By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

Leaving her son at the seminary was one of the most difficult things Kay Kavanagh has ever had to do.

“When I saw the sign on the road that said, ‘Thank you for visiting B.C. Welcome to Alberta,’ I started crying,” Kay recalled. “I didn’t stop crying until we got home.”

Paul Kavanagh was fresh out of high school when his family drove him to the Seminary of Christ The King in Mission, B.C.

Father Paul is now the pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Edmonton and the director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton.

To say Kay’s eldest son sensed a calling to the priesthood is an understatement.

“When he was in Grade 5, instead of being driven to sports or anything else, I drove him to church all the time,” said Kay.

When kids in the school playground were pretending to get married, Paul was “officiating.”

“The next day they would all get divorced and then they would get married to someone else,” Father Paul joked.

“I didn’t know a lot about canon law. I was only 10 years old.”

Father Paul’s Grade 6 teacher brought a photo of him “baptizing” Cabbage Patch Dolls to his ordination ceremony in 2002.

“I was almost in tears, more out of embarrassment than anything else,” Father Paul said.

As a boy, Paul even had a homemade altar.

“I would send him down in the basement to get something and I knew he wouldn’t be back for an hour because he had to have Mass. I had to yell at him,” Kay said.

“He decided then that he wanted to be a priest, and I would say, ‘Wait until you’re a teenager and start dating, you’ll change your mind.’ But he never did. He dated a bit, but he never did change his mind.

“I think it’s because this is what he wanted to do with his life and he’s got a great sense of humour to deal with all situations, good or bad.”

Father Paul said he inherited his sense of humour from Kay, a single parent who often worked multiple jobs in the service industry to support the family.

“When I have a moment of complaint I think, ‘Now why do I complain?’ ” Father Paul said. 

“Mom never complained about all these things that she had to do, so I think in that sense she taught me a lot about life.”

Father Paul said his mom continues to keep him grounded. “Whenever I go to parishes she always tells me ‘Remember, you’re there for a short time, not a long time, so don’t destroy the place before you leave.’ I take that to heart.”

This Mother’s Day is especially poignant for the Kavanagh family. Father Paul and his brother have been accompanying Kay to chemotherapy treatments since she was diagnosed with cancer last December.

“This year I think we’re going to take Mom out,” Father Paul said. “I think we feel guilty because she’s been going through chemo and still cooks for us.”