(This is a draft Introduction for my new book, Father Rick, Roamin' Catholic, that I am writing. On a Good Friday in 2020, I sit in pandemic times with a niece and her son to tell my 50-year faith journey. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, encouragement, and stories that you can post below. It'll help shape the book's journey and content. Please keep those remarks civil and respectful. If you wanted to send me a message rather than post here, my author email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
The questions started soon after the release of Soar, Adam, Soar, my memoir on my late son and its heart-stopping, roller-coaster love story as a Dad.
“You were a priest?”
“You’re proud of your trans son?”
“Are you still Catholic?”
A few journalists startled me with that last question. I particularly remember the first time, when Erika Engels of the Bay Today news chain asked. I paused, a long pause, heading towards a 60,000-word answer when, instead, I said. “That’s another book I’m writing”.
Cue those 60,000 words.
On February 8, 2019, a week after Adam’s book was released, I was a guest on Rita Celli’s Ontario Today, a CBC Radio open-line show. I was anxious. First, even though I had been a public figure preaching for those 11 years as a priest, the more recent 11 years as political staff to three Members of Parliament had me accustomed to hanging more in the background than in front of the microphones.
More unnerving though, I was worried what some callers in the hinterlands might have to say to a former Catholic priest who loved this boy identified as a girl named Rebecca at birth. In Celli’s introduction, perfectly framed, she set the table for her listeners. “Father Rick Prashaw becomes proud father of Adam, his transgender son.” Well, the fourth caller, a man who said he was “Ken from Orillia”, catapulted me past my anxiety straight to his hell. His “In the Bible” damnation of Adam and I actually ended up being “a Godsend” --- for me, the show, and the book tour. I’ll tell that “Ken from Orillia” story later, how I answered and how other callers afterwards doused those hell fires.
Are you still Catholic?
One of the surprising places that my son, Adam, has led me to since his untimely death is being an organ donor advocate. Adam saved four lives because he had registered as a donor at 16 and, equally important, made sure to tell his family his wishes. I was interrupted writing this faith memoir one day to do a survey from a researcher for an organ transplant network keen to improve ways they might contact and communicate with a prospective donor family
during the most difficult circumstances, i.e., the day(s) their loved one is to be pronounced medically or brain dead. While it is sheer impossible to make those days good, or generalize a response that is such a personal family decision, the researcher did do a credible job navigating me through the revisit of that awful weekend at The Ottawa Hospital. When she was done, there were final, demographic questions to answer.
“What religious denomination are you?”
“Do they have Roamin’ Catholic as a choice?”
“No, not that one. I’m Roamin' Catholic. R-o-a-m-i-n.”
“No, we don’t have that one” she chuckled.
She checked off “other”.
Roamin' Catholic. I suspect we are many, even before we count others who have outright quit on the Roman Catholic Church.
On the personal side of writing a memoir, I winced when a young niece once introduced me to her friends as “the uncle who had been a priest, married and divorced”. Is that what goes on my tombstone? Ouch! It became clear. I better be the one to tell my story, in my words. Ego and legacy first sat me down at the computer.
But why tell it to the whole wide world?
On the surface, it’s an intriguing story --- Father Rick, a Catholic priest, marriage, a new vocation as father to Adam, an unspeakable tragedy, permanent grief that has discovered an astonishing, life-saving gratitude in the choices I could still make.
Dig deeper, and in the many changing chapters of my life there is a constant that endures, a faith in “my God”, the gods and myself. This is the tale of my crooked, straight journey to heaven’s gate,of a faith remarkably intact yet so radically changed, of a Roamin' more than Roman Catholic, a God and the heavens bigger than any Catholic catechism taught me. A believer still standing who finds amazement in all of that.
For more than half a century, I journeyed through turbulent times in our country, our world and, yes, my and many people’s Roman Catholic Church. I did so as a man, as a believer, as a priest, and as a parent. Initially, I had thrived on the promising renewal many experienced in the first few decades after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) radically changed the Catholic Church to thrust it into the modern world. There was much to embrace. Social justice. Praying Scripture. Living fresh this ancient love story between God and humanity.
Like some others, I became disappointed with the conservative retrenchment that invalidated and obscured too much of this miracle. The injustices. I would discover the experiences of Indigenous children scooped from families, their hair cut, their languages expelled at Catholic institutions. I would discover that, as a boy, I was play-wrestling with good priests innocently on a sacristy floor, while other children were being abused. I would discover that my male-ness led to privilege in my Church. And I would discover that my Adam and many others were not welcome there. Meanwhile, other good friends continued to worship and find their blessings in this same Catholic Church. Are my arms and heart big enough to embrace all of this?
Most authors writing a book will wrestle at some point with one’s motives --- why write this story and why write this story now. And many will find that, in their writing their story, the story itself surprises them, taking them to unsuspecting places. Father Rick, Roamin’ Catholic, has done that for me. I knew that I did not want back in the pulpit to preach or proselytize, bless or damn. That was never me in the first place, even when I wore that black shirt with the white collar.
It’s not easy staying out of this pulpit though, to leave final judgment to “the gods” or others. I wanted to tell my story because I knew that it touches questions of meaning and self-worth for so many other people’s spiritual journeys, as well as my own. That i