Vocations to priesthood

WelCom May 2020: Good Shepherd Sunday, 3 May 2020 – Te Rātapu o te Hēpara, Pai 3 o Haratua 2020 Good Shepherd Sunday is on the fourth Sunday in the Easter Season;…

WelCom May 2020:

Good Shepherd Sunday, 3 May 2020 – Te Rātapu o te Hēpara, Pai 3 o Haratua 2020

Good Shepherd Sunday is on the fourth Sunday in the Easter Season; this year Sunday 3 May. The fourth Sunday of Easter is also Vocations Sunday. Good Shepherd Sunday derives its name from the gospel reading for the day; the tenth chapter of John’s Gospel, in which Christ is described as the ‘Good Shepherd’ who lays down his life for his sheep. 

“I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.” – The Good Shepherd, John 10: 9

“I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” – John 10: 14,15

Reflecting on Priesthood

Fr David Dowling

Good Shepherd Sunday, 3 May 2020, brings to focus the call to serve through priestly vocations.

The Archdiocese of Wellington Vocations Committee have created a website wellingtonpriests.org to help those thinking about priesthood. It features some of our priests and seminarians reflecting on their call to serve.

The possibility of choosing life as a priest raises questions such as: ‘what’s the difference between a diocesan priest who lives and ministers in a particular geographical area called a diocese; and a religious priest, such as a Marist, Dominican, Franciscan, who is a member of a religious community and can be involved in a variety of ministries in different parts of the world?’ This and other questions are explored on the website. There’s a video of our priests and seminarians talking about their vocations. Others have written about their vocation story and journey to priesthood. Some of these stories are shared here, including a reflection by Fr James Lyons on his own more than 50 years as a priest. 

Today those who are wondering if priesthood is for them also have questions about the cost and may consider if they have what it takes.

“When the Lord awakens a vocation, he thinks not only of what you already are, but of what you will one day be, in his company and in that of others.” – Pope Francis, Christus Vivit, 289.

Fr David Dowling is the Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Wellington, email frdavidd@gmail.com or phone 021 174 4248. The Vocations Committee members are Lucienne Hensel, Bridget Taumoepeau, Lorraine McArthur, Fr Andrew Kim and Fr David Dowling.

Deacon Trung Nguyen, soon to be ordained a priest, is the vocations contact for the Diocese of Palmerston North – email pettrung89@gmail.com or phone 022 0626726.

Please Pray for Our Seminarians

Alfred Tong

Vocations to priesthood Archdiocese of Wellington

‘We had an ordinary conversation, until something made her say to me, “I don’t know, you probably will make something great out of your pharmacy career, but have you ever considered ‘The Vocation’?” It wasn’t until I attended a Chrism Mass in Wellington a few years later that the notion of priesthood felt tangible, when the priests of the Archdiocese renewed their vocational promises. Remembering the love I had received from my parish priest and parishioners, I felt a niggle to respond.’

Alfred is from St Joseph’s Parish, Upper Hutt. He began his seminary formation in 2016 and is currently on pastoral placement in Our Lady of the Bays Parish, Tasman.

Matthew White

Vocations to priesthood Archdiocese of Wellington

‘I’ve always had a desire to know more about God and to love Him more. I tried serving God in all sorts of ways – as a high school teacher, in youth groups, as lay pastoral leader – but I always felt there was something more. I had ignored the call for many years. Many people – priests, parishioners, family – have helped me in my discernment and encouraged me to give priesthood a go. I’m a Kiwi guy – I love rugby, I love cricket, going out with the boys and having a drink. But God calls average Kiwi guys, and He has called me to serve and to give His love to His people.’

Matthew is from Te Ngākau Tapu Parish, Porirua. He started his seminary formation in 2019.

Emilio Capin

Vocations to priesthood Archdiocese of Wellington

‘As a youth I was moved by St John Paul II’s words: “Jesus is present in the Eucharist to be met, loved, received and consoled.” I grew to love the Eucharist. Somehow, I felt there was an emptiness in me that could not be filled by obtaining a degree, or finding a good job. I was involved in many ministries in my parish, but this too was not enough. Finally, in my thirties, I started to seriously discern the vocation to the priesthood. I am very happy to have the opportunity to receive formation to the priesthood in the Archdiocese of Wellington.’

Emilio is from the Philippines. He spent a year in the Catholic Parish of Wellington South, and started his seminary formation in February 2020.

