At Aspirancy House, St Joseph, young men begin discerning if they are being called to the priesthood. The current group share their thoughts.
I am where I am supposed to be
Why did I leave the comfort and security of my homeland, Suriname to pursue discernment of diocesan priesthood?
The first thing I want to note is that I am very glad for where I am now geographically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and I thank God for His grace and patience with me.
When I first heard His voice to follow Him at 17, the fire in me was burning strongly. The following day, I immediately went to the bishop at the time to share my burning desire to serve God as a priest.
However, when he told me that I needed to go through secondary school first, I was disappointed, but still on fire. As the three years of my time in secondary school passed by, the fire in me started to wane and I started to get more attracted to worldly things.
I began pursuing a degree in medicine and after two years, I felt a greater desire and knew I had to follow God’s way. Eventually that led me to the Archdiocese of Port of Spain, of which the Diocese of Paramaribo is a part.
Leaving the comfort and security of my home, family and friends is not that heavy on my soul for three reasons.
Firstly, because of Covid my waiting time has extended by a year and desire to begin the programme has grown even more.
Secondly, the fact that I’m 25 years and for the past year in Suriname, I have been partly taking care of a small household. Such experience made me more mature and helped build my trust in God.
Lastly, I think that I am where I am supposed to be. Although I love my family, my home, and my country, I love God more. Through my own experiences, I’ve come to believe that God will take care of all my needs as long as I cooperate with His grace. — Rafael Vola, aspirant, Suriname
How has the Aspirancy Programme helped me so far?
I think it’s safe to say that most young guys growing up in the Catholic Church and active in ministry, have heard the golden question, “You ever thought about the priesthood?”.
As much as the question never made me uncomfortable, I just never took the time to really think about it more deeply, until during lockdown last year. Needless to say, just the simple thought of the priesthood has propelled me a year later into the Aspirancy House.
Aspirancy has opened my eyes to the humanity of the priesthood. We are accustomed to seeing priests on the frontlines of ministry, celebrating Mass, counselling, praying. What we do not see is what they do apart from that.
It is an aspect of our faith that we don’t talk about much. However, I believe it is critical for individuals who are contemplating a vocation, as it acknowledges that you bring yourself into God’s call.
It shows that in those moments that when you feel like the priesthood is beyond your grasp, remember that priests are people, too. They get nervous just like you. They cry and laugh just like you. They have seasons of dryness.
They are just like us; they struggle just like us. Ultimately, they persevere through it all.
The Aspirancy House has humanised the faith for me because if priests are always viewed as a portrayal of perfection, would young people be desirous of the priesthood? Only Christ is perfect, yet Jesus is willing to use us, His broken vessels.
There is a place for you. Why is God calling you? Because you are you. You don’t have to try to be like anyone else. Living with other guys in the House, you learn over time not to compare. Everyone has their own strengths.
So how has Aspirancy helped me so far? By solidifying the fact that God calls me to Him as I am. — J’Lani De Four, aspirant
Properly discerning God’s will for your life requires various disciplines, structure and guidance that makes up essentially your ‘Discernment toolkit’. Each toolkit is packed with tools relevant to you on your discipleship journey. It has standard equipment, and you can add or take out according to its purpose. My toolkit for ‘my discernment journey’ (which is a work in progress) came with three basic tools, which I believe every Catholic, receives at a young age: prayer, confession, and Holy Mass.
These three are the tools that we all receive at the start of our journey, through our local parishes, prayer communities, and family. How you choose to develop and acquaint yourself with these tools is entirely up to you.
Prayer, for me, took the form of praying the rosary frequently, and Eucharistic Adoration. As the journey progressed, other forms of prayer emerged. Christian meditation, examination of conscience, praying the Divine Office, fasting etc. Confession grew from whenever it was available to monthly.
For many Catholics, weekend Mass is the only Mass they can attend. Fortunately, my home parish had Mass daily.
In addition to the three core tools of a discernment toolkit, there are three other tools which I had to find/create on my own. Spiritual direction, spiritual reading, and mission/ministry.
Sometimes consulting with others helps us see clearly what choice we must make. Having a spiritual director (preferably a priest), is important if you want to move any further in your discernment. It may take time but seek out a priest with whom you are comfortable to share your life.
Direction may also come through reading. I chose to read one good Catholic book every month. Lives of the Saints, Scott Hann’s The Lamb’s Supper, any rich Catholic book deepens your faith and inspires you to follow Jesus more closely.
