incomes to send him to America to pursue seminary studies there if possible.

Peter told me that his sister lived in Toronto, which was my Christmas destination. He had not seen her in some time, so, after the retreat, I offered him a ride in my car, not knowing that the (relatively) short trip to Toronto from Cincinnati would otherwise have been impossible for him to afford.

I did not realize that border policy differed for Africans entering the country, and my fellow traveler, never planning to travel to Canada, did not have a visa. The cost for a temporary visitor’s permit was $200. I paid.

The obvious joy experienced by the siblings at the unexpected Christmas reunion was well worth the small sacrifice of the border-crossing charge – their effusive gratitude aside.

God ultimately had other plans than the priesthood in store for me – as a lovely wife and four young children bear testament to. Although I have regrettably lost contact with Peter, I still pray that God answered the desire of his heart according to His divine will. I offer the same prayer for you, our readers, this Christmas.


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