Kinh Nguyen

Vocations to priesthood Archdiocese of Wellington

‘My cousin was a religious priest and I still remember watching him giving the Eucharist during Sunday Mass. One day he spoke to me about his life as a priest, and how he experienced his vocation. Finally, he asked me – “would you like to become a priest?” I said “no”, because I didn’t think I was intelligent or holy enough, and so I felt I was not worthy. But he assured me no one is worthy, and suggested that I think about it. Now I know it is not because I am worthy that God calls me to priesthood, but because of His great love for me.’

Kinh is from Vietnam. He arrived in Wellington in 2018 and started seminary formation in 2019.

Photos: Brian Suhada Photography

Palmerston North ordination postponed

Vocations to priesthood Archdiocese of Wellington
Deacon Trung Nguyen to be ordained as a Diocesan priest at the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Palmerston North.
Photo: Supplied

Deacon Trung Nguyen says the postponement of his ordination day due to the Covid-19 virus is a way of sharing the suffering and uncertainty that people are feeling all round the world.

Trung was due to be ordained for the Palmerston North diocese on April 18, but the ordination has been put on hold due to the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown.

‘When I first heard my ordination would be postponed I was very sad but it was also a test of my faith,’ says Trung. ‘It is up to me to bring a positive attitude towards all the things that have happened. I truly believe that everything will happen in God’s time and everything will be fine.’

Trung said it is particularly hard for his parents and family who will probably not be able to attend his ordination when it does happen, due to travel restrictions. Trung has three brothers who are all in training for the priesthood in different parts of the world – one in Washington DC, one in Colombia and one in India.

‘It is hard when my family and other people call and ask if I have a new date but there is no news. But I understand that with this virus there is a lot of uncertainty for people around the world and for people in our own country as well. People don’t know what is going to happen next. They are very anxious. So I think in a way I share their suffering and their struggles.’

Trung said his ordination day was not just about him as an individual but was also about the people who had supported him and the community he was there to serve.

‘It is good for people to witness an ordination but at the same time it is not all about me. I am here to serve the people of New Zealand so it doesn’t matter how many people can attend. I still feel their prayers and the support they have already given me over the last eight years. That is a great encouragement to me. It means a lot to my vocation.’

Currently Trung is in a lockdown bubble with Monsignor Brian Walsh, Monsignor David Bell and Fr Vijay in Palmerston North. 

‘I do some shopping for the elderly people nearby. I try and keep in touch with the parents of the school children and the elderly in the community. I try and make that connection between the parish and their families.

‘We have Mass every day which is sometimes streamed online. I sometimes give the homily or a reflection.’

Trung came to New Zealand from Vietnam in 2012 at the invitation of Fr Brendan Daly who was the principal of Good Shepherd Seminary in Auckland. He learned English when he arrived and then embarked on his philosophy and theology studies, graduating in 2019.

‘It was a challenge. I struggled with the English language, being away from family, a new country and culture, new people and new friends – but if I can do it I’m sure anyone can!

‘It’s not an easy journey, but the joy and happiness you get from this vocation counters all the difficulties you might face on the road,’ he says.

Good Shepherd Sunday

Dr Elizabeth Julian rsm

At our baptism we all are anointed as ‘priest, prophet and king’. We are all called to holiness: that is, called to proclaim and witness to the death and resurrection of Jesus wherever
we are. We can live out this call in four different but equally valid ways: single life, priesthood, marriage and religious life. 

On the fourth Sunday of Easter – this year Sunday 3 May – we reflect on the call to priesthood and the need for authentic leaders. It is traditionally known as Good Shepherd Sunday because the Gospel reading each year comes from John 10, in which Jesus is described as the Good Shepherd (see Gospel reflection p 17).

Obviously, the Covid-19 lockdown period has meant much questioning of a priest’s role. Ordained to be a minister of Word and Sacrament but today without physical access to a community and deemed by government officials as ‘non-essential’, many priests have found creative ways to explore the ‘foothills’* with their parishioners, for example, Frs Ron Bennett, Patrick Bridgman, James Lyons and others. They have experienced eucharistic hunger but are being nourished by and are nourishing others with the Word. Taking on the ‘smell of the sheep’ with Cardinal John Dew, priests here are exercising their pastoral role, for example, Fr Maurice Carmody, in helping people find meaning in their current situation and engaging in the works of mercy. 

Sadly, many priests in other parts of the world, perhaps confusing their identity with their role, have rushed to the ‘summit’ [Eucharist] alone [without the Eucharist as a community experience] and had a picnic at the top for all the world to see! 

*O’Loughlin, ‘Let’s discover what it means to be church, 3. Centre and summit’, p 15, WelCom April 2020.

