Diocesan Vocation Retreat 2010
7th – 9th May
St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary
Archdiocese of Singapore
Theme: I __ Scared to Lose
This is my 2nd Diocesan Vocation Retreat. Come to think of it, my first Vocation Retreat was more like a Vacation Retreat, with little or no intentions to discern about the Diocesan Priesthood. I had Brother Leonard, Brother Roshan and Brother Nicholas to accompany me to this Retreat. And so, I approach this Ponggol 17th Avenue Seminary with the “I better be serious this time” mindset.
While waiting for everyone else to arrive, we gathered in the Adoration Room to prepare ourselves before the start of the Retreat. Our first priest-speaker of the evening was Fr. Damian de Wind. He is one priest that I’ve considered for a Spiritual Director and Personal Confessor. Church of St. Teresa is really far! Fr. de Wind shared with us how he changed many jobs and his love for animals and nature. He worked in a Zoo, took up a Garden Landscaping course or something. People were asking him why he didn’t join the Franciscans. When God calls, there’s really no running away. It’s free will that God has granted us. Whether or not to respond to that call, is up to us.
I do believe that the faster we respond to God’s calling, the more souls we’ll be able to sanctify. It reminds me of how the assistant priest of my Parish (that you go figure out yourself), prior to my first Diocesan Vocation Retreat, keep telling me to go work and experience life first and that I’m still very young. I was 18 then. In my personal opinion, if the Archdiocese finds themselves lacking of Vocations, it’s probably due to young men who gets such discouragements from Priests. To be honest, i was discouraged then. Fire already burning but priests themselves put it out. Putting myself in their shoes, perhaps they are trying to make sure your call is an authentic call from God. God’s true calling. But then again, even when you’re in the Seminary, there’s still on-going discernment. Don’t be discouraged. If you feel God’s calling you, work towards that calling! That night, I slept at 1am plus, listening and learning more about the Neo Catechumenal Way from Brother Alphonsus Josemaria Soh. Alphonsus was telling me about how NC Liturgy actually returns to the true spirit of Vatican II, with strict observance with the Sacrosanctum Concilium.
Second day came, Lauds was at 6.30am followed by Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I thought the Chasuble used for that Mass was, erm, not exactly pleasing to the eyes. During communion, after praying, I looked up and saw the people from the Serra Club, most of them receiving the Blessed Sacrament on their tongue. I smiled. We had three priests to share their vocation story with us that day. Rev. Fr. William Goh, Rev. Fr. Paul Goh and Rev. Fr. Ignatius Yeo.
Fr. William Goh is probably one of the Seminary Rectors on earth that’s very involved in the Charismatic Renewal Movement. He shared with us how it was very easy to enter the Seminary during his time. There’s no interview, no psychological test, all he needed to do was to visit Archbishop Yong and off he went to College General, Penang. Surprisingly, he told us in College General, there were easily 60-80 Seminarians and there were many thugs and gangsters in the Seminary. Physical abuses, fights among Seminarians were not uncommon in College General and Formators will not eat with the Seminarians. Seminarians themselves will have cliques of their own. Fr. Goh kept a journal throughout the days of his Seminary Life. Many times, he wanted to leave College General but it was his personal Prayer Life that kept him going. I have to admit, his prayer Life is something I admire about him.
To be honest, I can’t really remember what Fr. Paul Goh (the Diocesan, Left), shared. I probably mixed up what Fr. Paul Goh and Monsignor Francis Lau shared with us, since both are the “Old and Wise”. Fr. Paul Goh was ordained in 1969. He told us that at that time, after the Second Vatican Council, approximately 70000 priests left the Church but he told us priests have to be adaptable and ready to accept challenges. Interesting. To be a good priest, one has to have a Good Head, for studying, Good Health and a Good Heart. Faith is like a submarine. If your faith is deep, things that are going on out there will not affect you. Fr. Goh said something that’s very true. If you love God, you would do anything for him, even crazy things. What are the Opportunity Costs involved if you join the Seminary? Even if you leave the seminary, there’s no need to be sad. Thank God if you joined and left, at least you tried and experienced.
Fr. Ignatius Yeo is probably the youngest priest in the Archdiocese. He was asked to leave the Seminary, served in aparish, re-discovered God’s call for him and he told himself, “I am who I am; I know i have to do this” and re-applied back to the seminary. Fr. Iggy told us that Crisis in Chinese is “危机”. Itself, is made up of “危” and “机”, which means danger and opportunities respectively. In every Crisis, there are dangers and opportunities. I thought that’s kinda cool. Not sure what he meant, but he said that the Seminary Fathers would be proud of him for writing this.
Monsignor Francis Lau was awesome. He kept reminding us, “Keep the rules and the rules will keep you”. Reminds me of being faithful to the Missale Romanum. Say the black, do the Red! He also reminded us with Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s quote, “Be Faithful in Little things!” Once again, it reminded me of being faithful to the Rubrics of the Missale Romanum.
I was blessed with awesome group mates and awesome facilitators, had awesome sharings and discussions, making this retreat an awesome retreat. Brother Sean Chew, during one of the group sharings, gave the analogy of God being the vending machine. I guess most of us treat God like the Vending Machine too! Whenever we need God, we put in the coin (prayer), and hopefully God will give us something or we expect God to answer our prayers! When God don’t answer, we kick him, we kick the Vending Machine. Met Brother Jeremy Francis Wong.
Reverend Father Alex Chua concluded all the sessions on the last day with guide onhow to discern. The questions posted by Fr. Alex were like, “What have i been doing right in my vocation discernment?”, “What have I neglected in my vocation discernment?”, “What extra can I do to discern my vocation diligently?”. Perhaps I should really settle on Fr. Alex to be my personal confessor and Spiritual Director.
Br. Nicholas Lye and Br. Jude Gregory Chan told us that they joined the diocesan seminary because they come from the people and they will go back to the people. I don’t identify much with the people thing. In a way, perhaps the Diocesans are really not for me. Simplicity as a way of Life attracts me. Franciscans? Maybe. They aren’t really the simplicity, simplicity.😛
Pax Domini sit semper Vobis!