After months of delay due to COVID-19 restrictions, four transitional deacons will be ordained as priests for the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne on Saturday 5 December at St Patrick's Cathedral. A priest to be ordained is a testament of God’s fidelity – after years of discernment and formation, often including trials and pains, it is God's grace that enables the heart to say "yes".
We invite you to join us for the Ordinations to the Priesthood of Rev. Simeon Anthony, Rev. James Baptist, Rev. Jude Ezeme and Rev. Jude Johnson by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli at 10.30am on Saturday 5 December at St Patrick's Cathedral: www.youtube.com/archmelb
James Baptist says he was 17 when he started thinking about becoming a priest. He had a deep desire to help people and had been considering a career in medicine.
'I wanted to be a search and rescue pilot. I'd always identified with something in the medical area, being able to care and look after people on the front lines.'
In 2008, James attended World Youth Day in Sydney. Prior to the pilgrimage, he and his youth group went to see the WYD Cross and Icon which had been visiting parishes around Australia in the lead up to World Youth Day. James says it was during this experience of venerating the cross that he felt strongly the call to "something more".
'I went and venerated the cross and when I sat down my hands felt very warm and on fire.' He says that's when he started to seriously consider the call to the priesthood, and it resonated with his desire to help people. 'The seed was planted.'
Around that period, James' grandpa ("papa") was ill and in one of their last conversations before his death, James shared his desire to enter the priesthood. 'I said to him, "Look, I think God may be calling me to be a priest but I'm not sure." Papa told me that from a young age he thought that that was what God might want for me. But he never said anything before because he wanted God to be the one to call me.'
'So I went to World Youth Day and got to experience the Universal Church and when I came back from Sydney I said to mum, "I think this is what God wants for me."'
Twelve years have passed since then, during which James also worked as an orderly at the Alfred Hospital. However, it was the call to the priesthood that he eventually pursued.
'I always think of that quote from John 15:16: "You did not choose me but I chose you." It's humbling as it wasn't me who initiated the calling. It was God and I had to answer the call.
I'm still in search and rescue, I guess. Spiritual search and rescue.'
James acknowledges it was through God's grace that he accepted the call to the priesthood. That, and the influence of his friends and family.
'I was very blessed to have my Parish Priest, Fr Tom Foynes, as my initial example of the priesthood. If anyone needed him, he would be there. The whole community loved him. Fr Barry Tobin has been an amazing supporter too; and Bishop Elliott another mentor, especially when times got tough, they were really there for me.'
He also says his mum Angela has played a huge role in his vocation. 'She has always been my greatest encourager, my teacher, and the one who "gave me to God". She was the greatest example of faith and living that faith through tough times, teaching me how to keep my eyes fixed on our Lord. My big sister has always been there for me as well. They always told us in the seminary, "We are your formators but some of your greatest formators will also be your sisters. Because they tell it to you as it is!" My nanna and papa were also great examples of the faith in action, serving in our local parish, singing in the choir and as extraordinary ministers. They were just a great example of service to others.'
James explains how a good dose of laughter and his appreciation for superheroes helps him connect with people, especially the young. 'I love to have a lighthearted outlook on life. You can make life a lot easier when you can make other people laugh too. It gives me great joy.'
'Young people identify with superheroes because of their ability to be something greater than ourselves. And that's like a desire for the supernatural. He describes his affinity with Captain America in particular.
'He is the perfect example of a Christian superhero. He was weak but had a good heart. He didn't have the strength to do what he had to, but when he received the serum he became stronger. Now that can be compared to the grace of God in our lives.
It's connected to what St Paul says, "For when I am weak then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10b) It's not us, but it's God working through us by His grace.'
During my formative years of my life, my grandparents and parents served as role models, inspiring me to live a devout Catholic life. As a family we prayed the Rosary before our home altar. Through their examples, I learned how to lead prayers and to sing Marian hymns during Mass in our local church. Basically, I acquired the faith through my family members who were both my mentors and witnesses. Aside from my family, my parish priests and nuns in my parish, who so generously served others, also served as my inspiration.
The life of the priest in my home parish touched me so deeply that I started to wonder if God was also calling me to care, love and serve His people. There was also this particular moment that I can still vividly recall. It was during the priestly ordination of my uncle when I felt something I cannot express in words. I was eleven years old then, and from then on, I prayed every Sunday Mass for God to reveal His will to me.
I see hope in young people. They have full of energy, and I am hoping that they will dedicate their energy in serving God and other people.
I advise them not to be afraid. I encourage them to pray, pray and pray. Prayer is essential in knowing the will of God for them. It is through prayer that we deepen our relationship with God, and that is our primary vocation. I encourage them to consider Jesus as a friend. If you are not OK, tell Jesus. He is always waiting for us. Then, when we develop that kind of relationship, we would then know our vocation.
I normally begin and end my day by saying this prayer: “Thank You, Papa Jesus. I am yours.” Apart from this personal prayer, I also pray the Hail Mary and the Guardian Angel Prayer. My favourite hymn is Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.
At a young age, I was inspired by the joy and dedication of fellow young Catholics serving at the altar in my home parish. When I started serving at Mass, the more I was drawn into faith through the examples of my parish priest who showed a life of prayer and works of charity. His pastoral care to the sick and needy left a mark on me.
My experiences of altar serving and the good examples of my parish priest mainly contributed to my desire of becoming a priest. There was also this deep longing for happiness that was left unsatisfied after working for years as a laboratory technician. The insistent inner voice that keeps on calling me, in particular during Mass, led me to consider a vocation to the priesthood. There was a sense of joy and happiness whenever I imagined myself as a priest. Moving from Nigeria to Australia, I have encountered priests who lived a life of simplicity and dedication, and they all strengthened my desire of becoming a priest.
The most reliable signs of hope in our communities remains brighter among the youth and much younger members of our communities, the little ones in our primary schools. The Catholic church of tomorrow in Australia must make use of our schools for proper catechesis/ catechism. We must never shy-away from utilising such venues for evangelisation. ‘Catch them young’ they say.
Love the Lord God and seek him with a sincere heart. Know yourself well. Trust and believe in yourself and the divine investment in you. Don’t let anyone talk you out of your dream and God-given destiny.
Prayers of the Angel: ‘My God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love You! I ask pardon of You for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love You!’
I was brought up in a Catholic family of six where faith and Sunday Mass were valued. My parents and many others have taught me Christian faith, but it is through their actions and examples that I learned how to live out my faith, and even considering being a priest one day.
My vocation journey started with a simple question from my parish priest who asked all the altar-servers individually after the Sunday Mass in the sacristy: "Who wants to become a priest?” Since then, that question had kept stirring up in me, and it became louder and louder during my university years. That silent voice in my heart led me to seriously discern my vocation and to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. I sought the guidance of my parish priest regarding my decision to pursue the vocation to priesthood.
I see hope in everyone especially now during the pandemic that we need the support of each other. Each one of us is a sign of hope in our own little ways.
Speaking from my experience, spending time with the Lord in prayer and having someone wise and trustworthy to talk about vocation, like a Spiritual Director, are important for those who are discerning their vocation.
At the same time, I also think it is good to have a favourite prayer to connect oneself with the Lord. In my case, the Suscipe (Take, Lord, Receive) prayer by St. Ignatius Loyola has been my favourite one as it makes me surrender to God and fills me His love and grace. It is through this prayer that I overcome difficulties and grow the desire to give my life to God.