A reflection of priesthood

Fr James Lyons

Vocations to priesthood Archdiocese of Wellington
Fr James Lyons.
Photo: Brian Suhada

To give and not to count the cost! St Francis of Assisi put these words as part of his beautiful prayer and I have pondered this as I’ve reflected on my own situation. St Francis quite literally stripped himself of everything to let his dream of following Christ become a reality. Has my dream cost me as much?

Yes, I said goodbye to my family when I entered the seminary and I put aside the possibility of marrying and becoming a parent. I denied myself a career that likely would bring financial security and the independence of adulthood to make my own decisions and mostly please myself.

The cost of all that did not register at first. The dream of priesthood was very appealing. I didn’t look back. What I had left behind struck me one day not long before my ordination. I started to reconsider my choice.

But the wonderful example of the priests who had served in my hometown – their presence and their love of the people, their availability and friendliness – told me they were happy and that the road they had taken was worthwhile.

That example alone is what spurred me on and I’m deeply grateful for it.

After more than 50 years as a priest, I readily admit my giving has cost me very little. I bought a great bargain! I remain close to my blood-family, yet enjoy the love, confidence and support of a much bigger family through lives grafted to mine through the people I have lived amongst. Joy and contentment far outweigh any sense of loss or disappointment.

My ability to love has not been compromised through lack of a family of my own; it has been expanded and enhanced. My mistakes have taught me and personal failures, while troubling, remind me that, no less than those I serve, I need understanding, compassion and forgiveness.

As a way through life, priesthood and the pastoral ministry that defines it, has fulfilled every need.

So, if you’re thinking of being a priest, just give yourself. Don’t worry about the cost. It’s minimal. In fact, as St Francis of Assisi discovered, it gets refunded over and over!

Fr James Lyons is a Wellington priest. His reflection on priesthood is one of several vocation stories and reflections on the vocations’ website: www.wellingtonpriests.org

Pope Francis Message World Day of Vocations

3 May 2020

Words of Vocation – excerpts from the Pope’s message

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On 4 August last year, the 160th anniversary of the death of the Curé of Ars, I wrote a letter to all those priests who daily devote their lives to the service of God’s people in response to the Lord’s call. On that occasion, I chose four key words – pain, gratitude, encouragement and praise – as a way of thanking priests and supporting their ministry. 

I believe that today, on this 57th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, those words can be addressed to the whole people of God, against the backdrop of the Gospel passage that recounts for us the remarkable experience of Jesus and Peter during a stormy night on the Sea of Galilee (Mt 14: 22-33).

Something similar takes place in the hearts of those who, called to follow the Teacher of Nazareth, have to undertake a crossing and abandon their own security to become the Lord’s disciples. The risk involved is real.

The Gospel, however, tells us that in the midst of this challenging journey we are not alone. Like the first ray of dawn in the heart of the night, the Lord comes walking on the troubled waters to join the disciples; he invites Peter to come to him on the waves, saves him when he sees him sinking and, once in the boat, makes the winds die down.

Taking the right course is not something we do on our own, nor does it depend solely on the road we choose to travel. How we find fulfilment in life is more than a decision we make as isolated individuals; above all else, it is a response to a call from on high. 

Every vocation is born of that gaze of love with which the Lord came to meet us, perhaps even at a time when our boat was being battered by the storm. ‘Vocation, more than our own choice, is a response to the Lord’s unmerited call’ (Letter to Priests, 4 August 2019). We will succeed in discovering and embracing our vocation once we open our hearts in gratitude and perceive the passage of God in our lives.

The Lord’s call is not an intrusion of God in our freedom; it is not a ‘cage’ or a burden to be borne. On the contrary, it is the loving initiative whereby God encounters us and invites us to be part of a great undertaking. He opens before our eyes the horizon of a greater sea and an abundant catch.

Pope Francis’ 2020 Message for Vocations, can be read in full at: tinyurl.com/Pope-Message-Vocations-2020

Pray the LORD of the Harvest to send out Labourers into His Harvest

LORD of the harvest…

BLESS young people with the gift of courage to respond to your call. Open their hearts to great ideals, to great things. 

INSPIRE all of your disciples to mutual love and giving — for vocations blossom in the good soil of faithful people. 

INSTILL those in religious life, parish ministries, and families with the confidence and grace to invite others to embrace the bold and noble path of a life consecrated to you. 

UNITE us to Jesus through prayer and sacrament, so that we may cooperate with you in building your reign of mercy and truth, of justice and peace. Amen.

– Pope Francis