Called to Serve: Deacon Brook Stacey ’08
For Brook Stacey ’08, moving to Nova Scotia following his graduation from St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) was more than just a choice of university destination; it marked the beginning of a journey that would change his life forever.
In familiar fashion, Stacey graduated from SMCS ready to embark on the next stage of his educational journey at Dalhousie University with a keen interest in pursuing engineering studies. The attraction toward an engineering degree was rooted in his strong affinity for sciences, particularly physics and chemistry, along with some inspiration from his father, who enjoyed a long successful career in the industry.
The move away from home presented Stacey with both the associated challenges and new opportunities, often typical of a university student’s first experience living independently.
“My time at Dalhousie can be characterized by excitement and liberation, but it also came with the challenge of forging a unique life path,” says Stacey. “I wasn’t attending Mass regularly, however, in my second year, a childhood friend from Toronto, with whom I grew up, invited me to join him for Mass. It was during this Mass that I met a young missionary who subsequently invited me to engage in walks and discussions about faith and participate in my first Bible study. This evolved into my participation in various other events, including sports, parties, and Bible studies.”
Despite Stacey’s limited exposure to religious practices in his upbringing, Stacey found inspiration in the readings and discussions, prompting a deeper exploration of his faith.
“My parents enrolled my brother and I in Catholic schools, although our family didn’t regularly attend church. Nonetheless, I had a strong interest in philosophy and theology, often engaging in late-night conversations with my dad about God and the meaning of life,” says Stacey. “Attending SMCS created an atmosphere that instilled pride in my Catholic identity. Faith was cherished and shared by staff, students, and faculty alike, integrating into our classes both implicitly and explicitly. The memories of school masses and the inspiring homilies from the Basilian Fathers still resonate with me.”
Stacey’s personal exploration of faith coincided with a phase in his life where he questioned his personal happiness and the search for meaning in life.
“Within this Catholic community, I developed a friendship with Lorne Stang, a young Jesuit missionary involved with the campus Catholic Christian Outreach. I began to imagine myself in a similar role, which brought me a great deal of joy,” says Stacey. “This vision involved sharing the experience of God’s love, something I had recently begun to discover, and how it brought peace and liberation. It became evident that I needed to speak with someone who could understand what I was going through.”
During this time, Stacey met Fr. Earl Smith in Halifax, a Jesuit priest who assisted with campus chaplaincy and would later become his spiritual director.
“I recall reading about the Jesuits in an eighth-grade religion textbook; the depiction presented them as elite warriors for the church, akin to the Navy SEALs of Catholicism,” says Stacey. “My friendship with Fr. Smith sparked a vision for me of a similar role sharing the experience of God’s love and its transformative effects. It brought me immense joy.”
Through his new spiritual director, Stacey was introduced to the life of a Jesuit, the application process, and the trajectory it would set. He also learned about Ignatian spirituality (St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits), contemplative retreats, and subsequent guidance that ultimately led Stacey to the doors of the novitiate, marking the commencement of his formal journey to the priesthood.
“During our first meeting, he expressed that I could become a Jesuit if I wished,” says Stacey. “This revelation brought me immense joy, as I had never considered the Jesuits as a possible vocation, believing that one needed exceptional intelligence or gifts to join their ranks.”
However, a mission trip to Ottawa truly cemented Stacey’s calling to priestly ministry.
“On the mission trip, I led the city’s youth in faith studies, organizing workshops, activities, and weekend gatherings. On a particular day at Mass, the priest offered a prayer for individuals sensing a calling to religious life or priesthood. The prayer resonated with me deeply, as if it were specifically directed at me. I distinctly recall experiencing a profound sense of peace, joy, and a profound feeling of God’s love in response to this invitation. It took three more years before I shared this sentiment with anyone.”
Stacey’s Jesuit formation began with a two-year novitiate, which included a 40-day silent retreat, a 30-day pilgrimage involving resource begging, and a five-month service trip in a third-world country.
Following the novitiate, Stacey took perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, followed by three years of studying philosophy at the University of Toronto. This was succeeded by a two-year teaching stint in Winnipeg, Manitoba, focused on mathematics, physical education, and religion, along with time spent coaching the wrestling team during the regency stage.
“The regency stage marks a crucial phase in Jesuit formation, bridging the gap between philosophy and theology. It allows Jesuits to immerse themselves in the world, working and living as Jesuits, to determine if this identity aligns with their calling.”
Following this stage of formation, Stacey participated in a three-year theological study in Paris, France, culminating with his ordination as a deacon in May 2013. A decade later, he returned to Toronto, where he is currently studying psychotherapy at the University of Toronto, Knox College. Following his degree in psychotherapy, Stacey plans to pursue a degree in education and a full-time return to teaching.
As Stacey looks toward his priestly ordination next June in Toronto, he reflects with strong admiration on the SMCS community, expressing gratitude for formative experiences, appreciation for academic rigour and teacher compassion, and feels blessed by the strong bonds forged during those years.
“While the teenage years are often challenging, filled with the difficulties of fitting in and discovering one’s identity, I look back fondly on my experience at SMCS,” says Stacey. “The school’s motto, ‘Teach me Goodness, Discipline, and Knowledge,’ still resonates with me. The religious formation at the school was a fundamental part of its identity.”
“Although I wasn’t actively practicing my faith at that time, the religious backdrop of SMCS, with the presence of Basilian priests and Fr. Fulton’s, CSB invitations to Mass at lunch (which I often declined), created an implicit religious environment that contributed to planting the seeds of my vocation.”