By Kramer Cameron, LC
Growing up on an Island
I grew up on an island. My little town Mabou is a small town on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. Mabou is thought to mean “Shining/Sparkling Water”. It is a beautiful town where two rivers meet and lead out to the ocean. My inspiring parents, Gerard and Marcella Cameron, brought up my wonderful sisters Jacintha, Alethea, Paulette and Josefa, and I in the rugged and beautiful landscape of this little town. It was a wonderful place to grow up. In the warm months we had the ocean, beaches, swimming and hiking and in the cold months we had frozen ponds and a frozen harbour for skating, hockey, cross-country skiing and sledding. I had a very healthy and happy childhood.
I have a tombstone with my name on it. My older brother, Kramer Gerard, was born with a heart condition and just three months later, after many surgeries, he moved on to Heaven. I believe God called him home early to watch out for my family from Heaven. My parents named me after him. We have the same first name. I have always felt very close to him.
Growing up, as many kids in Canada, my life soon became hockey. I loved hockey. Hockey was my passion. However, when I was around twelve years old a few things started to shake my apparently solid foundations. John Morris Rankin, a famous musician from my town, his son, and two other teenage boys, a little older than myself, were travelling to a hockey game and slid off the road and into the ocean. It was tragic. John Morris didn’t make it through the accident, but his son and the other kids did. When I heard about it, I was standing next to my Dad and I just burst out crying… I can’t even really explain my experience, but part of it was the realization of the fragility of life and of all of my desires, especially my ultimate desire: hockey. I think I related the tragedy to who I was: if everything was hockey, what would happen if I lost my father or if I died? I started feeling for the first time an existential calling.
Another young man in our area died in a car accident and another in a swimming accident. I started wondering about the meaning of life. Also, I loved the little parties and dances our middle school would put on. Around Carnival, my school hosted a dance for grades 7-12. I invited a bunch of my friends from nearby towns, expecting a super party. I had fun, but I found myself asking if there was more than all of this, I felt empty and found myself longing for more. It wasn’t just a regular melancholic moment, it was an existential experience of the meaning of life: what is real happiness? Also, the 1995 accident of Travis Roy’s first eleven seconds of college hockey continued to play in the back of my mind at times throughout my youth. Travis Roy had just started playing for Boston University, in his first game he went in towards the boards, checked another player, lost his balance, and went head first into the boards. He broke his neck. He was paralysed for life. I found myself wondering about the meaning of life and happiness.
“I Don’t Want to be a Priest…”
It was around that time that a few consecrated women of Regnum Christi (women who give themselves totally to God, others and evangelization) visited my house and connected my dad and I with a father-son retreat in New Hampshire, USA. Great! I had never been to the States. I didn’t have hockey games the weekend of the retreat and my dad didn’t have work that weekend. So, we headed down with a few other guys to New Hampshire. On the drive south, I still remember this moment like it was yesterday, one of the boys in the van, talking about the place we were heading, said, “It’s a school for boys who want to be priests.” I was in shock. I never heard of boys wanting to be priests. Hockey players sure, but priests? Immediately I thought to myself, “these kids are going to be so weird.” I stepped onto the campus of the school with this clear judgement of how weird these guys were going to be. However, we landed at Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in Center Harbor and we had a weekend of sports, mountain climbing, prayer, masses, and so on. I realized that these kids were totally normal, fun, cool, athletic, and it was like they were my best friends for the longest time, even though I just met them on Friday. They had fun and loved God and were super kind. It was a little oasis. I left that weekend thinking to myself, “These kids are really special, perfect, disciplined and fun, but I would never be one of them.” I then went home and completely forgot about it.
Later on, in the Spring, my mother handed me a form that was for all the kids who visited the school in New Hampshire during the year. The form was an invitation to come to the summer camp they were organizing. My mom thought I would take it and put it in my desk like my homework, but I took it to my room and started reading it. I still remember so clearly. I was in my room alone. I was sitting at my desk. I started to compare the sports at this summer camp in the States to the summer plans I already had. I was originally planning on going to the Allie MacDonald week long hockey camp where Al MacInnis was going to be participating. The many summer activities offered at the summer camp in New Hampshire still couldn’t compare to one week of hockey. In my mind, nothing compared to hockey. But as I read through the activities, I realized that there was Mass and prayer and it was kind of a retreat. So, I decided to be a little generous with God and said, “Ok. I’ll go on this summer camp and give God a bit of my summer.” That free act of generosity opened the door for what came next.
