This Sunday, 8 May 2022, marks the 59th World Day of Prayer for vocations with the theme entitled: “Called to Build the Human Family”. It is a day we reflect on the meaning of God’s calling and the meaning of the priestly vocation and religious life.
The Fourth Sunday of Easter is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday or Vocation Sunday. Knowing who the Shepherd is, and recognising His voice, we are called to follow in His footsteps.
I joined the seminary at the age of 29. Life in the seminary was difficult and tough, but the priests and my fellow seminarians encouraged me and guided me into my life vocation.
When I expressed my desire to join the seminary, my whole family objected. My mother told me, “We need you in our home.” My dad was silent. My siblings were against the idea. However, I went ahead with my desire.
The Late Cardinal Soter, Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, then, didn’t accept my application. My Parish Priest, the late Fr Leonard John, initially discouraged me. He asked me why I wanted to waste my life by joining the seminary when the outside world was so beautiful. Gradually however, he encouraged and supported me a lot. After waiting and discerning for almost two years, I reapplied and I was finally accepted into the seminary in 1995.
With all these objections, hesitations, reluctance and most of all the temptations of the outside world, I went into the seminary. On my second day in the seminary, I decided to leave because I found it wasn’t my calling to be a priest. I spoke to my rector of the seminary and I told him what I felt after two days of being in the seminary. He told me, “George, the gate is always open and you can leave anytime.” When I came back to my room, I told myself, “Why not stay a week more, then, I can make a decision whether to continue or discontinue my studies in the seminary.” This struggle was always there throughout my 8 years studies.
I pushed and slogged through my years and after completion of my seminary formations, the late Cardinal Soter asked me when I would like to be ordained. I requested to postpone my ordination for at least a year or two but he gave me the date to prepare for my ordination within a month. I was then ordained in February 2003.
A few minutes before my ordination Mass began, the late Cardinal Soter, asked me, “Where would you like to be posted after ordination?” I replied that I would like to be in one of the Parishes in Kuala Lumpur. He didn’t say anything. At the end of the ordination Mass, he announced to the public that I would be sent to the East Coast of Peninsula Malaysia. I started my priestly journey here in Kuantan and Terengganu. I had no qualms serving here. After four years in the East Coast, I was sent to the West Coast and I am back here once again in the Church of St Thomas. After being a Priest for the past 19 years, I don’t at all regret the choice I made, and till today, I am a happy priest and I happily share in Christ’s mission.
Could anyone predict that a dull-looking caterpillar would one day become a beautiful butterfly? According to a proverb from the Far East, “a wise person, looking at the egg can see an eagle; looking at the seed, he glimpses a great tree; looking at the sinner he glimpses a saint.” That is how God looks at us. He sees a certain potential. God works tirelessly so that we can place our talents and gifts at the service of the Church.
Despite all these trials in every age, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, still lives and is still alive and active in our midst.
To my dear young people; “Are you looking beyond your careers? Does every routine of life challenge you? Are you searching for something that is not really out there? Are you motivated by a deeper search? Jesus does not knock at every door of our hearts looking for someone to respond to priestly and religious life. If Christ our Shepherd happens to knock at your heart today, be generous enough to let Him in. “Dare you take the challenge?
On this Vocation Sunday, the church encourages all young people to listen, reflect and discern God’s call to the Priesthood and Religious Life.
As we pray today for an increase in vocations to priestly and religious life, let us pray for a better understanding and appreciation of the life that God has given to us. As a Church community, let us pray that more young people will be drawn to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and be generous in answering the call of God.