Could there be a more suitable job for Anthony Divinagracia than that as rector of the Anglican Parish of St. John the Divine in Courtenay?
It’s like he was born to be in the ministry.
His surname is Spanish for “divine grace” – a perfect name for a pastor, although he said, ironically, his parents tried to talk him out of a ministerial career.
“When I informed my parents that I wanted to enter the seminary, my mom and dad tried to discourage me. They mentioned (other family members) who ‘entered the seminary and didn’t finish it. Maybe you will be like one of them.’ But I told them I would prove to them I belong.”
Anthony came to Canada from the Philippines in 2005.
“I ended up first in Victoria for a month, to get climatized,” he said. “After that I was assigned as an assistant pastor in Campbell River for two years.”
Although he knew next to nothing about Canada prior to his arrival, he received some advice from a friend.
“When I first started looking for a place to minister abroad, outside the Philippines, I was advised by my best friend, to apply to English-speaking countries, like Australia, England, Canada and the United States. So the first one to respond was Canada.
“So while I was looking at Canada, I wrote down one prospective diocese: Whitehorse. My friend, who is Canadian but retired in the Philippines, he saw that and said, ‘No, no, don’t apply for Whitehorse. You won’t survive there.’ So that shows how little I knew about Canada before coming here.
“He advised me to apply in Vancouver Island, because the climate here is somewhat similar to the Philippines.”
While he knew little about Canada beforehand, he knows a lot about the country now. He had to learn, in order to receive his Canadian citizenship.
Anthony passed the citizenship exam and became a full-fledged Canadian on Nov. 28. He led his first service as a Canadian priest on Sunday.
“I was eligible to apply in 2011, but due to all my busy-ness in my life, I set it aside. Then I got in touch with the Immigrant Welcome Centre here and they helped me, and encouraged me. I applied last April and I was blessed to be chosen as part of a pilot project, to have the whole process done (in one day). We had our exam in the morning, then we were interviewed, and given our citizenship, all in the same day.”
He said he passed the test “with flying colours,” thanks in large part to the tutor he had, from the Immigrant Welcome Centre.
Anthony carries his new citizenship with pride.
“To me, being Canadian simply means being open – open to other people’s cultures, other people’s faith, and being respectful.”
He met his wife, Nell, in Courtenay, and they were married in August of 2010. They have two daughters: five-year-old Lucia, and three-year-old Naya.