Deacon Brandon LeClair to take next step on his journey with Jesus
During his years discerning a call to the priesthood, Brandon LeClair encountered many profound moments of faith.
But perhaps no other experience affected his formation journey more intensely than a trip to the Holy Land where he visited the site where Jesus performed miracles and made Peter and Andrew “fishers of men” — the Sea of Galilee.
“We sailed out to the middle of it, and I sat in silence remembering the times Jesus preached from a boat or the shore,” LeClair said, recalling the waterway mentioned in so many New Testament Gospel stories. “The opportunity to walk where Jesus walked, and experience what he experienced, was very impactful for me.
The former St. Jude parishioner, who was ordained a transitional deacon last May, made the pilgrimage with newly ordained priests and fellow deacons before returning to his studies at Assumption Seminary in San Antonio. His eight-year preparation for the priesthood includes earning a bachelor’s degree in philosophical and theological studies from St. Joseph Seminary College in Louisiana and a master’s degree in divinity from Assumption Seminary.
On May 20 in St. Patrick Cathedral, LeClair will receive the sacrament of Holy Orders from Bishop Michael Olson along with fellow transitional deacons Austin Hoodenpyle and Ed Hopkins. To prepare for ministry as a priest, he made a Holy Week retreat with the Benedictines at St. Joseph Abbey — the place where he began seminary training.
“I experienced the Triduum and prayer with the monks there,” the deacon explained. “It was a time for quiet reflection at the monastery.
A cradle Catholic, the 29-year-old considered careers in teaching, criminal justice, and the culinary arts before childhood thoughts of becoming a priest finally took hold. An early memory is playing the part of a priest during a second-grade first Communion skit.
“I said the words (Body of Christ) and a light bulb came on, along with a peaceful feeling,” Deacon LeClair said. “I remember thinking this might be something I need to do.
But serious discernment didn’t begin until college courses and cooking school left him unfulfilled.
“I talked to my parish priest but what really impacted me was a Camp Fort Worth retreat I went on,” he continued. “I gave my vocation story and one of the kids there observed that all the career choices on my list pointed to the priesthood — teaching the faith, guarding the flock, and bringing everyone to the table of the Lord.
His parents, Tonya and Edward LeClair, supported his decision to enter the seminary in 2015 and now plan to host family and friends at their son’s ordination celebration.
“My dad has a bunch of brothers who live all over the country, so I have family coming I haven’t seen in years and others I’ve never met before,” the deacon said. “Everyone is very excited.
LeClair’s parents purchased a chalice for him, and he is receiving two additional memorial chalices from Knight of Columbus chapters in San Antonio and Fort Worth. His confirmation sponsor, Tracy Key, is gifting him a set of vestments.
“Other than financial support from the Knights, one of the greatest things I’ve received are letters from parishioners saying we’re praying for you,” LeClair disclosed. “It’s been a beautiful experience to walk on this journey with others — not just seminarians but those in the diocese that are constantly keeping me in prayer.
Whether it’s a vocation to the priesthood, religious life, or marriage, the one-time 5th grade religious ed teacher advises young people to be open to the will of God and rely on help from friends and family.
“Surround yourself with others who want the best for you,” he cautioned. “Talk to them about whatever discernment thoughts are going on. It’s important to establish that community and dialogue.