A change for the better

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Sometimes change is good. When Deacon David Dufresne is ordained to the priesthood June 7 at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, it will mark the end of a journey full of change, but not always positive.

Deacon Dufresne was born Oct. 23, 1982, in Lafayette, La. His family moved to Fort Collins, Colo., in 1985, eventually settling in Denver.

When his parents divorced in 1987, he and his mother moved to a smaller house in Denver, and he saw his father every other weekend.

He was a gifted student, but began to hang around with the "wrong crowd" at East High School in Denver, and that led to bad behavior. He said he was "loud, obnoxious and desperately unhappy."

Hoping to stem his destructive behavior, his mother transferred him to Denver University High School which had smaller class sizes and individualized attention. That individualized attention moved him to study Taoism, existentialism, nihilism and the teaching of the Epicureans and Nietzsche which he said "momentarily satisfied my hunger for meaning and simultaneously gave me license to do whatever I wanted."

He was not raised in any specific religion, and this lack of spiritual direction created an emptiness in his life that he looked to fill with philosophy.

Eventually, Deacon Dufresne dropped out of high school and took odd jobs to support himself. In 1999, he moved out of his mother's house to live with friends.

He said that he caused his mother a lot of stress, but they eventually resolved their problems and now have a good relationship. Since he did not see his father much growing up, he said they are not as close as they should be.

Realizing that the lack of a high school diploma was holding him back, he eventually received a diploma through a Colorado home-study program.

In 2000, he met a girl and started a relationship that, although ended after a short time, was instrumental in his renewed interest in Christianity.

Deacon Dufresne said that, ironically, his first prayer was as an atheist. It was when he felt his loneliest and most vulnerable.

"I don't understand how You can exist if I am so miserable," he prayed. "But if You exist, help me."

He said this prayer was the small hole that God needed to change his heart.

He began going to Mass, albeit mostly out of curiosity. He received a Bible and rosary from a friend, and was introduced to novenas, scapulars and other devotional materials. Even though he was not baptized, the Divine Office became an important part of his life.

Infrequent Mass attendance led to daily Mass at Notre Dame Church in Denver.

In 2001, he entered the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and was baptized, confirmed and received first Communion March 31, 2002, at Notre Dame Church.

Deacon Dufresne said he felt a pull to the priesthood since the beginning of his conversion. He looked at the Jesuits and Franciscans, but eventually believed that he would be more effective as a "general practitioner rather than a specialist." He wanted to lead ordinary people to Christ through the sacraments.

Since he was such a recent convert, he was advised to wait several years before applying to the seminary. He moved to the Arlington Diocese where he worked for the American Life League and at various parishes in the diocese.

In 2007, inspired by diocesan priests, he applied to Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde for seminary formation. He studied at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Ohio, and earned a bachelor's degree in philosophy and classics in 2010. For the past several years he has been studying at the Pontifical North American College in Rome.

On June 7, Deacon Dufresne will be ordained a Catholic priest, and he is anxious to begin his new life.

He said he is looking forward to doing the things that priests do, like spreading the good news, forgiving sin in God's name and bringing the hope of Christ to the sick and suffering.

There is no hesitation in Deacon Dufresne's decision to become a priest.

"He who has called me to be a priest will give me everything I need to fulfill that calling," he said.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014