On being ordained to the responsibility of the priesthood

When the choir and the congregation started singing “Here, I am Lord....”, the fateful morning of the 4th of February 2001 surfaced on my consciousness.

I was having my brekky at the Business Lounge of Northwest Airlines at the Los Angeles International airport en route to the Philippines. While I was queuing and looking at my food options, a friend approached me and asked me, “What is it that I want?” For some reasons, I misunderstood her question. In retrospect, I reckoned that she was referring to what food do I want. But as I said, I misunderstood her. I told her that I have always wanted to become a priest. After saying those words, I just found myself crying profusely, almost cathartic. I have always desired to become a priest.

I remember the plane leaving the airport mid-morning. I was at the window seat looking at the ocean of clouds, grippingly convinced of God’s call for me. I was chanting Isaiah’s prayers, “Here, I am Lord!” As soon as I reached the Philippines, I tendered my resignation from the bank I was working in to look for a seminary and the rest is history.

This long sojourn brought me to various lands, varying personalities, different cultures but I have reckoned and realized the fundamental reason why I desire to become a priest. Bishop Bill, in his homily, put it quite succinctly — to love, serve and follow our God. Nothing more, nothing less; it is all that I desire. While we were prostrating in front of the altar and the congregation were calling on the names of the saints in heaven, I was praying “Here, I am Lord; I am here to love, to serve and to follow you.”

When Bishop Brian and Fr Andrew assisted my mother during the vesting of the stole and the chasuble, I realized how my family and friends have been significant and critical in nurturing this calling to the ministry of the priesthood. It is not just a personal response. It is the oblation of God’s people. I am where I am, I am here because people have loved, believed and trusted in me. For them, I remain deeply grateful.

The following morning I celebrated the Eucharist with the community in St Mary’s at the Hill and St Joseph’s at the Junction. I used Fr Harry Hughes’ chalice. It was given to me by Sr Mary, Fr Harry’s niece. She told me that Fr Harry would have wanted me to have it. And in both celebrations, I found myself kneeling in front of the community asking them to bless and pray for me. I understand the risks and the responsibilities of this vocation. And, I know where my heart is. I remain confident in God’s loving grace and the prayers of God’s people to celebrate and conform my life to the mystery of the Lord’s cross. I am here to love, serve and follow our God; and to be a good, attentive and pastoral servant of God’s people.

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