Through many paths of discernment, Ryan Beaupre continues following the call to priesthood
Ryan Beaupre’s discernment to the priesthood has taken his life in a plethora of directions.
He has lived among Benedictine monks (both in Canada and abroad), studied the depths of Catholic philosophy in Belgium, donned a cassock and travelled from class to class answering questions about God – among many other adventures. But each of these moments are just small steps towards Ryan’s ultimate hope – to one day be ordained a Catholic priest.
In his words and actions, it is easy to see that the Catholic faith is at the center of Ryan’s life. But this great zealousness for the treasures of the Church was not always so for Beaupre. Though he was raised Catholic, Ryan’s personal faith journey really began in Grade 4 – when he decided he was an atheist. He openly and staunchly took the opinion that there is no God, religion is a silly superstition, we’re nothing but atoms in the void, and so on.
“I think a lot about why I thought that. I think the instinct then was that smart people didn’t believe in God,” Ryan recalled. “But in those years, this was Grade 4 to Grade 7, I wasn’t really happy. I was pretty miserable. I didn’t have many friends. But then in Grade 7 my mom forced me to go to a retreat in Grande Prairie called Discovery.”
This retreat became the initial turning point for Ryan, leaving him with the impression that there was maybe more to faith than his stubborn dismissal of it as a young boy. During Discovery he met other people his age who did take their Catholic faith seriously, and they often would call Ryan out when he made crude jokes about it. Ryan says this was a bit of a wake up call for him. Clearly there was something more than silly superstition to this Christianity thing if his peers were taking it so seriously.
But it was not until the following summer that Ryan would have his own “road to Damascus” moment, when his mom once again forced him into another Catholic youth event – this time at the Our Lady of Victory summer camp in the Archdiocese of Edmonton.
Here Ryan met both peers and young adults who had a strong faith that brought evident joy to their lives – a joy Ryan felt he was lacking. At the camp Masses, the priest would use his homilies as Q&A sessions, taking questions from the young campers about God, the Church and the Faith. It was the first time Ryan had heard clear and direct answers to many questions he himself had.
Then, one evening during Eucharistic adoration, God’s grace touched Ryan in a way that forever changed the direction of his life. While kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance, Ryan for the first time felt the presence of God in the most intimate and personal way.
“This is the moment that my life changed,” Ryan said. “I remember music was playing, I was kneeling in front of the monstrance, and for a moment God was so present to me. The fact that there was a God in front of me in the Eucharistic species, the thought that kept running through my head was, ‘Wow it’s all true. Everything that my mom had told me since I was a kid – that there was a God, that He loved me, that He became one of us in Christ Jesus.’ The whole nine yards. I was just thinking, ‘My God, it’s true’. I was so happy… and so confused.”
After this summer Ryan entered 8th grade, and his new found faith intensely came alive. He began to read the Scriptures and pray the Rosary on a daily basis. He got a hold of books, videos and anything else he could find to learn more about this God whose existence he had now become so certain of. Catholicism was quickly becoming the dominant interest in Ryan’s life. But, little did he know, God would soon take that spark of interest to an even higher calling.
On Easter Sunday of this same year, Ryan was altar serving at St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Rycroft. He was kneeling next to the altar, and at the moment of consecration when the priest lifted up the Host, a voice suddenly rang out.
“The words were, ‘Ryan, you’re going to be a priest.’ The way I normally describe it is that it was my voice in my head, but I didn’t put the words there,” Beaupre recalled. “My first thought was, ‘Who the heck just said that?’ I looked around, looking for where these words came from. And then my second thought was, ‘No way. Get lost. I don’t want to be a priest.’”
If this strange voice in Ryan’s head had only spoken that one time, he may have shrugged his shoulders and never thought of it again. However, those same words ‘Ryan, you’re going to be a priest’ came to him not only once again, but several times over the coming weeks.
“The day after that Mass, I was praying my Rosary and again came ‘Ryan, you’re going to be a priest.’ It would not leave me alone for weeks and weeks. After a couple weeks of hearing it, I really began to take it seriously. I said, ‘God is this you or am I being crazy? People usually don’t hear voices in their head, so I think I’m being crazy.’