When I turned the page, there was a question that changed my life: “Why do you want to be a priest?” I felt as though, sitting alone there in my room, with a view of the mountain on the other side of the Harbour, God was tapping into my personal space asking me if I would be his priest. I felt invited, free, and at the same time I didn’t want to be chosen. All I can say is that it was an experience of God. I started to struggle with God about this experience and I consider it one of my Gethsemane moments. I didn’t want to be a priest! What about all my friends? Why not call one of them? Why me? I have plans. I want to have a fun life, play hockey and have a family. So, in the midst of the battle back and forth with God, I went to talk to my mother and I said, “Mom, what do I write here if I don’t want to be a priest?” She said so wisely, “Write whatever is in your heart.” So, I went back to my room and battled it out some more with God and came to my free, thirteen-year-old conclusion and wrote: “I don’t want to be a priest, but if God is calling me, I will say ‘yes’”. This was my attitude as I went on to discover little by little whether or not God was truly calling me.
I went to the summer camp and experienced God in a new way. I experienced Jesus as a friend, as real, as my happiness! I experienced a personal and loving God, grace, temptations, so many spiritual consolations, times of desolation, and through it all, I felt in my little thirteen-year-old heart, that God was inviting me to leave everything and follow him. Leave EVERYTHING! The three hardest things for me to leave behind were my family, friends and hockey. Yet I felt that God was calling me, like the disciples, to leave everything. I felt that God was asking me to leave my “fishing nets” behind and follow him.
By nature, I tend to be skeptical and rationalistic, so I needed a rational argument, even at thirteen, before I left my future and walked into God’s future for me. That summer God gave me the consolation, the grace, and the rational argument necessary to leave everything and follow him. It went something like this. Life is short. Even if I were to live for many years, relative to all of history, all of time and all of Eternity, life is like the snap of a finger or the amount of time it takes to step through the door, then life on this earth is over. Every human being on earth is longing for and headed to Heaven. Heaven is the end goal of our existence on earth. So, if everyone is supposed to be on their way to Heaven, then it is reasonable to spend my short life helping others get to Heaven. And I felt that God was calling me to spend my life on earth helping others get to Heaven as a priest. I figured that the best way I could help people get to Heaven, was responding to this calling. I felt in my heart that God was calling me to be a priest. This was all tough for me to accept, but it sounded reasonable to me.
I still remember later that summer, driving with my mother away from home, heading to meet up with my father so my parents could drop me off at the school for the new year, leaving my sisters crying at the entrance of my house, I started crying. My mother stopped the car and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?” At that moment, as difficult as it was, I felt connected to Abraham, who left his homeland and everything to follow where God was leading him, as we see in Hebrews 11:8-10: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.”1 I told my mother, “yes”, I wanted to do this, and we drove on. I’ve always been amazed at how open my parents were to my deepest desires and calling. They never forced me. They never attacked me or held me back. They simply supported me.
Desire to Live for Heaven
I soon fell in love with this desire to live for Heaven, to live for Eternity. I felt in my heart that the priesthood was part of this journey, but I also knew that at any moment God could call me home to Heaven, like he did with my brother at three months. I didn’t have lots of certainties about my future, but I knew that the most important thing was God, was Heaven. Everything else became relative to God and to Heaven and I was able to make a decision. Many people think that a vocation is a one moment experience and decision. Others say that they never had doubts about their calling. Personally, neither of those are true for me. I think that my first Gethsemane moment when God was asking me to drink a specific cup of suffering, was in my room when I was thirteen, but since then I have had many Gethsemane moments. When I had my first experiences of a calling and when God gave me enough consolations, graces and reasons enough to leave everything behind, it was just the beginning of the hike up the mountain and I’m still hiking. I fear people who make fundamental decisions, like a vocation, but who aren’t continuously making renewed decisions to follow Jesus today, in the here and now. Their decisions become ideologies and their actions lack true love. I believe God challenges us to make fundamental decisions and to live renewing them in concrete actions of experiencing and sharing love each day!
