Careers abandoned as young people answer God's call
A gnawing emptiness prompts professionals to keep seeking
Date: September 3, 2010
Category: Spiritual Life
Deborah Gyapong - Canadian Catholic News
Sherbrooke, Quebec - Jennifer Y.M. Lee, gave up a promising career as a concert pianist to consecrate her life to God.
Martin Bilodeau, 34, left behind a professional salary and glamorous travel as a mechanical engineer to live in community in lay consecrated life at Famille Marie-Jeunesse (FMJ), a new religious community that began about 25 years ago in Quebec City.
Andrée-Ann Brasseur, 25, an accomplished violinist, knew from the time she was 18 that she belonged with FMJ but she had to wait eight years until she was old enough to consecrate her life permanently.
Lee and Brasseur recently made their permanent commitments to God and FMJ while Bilodeau made temporary vows. They were among 10 young people who made commitments in Sherbrooke's cathedral on the vigil of the Assumption, Aug. 14, at a Mass celebrated by Sherbrooke Archbishop Andre Gaumond.
Lee, who was born in Calgary of Korean parents, had won international competitions as a pianist, had experienced the media spotlight and was on her way to a life on the concert stage. But she found that the pleasures of performing were fleeting. "I was looking for happiness that would last," she said.
Lee also tried the happiness the world offered, but found after every party, she still felt empty. Though her parents were both third order Franciscans, Lee put her Catholic faith "on the side" as she struggled to find meaning in her life.
She discovered FMJ because she was asked to act as a translator to a group of Koreans who were visiting the FMJ motherhouse in Sherbrooke, which used to be a Franciscan monastery.
Later, during a pilgrimage to Medjugorje, during a mountain prayer time, Lee said she cried out to God. She felt that her musical talent was God-given and she must develop it. But she also felt drawn to consecrated life.
Through prayer she had a profound realization. "God loved me for who I am, not what I did," she said. She felt God's profound love for her through Mary. The word that came to her was, "If you knew how much I loved you, you would cry with joy."
FMJ founder Real Lavoie encouraged Lee to finish her master's degree in music. She spent weekends at FMJ, getting her "oxygen of happiness" and plugged away at her music the rest of the week in Montreal, praying all along that everything would be for God's glory.
She did her recital for her master's at the Anglican cathedral in Quebec City and received a 98 per cent. She entered FMJ the week after.
She thought she would be sacrificing the piano, but found her talents put to use in choir direction, music direction and composition inside FMJ.
At the 2008 Eucharistic Congress, she played the piano before a crowd of more than 20,000, before cardinals, bishops, pilgrims and her family. "It was for God."
Bilodeau spent eight years as a mechanical engineer, earning a lucrative salary in the auto-racing field and then in designing snowmobiles.