The Deacon's Bench

From Rhode Island comes this compelling vocation story of a guy who worked in a drug store, but who decided he was called to dispense another kind of medicine:

Among the prayers that the Rev. Marcel Taillon offers during his celebration of Mass this day before Thanksgiving is one common during Catholic services for more vocations. It is a prayer he often heard as a young man, when he enjoyed a promising lay career at CVS.

“When that petition would come up at Mass, it rocked me” — in a disturbing way, says Father Taillon, 45, pastor of St. Thomas More Parish. He sits in his church rectory as he tells the story of his calling, which did not follow a traditional path.

His path led through the drugstore chain, where he had started work as a teenager and where in his 20s he was still happily employed — making good money and enjoying a social life. He was traveling the country for CVS, part of a 1980s team that was assisting company pharmacists’ often difficult transition to computers. His strength was in people skills: communicating, listening, problem-solving.

“I loved CVS,” he says. “I loved my job. I loved my friends. I loved it all. I was really happy, but I wasn’t fulfilled.”

And that was one problem he couldn’t solve. He felt incomplete: a feeling, he would later discover, shared by other eventual priests. “It’s one of the threads that runs through everybody’s different story: You’re not sure what it is, but you can feel something’s missing.”

Father Taillon had been a devout Catholic since he was a child, and during his teenage years and into his 20s, lay people, along with some clergy, sometimes remarked that he would make a good priest. The possibility both intrigued and frightened him. A vocation might fulfill him, but his lay life was comfortable.

So he adopted an avoidant mentality.

“I ignored it pretty well, I think, for a while,” he says. “I put all my eggs in the corporate basket. I wanted to do a good job. And my job at CVS really affected people’s lives. They needed support.”

Mass-time prayers and Sunday sermons about callings, he says, kept resurrecting his dilemma. He was increasingly conflicted: a young man caught between a life he enjoyed and a life, not easily achieved, that might hold more for himself and others.

“It was spiritually uncomfortable, when I look back,” he says. “I wouldn’t have called it that then, but now I can put it together and see that obviously the Lord was calling. Very mysterious.”

The mystery only deepened. Read on to discover how he finally decided to answer the call.

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