Every Vocation is a Relationship with the Trinity
All of my life has been a hike, a journey. I don’t pretend to have all the answers or think that I know exactly where Jesus is leading me, but I try to continuously follow him. Sometimes he goes off the trail I thought we were supposed to be on and he takes the tough way up the mountain. In many of my crisis and challenges over the years, like leaving my family, hockey, my friends, my country, my language, the difficult suffering and divorce of my sister, family challenges, the scandals of the founder of my congregation, the scandals of priests around the world, the scandals of bishops, like Lahey, who had been in my diocese, struggles of faith, being attacked for my faith, friends that would betray me, temptations from the devil, being in the seminary (studying and on internship) for twenty years, when my heart wanted to be on missions and evangelize, etc. In all of this, I have discovered that Jesus has always been with me. Jesus has never abandoned me. Jesus has continued to whisper into my heart, “Follow me!” We are all called to follow Jesus. Jesus doesn’t abandon us in the storm. He came down to earth to help us through the storm and lead us to Heaven. He wants us to walk with him through life. He doesn’t want us to walk alone. He has a different mission for each of us and he wants us to live our mission with him.
I haven’t always followed Jesus perfectly, but I realize that compared to following Jesus, everything else is secondary. We all suffer. Why suffer without Jesus? Why suffer without God? Why suffer without love? Jesus is calling us to follow him and the truth is that none of us know where he will lead us. The important thing is to allow him to lead us. The important thing in this one life we have is to trust him. With God’s grace, we can trust, we can let go of control, we can abandon ourselves into our Father’s arms, because God is good. In the end, our vocation is a relationship, it’s God, it’s a relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and God is love. Our vocation is a relationship with Love.
Little did I know when I was thirteen where God would lead me on this hike up this mountain called life. I never could have imagined. From Mabou to New Hampshire to Connecticut to Rome to Michigan to Haiti to Florence… Presently I am working in Florence, Italy, in youth ministry and as director of the chaplaincy of the English-Speaking Community of Florence. I was ordained a deacon last summer in Indiana. God willing, I’ll be ordained a priest in the next few months.
The most beautiful reality of our faith is that God has called us to share in his divine nature, which is love. We are called to begin living in this relationship of love already in this life. We are called to share in God’s divine nature, to share in the life of the Trinity already here in this life. My experience up to this point has been that the further I deepen in my relationship with God, the deeper I go, the more beautiful it becomes. The more I open up my heart to Jesus, who is love, the more I experience him as love, mercy, healer, saviour, light, freedom, redeemer, happiness, truth, goodness, peace, etc. I have come to experience that the more I let Jesus into my life, the more I grow in love, the more I live out my true calling, the more I truly help people on their journey to Heaven. It seems like a contradiction, but I have experienced that Pope Benedict’s words are so true: “Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ – and you will find true life.”2
Sometimes it seems that there is a dead end or a cliff and then with God’s grace and a little trust, God takes me by the hand and leads me across the bridge that I can barely see. Don’t be afraid to open your heart to God’s infinite love. Don’t be afraid to throw yourself into God’s arms and allow God to embrace you! Don’t lose hope. Trust in God. God is good. God is with us. “God is love.”3
My name is Kramer Donn Cameron, son of Marcella and Gerard Cameron. I was born on April 24, 1987. I have four wonderful sisters: Jacintha, Alethea, Paulette and Josefa. I have an older brother who passed away as a baby. I have six nieces and nephews. I grew up in Mabou, Nova Scotia, Canada. My favorite sport is hockey. When I was thirteen I first felt God inviting me to be a priest. I felt called to live for Heaven and help others get there as a priest. In grade eight, the year 2000, I went to Immaculate Conception Apostolic School in Center Harbor, New Hampshire. I graduated in 2004 and entered the Seminary, the Novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ in Cheshire, CT, where I did my Novitiate from 2004-2006, and my Classical Humanities from 2006-2008. From 2008-2010 I got my Bachelor of Philosophy in Rome. From 2010-2013 I did my Internship as Assistant to the Rector of the Seminary of Classical Humanities in Cheshire, CT. From 2013-2014 I did a year of Internship doing pastoral work in Michigan: youth ministry, ECYD, Regnum Christi, Everest Academy, inner city missions and Missions to Haiti. Then from 2014-2016 I got my Licentiate of Philosophy in Rome, Italy, and from 2016-2019 my Bachelor of Theology also in Rome, Italy. Presently I am working in Florence, Italy, as the Director of the Chaplaincy of the English-Speaking Community of Florence and doing youth ministry working with our international youth program ECYD.
1 All of my Bible Citations are taken from: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, ESV, Text Edition: 2016.
3 1 John 4:8