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Turn to Jesus (Article)

I Found My Vocation in the Jail House
Fr. Richard Tardiff, LC (Canada)

Fr. Richard Tardiff, LC (Canada)
Fr. Richard Tardiff, LC (Canada)

Each vocation is a story of friendship with our Lord. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I am grateful to have been born in a family that sought from the start to transmit this friendship with Christ. I have fond memories of my first catechism classes and my preparation for First Communion and Confirmation. We often prayed the Rosary together as a family, and I am sure the Blessed Mother helped me to grow in my faith and to open the eyes of my heart to the needs of those around me. At bedtime my mother would read us the lives of the saints or some stories from the Old Testament from a picture Bible followed by a prayer. Thanks to these simple childhood experiences, God became for me somebody true, present, real and good in my life. I also experienced how a family that prays together stays together, despite the difficulties that family life sometimes entails.

Good, Wholesome Fun

I was a fairly active boy. I loved sports, including swimming, baseball, soccer, street hockey, and biking. I was a member of the Boy Scouts for 3 years and a member of the Navy Cadets for 4 years. I was also an altar boy in the parish until I was 18. I had a great time, made some good friends, and grew as well in personal discipline, sense of team work, and leadership. In high school I also joined the debating team and did some theatre presentations in my school. Despite all the activities, I also made a point to take my studies seriously.

A Priest? Great! But on Second Thought…

My interest in the priesthood began when I was 7 or 8 years old. I remember telling my mom one night before going to bed that if God wanted something from me in life it was to become a priest. Everything seemed to make my vocation an easy choice.

All that came to an abrupt end during my teenage years. I really wanted to get married and have a family. I loved rock music and cruising around town with my friends in a beat up old Chevy Chevette. I wanted to make some money to buy my way to a comfortable life. If anybody dared talk to me about the vocation to the priesthood I would explode. I had hardened my heart, but God was patient and found a gentle way of helping me to grow in my generosity with him.

I Found My Vocation in the Jail House

When I was 15, Fr. Rheal Forest, a cousin of mine from the Archdiocese of Saint-Boniface (my archdiocese) invited me to accompany him once a month to a medium-security jail where he worked as a chaplain. After having seen so many movies, I was looking forward to the adventure of exploring life in the penitentiary. In reality, it was more ordinary than I thought. Fr. Rheal would celebrate Mass for the prisoners, and
Fr. Richard with his parents on the day of his ordination to the diaconate, June 30, 2009.
Fr. Richard with his parents on the day of his ordination to the diaconate, June 30, 2009.
I would serve. Afterwards he would hear confessions, and I would share a snack with the prisoners that had gathered in the chapel. They were men who had suffered a lot in life. Some of them shared with me their stories. What surprised me the most was to see the tremendous difference the presence of a priest had made in their lives. Most of them were undergoing a conversion. Many of them had grown so much in their faith that they feared being released, because they did not want to lose their friendship with Christ.

Doing this apostolate helped me to appreciate the priesthood and the infinite value of souls. Deep down I wanted to do something good with my life, something truly worthwhile. Could the priesthood be for me?

If God Is Calling Me, I Want to Be like Them

I met the Legionaries of Christ for the first time in 1990, when two Legionaries visited my classroom to tell us about their vocation. I was in a very good parish school, called St. Maurice, directed by my parish priest, Fr. Patrick Morand, who was also a tremendous example for me of priesthood lived to the full. In the years that followed I came to know the Legion and Regnum Christi better, especially during the retreats they organized for boys three times a year in my home town of Winnipeg. My mother became a member of Regnum Christi and began organizing formation sessions for mothers of young children with Familia, the Regnum Christi program for families.

I was impressed with the Legionaries’ love for the Church, and their zeal for souls. Although my vocation was still a distant hypothesis at that moment, I remember thinking that if God were to call me to be a priest, that I wanted to be like them.

Do Not Be Afraid to Live Your Faith

In 1993, when I was 16 years old, Regnum Christi organized an international retreat for hundreds of youth who making a pilgrimage to Denver to participate in the World Youth Day with Pope John Paul II. Fr. Rheal gathered a group of young people from his parish to participate in both events, and he invited me to come along. I was blown away by the experience of celebrating my faith with 300,000 young people and hearing the Pope’s invitation to live our faith with conviction and without fear in order to usher in a new evangelization. I felt the need to grow in my spiritual life and to do something for Christ and the Church. At the end of the retreat, I decided to become a member of Regnum Christi as a means to respond to the Holy Father’s call.

Lord, Just Show Me the Way

Two years later came my high school graduation. I had no idea what to do with my life. Politics and business, two careers which had fascinated me in the past, no longer seemed to fit the bill. I had just broken up with my girlfriend, a girl I had met at World Youth Day in Denver. What I needed was time to reflect on the road I wanted to take. I kept in contact with the Legionaries, and they invited me to do a year as a full-time lay volunteer, as an opportunity to intensify my spiritual life and listen to what God wanted from me, while putting my talents at the service of the Church.

I Felt at Home

As it turned out, I spent my year as a Regnum Christi volunteer working at the Center for Integral Formation in Cheshire, Connecticut, which publishes materials for Regnum Christi members. Since it is near the Legionary novitiate, I had the opportunity to visit on several occasions. I felt at home among the novices. They were happy to have given their lives to Christ and the Church, and it made me think that being a priest was not all that bad after all. I felt that as a Legionary I could finally satisfy my desire to do something that was really worthwhile by saving souls and serving Christ and the Church. God’s call once again resounded in my heart.

What I had been missing in the past was generosity. It was the joy, peace and charity of the novitiate that the Lord gave me the grace of generosity to answer his call. After a time of retreat, I decided to enter the novitiate.

I thank God for having given me a mother and a father and two younger sisters who welcomed my vocation and gave me their unconditional support, even though it was not always easy. Thank you Lord for the gift of my vocation!

Fr. Richard Tardiff was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, on March 8, 1977. He studied at Saint-Maurice High School. On February 11, 1996, he entered the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ in Cheshire, Connecticut, and was a founding member of the novitiate in Cornwall, Ontario. He did his humanities studies in Cheshire, Connecticut. He was a youth director in Quebec and Ontario for two years, and then was a teacher and business manager at the novitiate in Cornwall. He was the secretary for the territorial director of France for one year. He obtained his licentiate in philosophy and his bachelors in theology at the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College. He currently serves as a youth director in the northwest of France.

The vocation stories of the Legionaries of Christ who were ordained on December 12, 2009 have been published in the book "I Call You Friends". During this Year for Priests, let us pray for all priests, so that their self-giving to God and to people will bear abundant fruits of grace and blessings.


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