I was baptised at 11 years old and joined the altar servers at my parish, the Church of St Michael, for 13 years, before moving on to focus on my career.
It was during this absence from ministry that I became a ‘lost sheep’, running away from Church for 2 years. There was nothing to hold or keep me rooted to church.
I did not go for Confession for a very long time because I used to think ‘what for need to confess to a priest when I can just simply confess directly to God as and when I felt the need to’ which of course led to ‘no need lar’.
Sunday mass just felt like an obligation, ‘bo pian’, no choice still had to go for mass. I skipped mass at times, and on Sundays when I did go for mass, I was physically in the church but my spirit and mind was wandering elsewhere, probably still half asleep from all my ‘night activities’.
The Turning Point
The turning point came when I was invited to attend the Conversion Experience Retreat (CER) held at the Catholic Spirituality Centre (CSC), which was conducted by then Fr William Goh.
I was like, ‘alright, nothing to lose, just go attend this retreat and see what it was like’. Honestly, I was quite sceptical as to what this retreat could do for me, but decided to go with an open heart and open mind.
To my surprise, at the retreat, the Almighty surgeon, Dr. Jesus Christ replaced my heart of stone with a heart of flesh. During the Stations of the Cross, I received the most priceless gift of God’s love, Jesus dying on the cross to redeem me.
I finally made my confession to a priest after so many years and His mercy, forgiveness and compassion felt so real, so tangible!
After that 4-day spiritual surgery, I felt a strong passion to share His love, mercy and compassion in the same way I had experienced them. This also led to a strong desire to mend and develop an intimate relationship with God.
The Return to Parish Life
I returned to the altar servers ministry after the retreat, and also became more involved with the parish. But all this while, there were still no thoughts of the priesthood. In fact, throughout my life, I had never considered the priesthood.
I had always wanted to have a family of my own, with maybe at least 2 kids, a boy and a girl. I even recall a few occasions when I was younger where my mother and even my Godmother would go around telling people that they were praying for me to be a priest and I would stare angrily at them and give them this ‘please stop doing all this’ look.
Lo and behold, about 6 months after my conversion experience, I was attending holy hour adoration at St Michael’s and was staring blankly at the crucifix during the silent meditation, when a vision of an ordination mass at the sanctuary of St Michael’s happened out of nowhere!
The vision only revealed someone lying prostrate at the sanctuary before the actual ordination rites but not who was getting ordained.
A few days later, I found myself surfing the Seminary’s website. There was a page on the website which states certain signs if a young man were called to the priesthood. As I read through the signs listed, I found myself agreeing with the majority of them – “You feel drawn to greater involvement to church life”, “You desire a closer relationship with God”, just to mention a few points.
It suddenly dawned on me that God was possibly calling me to the priesthood and my first reaction was ‘CANNOT BE! YOU MUST BE JOKING RIGHT, GOD? ME? PRIESTHOOD? Such a sinful and broken person and you want me to be a priest? How can that be?’
God definitely had a great sense of humour. At that point in my life, I was actually very happy at my job, had lots of friends, was paid quite well but He called and invited me to something that would offer me a much greater place of honour. Something that was everlasting, not on earth but in heaven with Him.
Throughout my discernment, even up till today, there were many occasions where I doubted God’s call for me. But through every occasion, He showed me how much He loves me which I have never felt worthy of, sometimes even felt guilty that I have not loved Him back as much.
Every time I doubted my ability to minister, God humbled and edified me with these words “He does not call those who are qualified, He qualifies those whom He calls” and this has led me into a deeper relationship with Him.
I am more and more convinced, as my formation journey continues, that this is where I want to be but more importantly, I am where God wants me to be. Amen!
My prayer for the Catholic Church’s 200th anniversary
Most heavenly Father, thank you for this gift of faith that has been planted by the missionaries in this nation 200 years ago. I thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit who continues to make You known and for those who have sacrificed to pass on the gift of faith.
I pray that this little red dot on the world map, just like a grain of mustard seed, though it might be the smallest, may continue to grow and become a great shrub, putting forth large branches for its people to take shelter from all the trials and tribulations they have to face. May the Holy Spirit continue to ignite in our hearts, the fire and passion of the missionaries to make You known for many more years to come. Amen!