By Paul Sinkewicz, STM Communications
(This article was originally published at stmcollege.ca and is used with permission)
Dan Yasinski’s life changed on April 6, 2005.
As a 22-year-old student in the College of Education at the University of Saskatchewan, he was working on his second degree, was in a long-term, committed relationship, and was looking forward to fulfilling his dreams of marriage and fatherhood.
And then the news of the death of Pope John Paul II came on that fateful day.
The pontiff was his personal hero, and news of the Holy Father’s death shook Yasinski’s world.
Attending Sunday Mass was a given while growing up in St. Walburg, as was praying the rosary with his parents each evening. He said it taught him about the importance of faith, and he is still struck by the powerful memory of his devout father kneeling during prayers.
Yasinski played piano and organ in church, and the parish priest was a frequent guest in their home.
He said it was during his high school years that he began to really make the faith his own, and that growing connection to the Church really took hold in university.
“All that provided the bedrock for my vocation,” he said. With the death of the pope, a fork in the road appeared before him.
“It really affected me. I really looked up to John Paul II. I read a lot of his writings and encyclicals, and the Theology of the Body, and when he died, it just made me sad in my spirit, so I decided to go to Mass that day,” he said.
“As I was sitting in Mass, there was a priest preparing something at the altar and I was praying, and I remember all of a sudden hearing words in my heart. They weren’t audible, but it was these words: ‘The priesthood. The priesthood.’”
Yasinski likened it to the story in the Gospel of Luke of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, who were mourning Jesus after the crucifixion. But after they encountered the resurrected saviour on the road and they asked each other: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
“That’s how I always describe feeling the call on that day,” he said.
Answering the call didn’t happen immediately, but through patience and prayer over the course of a year, Dan realized the call would not be denied. He felt he only had one life to live, and he had better live it in the way God intended.
So, after graduation, his journey through six years in the seminary began, and he never looked back. “That burning call I felt in my heart never left me.”
He was ordained in 2013 in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and became Fr. Dan Yasinski. He had chosen to be a diocesan priest rather than joining a religious order, with a purpose in mind – service to others.
“I wanted to serve with my boots on the ground, and I wanted to give back,” he said. “I’ve got to say that it’s been the best 10 years of my life.”
He worked in a variety of positions in the diocese before becoming the pastor of Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Kerrobert, Our Lady of Grace Parish in Dodsland, St. Eugene de Mazenod Parish in Luseland, and Immaculate Conception Parish in Major, in 2015. He is also serving as diocesan Co-director of Vocations along with Fr. Colin Roy.
This summer, Yasinski began serving as pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Saskatoon and in the fall he was appointed chaplain at St. Thomas More College, where he offers Masses in the STM Chapel.
Yasinski shared the story of his calling at a recent Theology on Tap session with members of the STM community, and didn’t hesitate when talking about what brings him the most joy in his ministry: “It’s my encounters with people,” he said.
“You get to meet people at the most sacred moments of life. You get to meet them at the grave, at the hospital, at the birth of their babies, at their marriages. It’s just a real privilege – and you see God work in amazing ways, and even though I feel that I give, I get a lot more back.”