“But I started wrestling with it. And it was about a month and a half after Easter that I remember very clearly the moment I said ‘Yes’ to the call. I was driving with my mom on the highway from Rycroft to Spirit River. Again the voice came ‘Ryan, you’re going to be a priest’.’ And finally I said, ‘Fine. I’ll do it God. I’ll be your priest’. And the moment that happened, this incredible joy and peace came over me. I could feel it from my head to my toes. I was so happy I almost started crying.”
Responding that call, ‘Ryan, you’re going to be a priest’, has been the driving force in Beaupre’s life ever since.
When Ryan expressed this calling to his parish priest – at the time, Fr. Cyril Joseph – he was told about the minor seminary in Mission, B.C., where young men can go to complete their high school education and live among the Benedictine monks there. Ryan was overjoyed by this prospect, and he persistently pleaded with his parents for many months to complete his education in Mission. After Grade 9 his wish was granted. Ryan now looks back on those three years of his Grade 10-12 education in Mission as the best years of his life.
“I learned so much about the faith. I loved the liturgical prayer of the monks, the intensity of their life. I fell in love with the place,” Beaupre recalled.
After Mission, Ryan was accepted as a diocesan seminarian with the Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan and attended St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton. But, on recommendation from the seminary, he stepped away for a few years to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in philosophy, and in 2020 he further pursued this passion for philosophy with a Master’s Degree at the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium.
These studies of philosophy have been a source of great enrichment for Beaupre.
“I love the more intellectual side of the Faith,” he said. “That’s what gets me up in the morning – trying to understand the mysteries of God, this First Principle whom I love so much. God is fundamentally a mystery of course, but we know so many things about Him – that He is eternal, infinite, He is goodness itself. Every good you have encountered is but a faint image, faint reflection of the nature of God.
“So when we talk about God we mean that which can satisfy the human heart more than we can possibly imagine. God is that which can grant us infinite joy. If that’s not a good reason to enter the chapel, to pursue the spiritual life – I can’t give you one.”
This past year, Beaupre returned to his native Archdiocese of Grouard-McLennan to do a year of pastoral internship with Fr. Lawrence Odoemena at St. Paul’s Church in High Prairie. He also played a leading role in organizing Camp St. Martin, the archdiocese’s annual summer camp.
It was an important year of formation which allowed Ryan to gain first-hand experiences in pastoral care, at both the High Prairie church and its Catholic school – St. Andrew’s. His greatest joy was getting the chance to teach and spend time with the students there.
“My real joy has been working with the students. Fulton Sheen used to say that no one is born an atheist, and I’ve learned that in this school. These children know instinctively, by intuition, that there is a God and that they want to be friends with God,” Ryan said.
“They have very good questions, and if they don’t get good answers then they’ll have a problem. So my role, as far as I saw it, was to encourage questions about God, about faith, about Jesus, about the Bible. We should never tell someone just to believe. We have faith and we seek understanding, so answering their questions has been a delight. I’m happy to bring these kids into knowledge of God.”
During this time, Ryan also began to reflect further on his calling to the priesthood. He has now stepped away from his formation as a diocesan seminarian, and is looking at continuing his formation with a religious order – potentially with the Dominicans.
While it has taken his life in numerous directions and paths of discernment, Ryan remains steadfast in following that voice that spoke to him as a teenager – “Ryan, you’re going to be a priest.” Ryan felt a great peace when he accepted those words, but it has also come with many challenges, uncertainties and obstacles along the way.
But no matter what challenge he has been faced with, it is the love for God and the desire to serve Him that has kept Ryan steadfast in his vocation.
“What’s kept me going in pursuing the priesthood is that I love God and that I want to serve Him. Everything else is a side issue,” he said. “My happiness is found in loving, serving and knowing the most-high God – in this life and the next. If I can keep that clear in my head – everything else falls to the way side. At the end of the day, everything else is going to be dust. Turn to God and He will fulfill you.”
His all encapsulating advice for young men who may feel a call or an openness to the priesthood is that they should always remember that God wants only what is best for them.
“If you’re considering the priesthood, know this: that God wants your good. He wants you to be fully alive, as St. Irenaeus says. He wills the thing that will bring you the most joy. The priesthood at the end of the day isn’t going to make you any less yourself. The God who made you is the God who saves you, which means God wants you to use your gifts and your inclinations for His glory and for your glory.”