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Called to spread the passion

The Church needs priests. This month-long series features four young priests and their respective journey to answering the Call.

This issue, FR KENWYN SYLVESTER

When asked about the starting point of my journey to priesthood, I always go back to a few Sundays at holy Mass, where I saw my parish priest seemingly tired but deeply at prayer.

I thought, “maybe one day this can be you?”, which was quickly dismissed since I knew that I wanted marriage. Maybe I can point to the fact that I was the only family member from a young age that saw regular Mass attendance as important, since there was a growing love for the Holy Mass soon after I received my first Holy Communion.

I can also remember the many funeral services we had as kids for our pets that died where I was the priest in almost all of them. God, in His wisdom and love, prepared me for this life —a preparation that would bear fruit in my decision to deeply desire God’s will for my life.

My search for the answer to the question of meaning and purpose led me to  seek God’s help in discovering His plan/will for my life. I felt, when I had turned 22 years old, I could no longer ignore the question that I avoided for many years prior.

It began to haunt me. I had sleepless nights deep in prayer, contemplating the question and petitioning God for answers, until I stumbled upon a series EWTN was running to commemorate the year of priests. The programme, The Call, which can still be accessed via YouTube, highlights priests and religious describing the experience of being called by God.

This discovery proved to be providential for me since I related with all the stories and emotions that the men and women recounted in the two-minute videos.

I searched and looked at video after video in the dark of the night, thinking maybe I was just hearing what I wanted to hear or appropriating their feelings as mine. But as I continued to click through the myriad of grace stories, I was convinced that this thought or feeling was not something that I was making up but rather a gentle hand (though persistent) leading me to discover the answers that would change my life forever.

I went to my parish priest at the time and introduced myself, since he was new to the parish. I informed him of my encounter. The rest, as they say, is history.

We journeyed together for a year or so, and he came to me one day after our usually weekly check ins to inform me that the time had come to submit my resignation from my beloved accounting career and enter the pre-seminary. I humbly accepted the request and did just that.

 

Overcome with joy

I entered the pre-seminary on March 9, 2011 and spent five months there before being ‘shipped off’ to Santo Domingo to begin studies in Philosophy.

It was the best of times in the seminary for me and the worst of times. Best of times were seen in the number of persons I met discerning a vocation to priesthood, as the Pontifical Seminary of St Thomas Aquinas, Seminario Ponitificio Santo Tomas de Aquino in Spanish, was home to 185 seminarians. The various personalities and characters allowed me to see my vocation as unique but also share with others on the journey and for me that was beautiful. Worst of times was the fact that I was miles away from people I know and love, even far from them linguistically speaking, since everyone around spoke Spanish and I was struggling to pick up.

‘God is with me, and He will never call me and leave me out here alone’, was the mantra I consoled myself with every time I felt the seminary was too much to handle.

One of my best gifts was a postcard from my parish priest filled with kind words, prayers and well wishes, reassuring me of prayers and support. When I read it, I was overcome with joy!

The struggles were worth it, nothing of value is achieved without struggle. I pressed on.

I returned to Trinidad after four years in the Dominican Republic, a fluent Spanish speaker and more knowledgeable about the faithfulness of God to me. If He brought me through doing a degree in Spanish and philosophy, then anything is possible. All of us who studied there finished with top marks in the degree programme.

My journey continued here in Trinidad, where I grew in spirituality and maturity. I was more patient with myself and thus more compassionate also with others.

After the completion of my eight years in seminary, I was ordained a deacon  February 23, 2019, and later that year, ordained a priest.

As I look back at my life, I can see the ways in which God has been faithful to me, the ways in which He had moulded me to be the person that I am, and the beautiful vocation He has called me to defines my whole life.

I can’t see myself being anything else and being this happy!

My mantra early on in my discernment journey was “making Christ the passion of my life”. Now, it’s about spreading this passion with everyone I meet. To share the joy of Christ with everyone is my lifelong mission, for this is what consists the joy of the Gospel.





 

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