It is here that you can finally step out on mission. Find a ministry that suits you or to which you feel attracted. The very tools and gifts you have been developing from your kit can be used to reach out and touch other lives.
After years of mission, sharing these tools and gifts, I can conclude that God is calling me and “it is time to take an official step”.
—Matthew Howell-Paul, aspirant
Does the Church have room for a creative like me?
Reflecting on the life of a man like Peter Telfer, I can’t help but thank God for blessing us with such a vibrant, loving, and true patriot, who was deeply rooted in his faith and music.
I had the opportunity to perform alongside him on a few occasions and I was truly touched and inspired by not only his talent, but by the love and purity behind it all. This, in fact, should be the reason for our service to the Church in whatever creative field in which we are involved.
The Catholic Church has long been known to be heavy on keeping things strictly traditional. Before 2020, if you were a creative, trying to find a place in the life of the Church would have been almost impossible. However, since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with almost everything being done virtually, ‘tradition’ has had to take a back seat.
We have seen many parishes implementing a media team, livestreaming Holy Masses weekly, and even putting on great TV quality productions, like the virtual harvest concert produced by the parish of Sangre Grande a few weeks ago. These are great achievements to be celebrated.
Art has always played a major role in the Church even prior to Vatican II. It must be noted, however, that your creative involvement in the life of the Church is not limited to what you can do during Holy Mass (e.g., singing, playing an instrument, or operating livestreaming equipment).
While our creative service to the Church may differ in many ways, based on what can be done and what is permitted, there is definitely room for creatives in the ministry of the Church.
The problem lies, however, in the willingness of our parish communities to invest in the talent and skills of its people. That should not stop you from using your creativity to contribute to the Church today, nor should it be the only reason for your involvement in parish life.
— Mark Howell-Paul, aspirant
Why should youths explore their vocation in life?
There are many vocations in life, and it’s not just limited to religious life as many people have come to believe. A vocation in its simplest form can be referred to as a calling. Figuring out what your vocation is can be relatively easy for some, for others it could take a lifetime of discernment.
Regardless, we all have a vocation. When we follow paths that don’t lead us to where we are called it becomes quickly tiresome and frustrating. And the appeal to quit grows more and more each day.
In the discovery of our vocation, we find belonging. We are moved to a place of greater self-knowledge and internal peace. Note, that by no means does this imply that we wouldn’t go through struggles, sufferings, and sacrifices.
However, we are inspired to view suffering and sacrifice as a gift from God designed to deepen our faith.
I was once told by a priest that he has never worked a day in his life. That is the view we must have when approaching our vocation, we must never see it as a task but instead as a privilege.
Fear is something most of us face whilst discerning our vocation. To overcome our fears, we must accept them for what they are and love God for what He does.
The greatest advice I can give anyone is to look for God in all that you do. Approach everything you do with an attitude of love and view true love with the knowledge that our existence isn’t our own but instead a shared experience of profound faith.
— Kalé Simon, aspirant
Why young men should not be afraid of becoming priests
God has created each human being in His love for His divine purpose and will. We refer to God’s purpose and will for our lives as our vocation.
Vocation to the Catholic priesthood for many priests may have been at first a frightening thing but living the priesthood has become one of the greatest marvels that God has allowed.
The Catholic priesthood allows the priest to share in the mission of Jesus Christ, simply that all be saved and come into knowledge of divine truth.
St Teresa of Àvila said “ …it is presumptuous in me to wish to choose my path, because I cannot tell which path is best for me. I must leave it to the Lord, Who knows me, to lead me by the path which is best for me so that in all things His Will may be done.”
Thus, you, young men thinking of the priesthood, the fact is our vocation comes from God—we cannot choose it for ourselves. This should be comforting and rouse within us faith and hope: that God loves us and will always lead us to the path of our true and lasting happiness.
Many young men may have concerns with their happiness, celibacy, and capabilities of living up to the character of priest. Once we allow the truth of God’s love for us to prevail in our lives, we will begin to realise and experience our ultimate fulfilment in Christ.
The Catholic priest is invited into the security of living in ultimate fulfilment in Christ and to share it with the Church.
Though concerns on celibacy or on your capabilities to be a priest may surface, let the light of faith burn bright within you. It is in allowing the light of faith to burn bright enough that it launches you into the arms of uncertainty that you become the best version of you.
I challenge you to launch into the arms of uncertainty with the light of faith for your sight and truly give, discern. Call Fr Matthew d’Hereaux at 299-1056.
—Bryan Matadeen, aspirant