Solomon, who was born in Nigeria, first thought of becoming a priest when he was eight years old. He would even gather his siblings and ‘play Mass’ using a peppermint for the host and glass of coke for the wine.
“I was sure I wanted to become a priest and a priest outside of my own country. Nothing else made me happier than saying and discussing it with people,” he said.
Solomon took that step once he left school.
“During a parish retreat directed by Rev Fr Dominic Totaro, SJ, he talked on ‘Ignatian Spirituality’ and taking us through Psalm 139, I began to ponder my reason for being. The words of the Psalmist: “O God you search me and you know me…” made me keep asking questions about my existence: where have I come from? What am I doing here? Where am I going?
“Fr Dominic reminded us that human beings are created for a purpose and every other thing on the face of the earth is meant to help us achieve this purpose. It was during this retreat that I really started thinking of joining the priesthood to see if it would answer my question of what I am doing here and where I am going to.”
For Richard, the call came much later. He grew up in Sydney in a large family, and was talented in maths and science. One day a priest asked him a simple question: “Richard, I think you might be a good priest. Have you ever thought about it?”
He dismissed the question but it stuck in his mind from that point. He completed an electrical engineering degree and began working in his dream job. But said: “The thought the priest had placed in my mind was always there. From time to time I would pray about it and I would ask God ‘what are you asking of me?’. It’s hard in prayer because I’m like ‘is that you talking?’ or am I imagining things, and making up answers to my prayer? But I always sensed a deep calling to serve others, and that was something I really felt ‘that’s what I want to do’.”
He took the step of faith to join seminary a year and a half ago, and sees it as a continuing journey.
Difficulties facing the church
Both Richard and Solomon are aware of the difficulties and crisis facing the church and how that will affect their call. Richard sees those difficulties as motivation to become a great priest.
“All of the baggage of the past that would deter someone from becoming a priest is an inspiration to really try and make a difference. To give of myself as best I can.”
It was a wonderful night with great insight and inspired conversation around a topic that isn’t often discussed with young people.
Pints With A Purpose is on the first Monday of every month at Northern Star Beaumont St Hamilton. Join us for dinner at 6.30pm followed by a talk at 7pm on 3 September.