Father Patrick Dorelus, 41, was born to a devout Catholic family in Haiti. His father, Muradieu Dorelus, served the Church as a permanent deacon, and his country as a specialist in agriculture. His mother, Marie Eva Demosthène, brought the strength of her faith, which she nourished through her membership in the Legion of Mary and Rosary societies in her parish, to her work as a businesswoman.
Though their life was filled with the love of God, it was also marred by great sorrow. Muradieu’s first wife had died, and then after he had married Marie Eva, seven of their 10 children died in infancy. Through it all, Father Dorelus said, he never saw his parents lose faith in God.
He went to parochial school where his faith formation continued with the aid of his uncle who worked in the parish outreach center. “I also remembered praying the rosary every night with my mother before I went to bed,” Father Dorelus said. “I often would fall asleep before the end of the rosary, but I remembered praying it.”
He attended high school in College de Côte Plage, where he was quick to make friends and enjoyed playing on the basketball and baseball teams. His greatest challenge came the summer after his freshman year when his older sister, Roselene, left the Sisters of Cluny in Port-au-Prince to continue studying in Paris.
He joined the Eucharistic Youth Movement (M.E.J.), the junior branch of the Apostleship of Prayer, and taught religious education to second graders. However, by sophomore year, he decided to abandon the call to the priesthood he felt in his heart.
“I think I did this because I thought that becoming a priest was not something I would want to explain to my friends,” Father Dorelus said.
He applied instead to a renowned technology school where he earned a master’s degree in computer science.
Then came the summer of 2005, when he went to Cologne, Germany, for World Youth Day. “It was a formidable experience to be in Germany where Pope Benedict was from,” he said. “I decided to give the Lord priority so that I might find what God wanted me to do with my life.”
He spoke with his spiritual director who urged him to open his heart to the possibility of a priestly vocation. Once he let the door open, he was “filled with great joy and consolation.”
Then during a healing service at St. Louis de Gonzague School, the priest looked into his eyes and asked: “When you are going to start using your talents for God?”
“Then it struck me that God was really and truly calling me to the priesthood and once I came to that realization I was truly at peace,” Father Dorelus said.
He later won a scholarship to Hautes Etude International, where he earned a master’s degree in business administration. He went on to work at Catholic Relief Services, and later the Vatican Embassy in Haiti, while staying involved with the Eucharistic Youth Movement.
When he moved to France to teach Catholic school, God continued to invite him. “But at that moment, I said ‘No,’ and chose to continue to run away from this call,” he said.
That changed during a quiet train ride through France. While contemplating his life, the future priest finally heeded the call in his heart.“I finally surrendered my life to Jesus who was tirelessly pursuing me,” Father Dorelus said. “I finally said ‘Yes’ to Him, and in that moment I truly felt free.”
He recentered his life around the Eucharist.
In 2007, he visited the House of Discernment in Brooklyn and felt immediately at home. Two years later, he entered Cathedral Seminary House of Formation in Douglaston, where he stayed for five years.
In 2010, when the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, his sister, who had returned to her native country to work in the French Embassy, was among the casualties. Father Dorelus said the Holy Spirit carried him through the pain of losing her.
“I never blamed God, even though it is still very difficult for me and my family,” he said. “It has made me more attentive and has caused me to make a daily examination of my behavior toward others. Humanity is so fragile – we should love one another and be prepared and ready at all times.”
Father Dorelus will offer his First Mass of thanksgiving at American Martyrs Church, Bayside, on Sunday, July 1 at 10:30 a.m.