The newly ordained are not only adjusting to priesthood, celibacy and ministry; they are also adjusting to becoming leaders of parishes, with all the attendant administration, leadership and management challenges.
1. What do you love most about being a priest?
I love everything. The word ‘being’ sums up everything I love. A priest is not just a doer. He is someone who is in the present – body, mind and soul; who is aware of God in anything and everything, in anyone and everyone. This may sound like a tall order and I am not saying that I have accomplished it because I am still in that journey. There’s this paradox terminology in theology which states “already but not yet”. Through the grace of ordination, I think that I should have accomplished it, but humanly saying, I feel that I have yet to fully realize it. Nevertheless I am enjoying every moment of being a priest. I love every moment of becoming the type of priest that God wants me to be.
2. The first five years of priesthood present unique challenges to the men adjusting life after ordination. What are some of the difficulties you experience?
Pastorally and spiritually, there are many difficulties that I encounter and to name some would be like saying that these are the most difficult ones. This would be an injustice to the rest. Don’t get me wrong because I see these difficulties as a stepping stone for me to move forward. They are ‘my appointment with God’ whereby He continues to shape and mould me into the person that He wants me to be. In that process of learning, the one thing I fear or would regret is the hurt that I might cause anyone perhaps due to my insensitivity, immaturity, ignorance or naivety. Being the youngest priest, for the time being, I have many things to learn and I am looking forward to face them, but I am sometimes afraid and allow myself to be intimidated by my young age. To be fair to the question, I would like to specify just one of the difficulties that I face, and that would be, “to believe what I read, to preach what I believe and to practice what I teach”. These were the words the Archbishop told me during my ordination. I have found It not to be easy because people would look at what I do and match what I say with what I do. I believe it is the same with every Christian.
3. How important is prayer? Is it always easy?
He came back to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “So you had not the strength to keep awake with me one hour?” You should be awake, and praying not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. (Mat 26:40-41) These words of Jesus summarize the importance of prayer life especially for a priest because a priest can be doing or saying so many prayers but never be in the prayer. This has been a challenge for me because there is always that tendency of making my work as my prayer. But this is not enough. That quiet moment with the Lord can never be dispensed for anything else. It is there that the Lord continues to speak to me through the many events that happen, to see and experience him present, walking and working with me every step of the way.
4. Do you get time off? If so, what do you do?
Didn’t the Lord say that the laborer deserves his wages? Everyone has to take some time off. If you mean by that once-a-week-day off, yes I do have that time off whereby I go for movies or ‘jalan-jalan’ with friends or occasionally go home to my family. Nothing specific exactly … I just do at the spur of the moment or how the day presents itself.
5. Are you allowed to have friends?
Yes we are allowed to have friends and I do have friends and still making many more. In fact I am thankful to God for he has given me an abundance of them. It is only a pity that there is only one me and many of them. I feel sorry that I could not spend more time with everyone. But the little time that I have with them is better than none and I try to make the best of that time. I thank all my friends for being patient with me and have supported me all this time.
6. Are you happy in your vocation, in your life and work for Christ? What is the happiest and most memorable time as a priest?
Yes I am happy. I am enjoying every second of it. One thing I have learnt from seminary formation is to find ways to be happy no matter how difficult the situation may be. Remember that song, “Always look at the bright side of life. tamtadam… tadadadadadam….” It’s something like this. Every second that passes for me as a priest is the happiest and most memorable time for me because every moment of every second that passes by surpasses the moment of the second before. It is all about experiencing God in every event, and in every person. It is about “being” a priest; to be present in the moment. If anyone asks me if I could turn back the time and choose to be someone else or do something else in life, I would not want to change anything. Through the experiences that I have been through, God has formed me into the person I am today. To my family, friends and those close to me, I thank you all for having journeyed and helped me in the many ways that you did. My sincerest apology for any hurt that I may have caused. I look forward to many more adventure together, to experience God’s love and to share his love with everyone.