‘Listening and Speaking with the Heart’ at the Regional Commission for Social Communication (RCSC) Meet 2023
PENANG — The annual meet of the Episcopal Regional Commission…
I was born and raised in Kota Kinabalu. Growing up, I have never thought of becoming a priest. I have always imagined that I would finish school, go to university, find my true love, settle down and build up a family. Even the purpose of me joining the altar servers at Sacred Heart Cathedral was because I had friends there, and it was the “in” thing back then. However, I found myself drawn towards the altar. I have also become fascinated with what the priests were doing at the altar and thought it was neat to be at the centre of attention!
The first inkling of priestly life probably came to me during the 2005 World Youth Day in Germany. At that time I was working part-time in an architect’s firm but thinking of furthering my studies. I could not make up my mind, and decided to take a gap year to think things over. However, when I told my father my plans, he suggested that I should take some months off instead.
Coincidentally or not, while wondering what to do during those few months, the option to go for World Youth Day in Germany was there. I finally opted to attend it as part of the diocesan contingent. It was also a chance to backpack around Europe after WYD.
While there, we were invited to spend about a week in Heilbronn before the WYD events. With us was Fr Francis Dakun with whom the whole contingent related closely. My host family told me that they were shocked to see our bonding with Fr Francis and that they had not seen a priest being close with the laity in Germany. This somehow impacted me that our priests are indeed close to the laity. I started to ponder that if I ever were to become a priest, I would also do likewise.
As God would have it, the WYD events brought things into a deeper perspective. Seeing how small our diocesan contingent (twenty of us) when compared with the others, got me thinking about our Church in KK and in Sabah as a whole.
Having collected information from Fr Francis, I made some rough calculation and realised that the number of our priests back home was small!
I suddenly felt this urgency to do something about it and this feeling stayed with me throughout the whole event. On the last day during the concluding Mass, this urgency of doing something came to a point that I made a vow to consider the vocation to the priesthood if that was what it would take. This has actually caught me by surprise. It was also very scary because for the first time, I had serious thoughts about the priesthood.
This pondering continued to follow me even after I came back to Sabah. I was in a more confused state of mind but kept all these to myself. I was afraid of my dad’s reaction and that of my family.
My dad caught me by surprise when one day he asked me what I really wanted to do in life. I told him that I still wanted to pursue architecture but I needed more time. Interestingly, he told me that architecture does not seem like what I wanted to do. His talk turned to answering one’s calling. He shared that if I did not answer my true calling, it would make me a very unhappy person. He went further to ask if I had ever thought about the priesthood. This came to me as a real shock, not just because I have been constantly thinking about it but that my father had left the Church a long time ago. That day, I took this as a sign that perhaps God was inviting me to respond to his promptings.
What finally prompted me to respond came from an unlikely source: a colleague. Her incessant questioning and comparison of the differences between the different faiths brought me up short that there were many things about my own faith that I was not sure of.
My service at the altar presented me with many opportunities to ask the then Bishop John Lee all sorts of questions about the faith, as well as about the priesthood and how to respond to the vocation. He eventually directed me to Archbishop John Wong, Fr John Wong at that time, who was in charge of the aspirancy. From these encounters, my resolve to respond to the priestly vocation which God was calling me was further strengthened. I made my “Yes” towards the call to vocation at the 2006 Vocation Retreat and thus, a new journey began …