I was still in primary school when I started thinking about becoming a priest. My parents received a monthly Catholic magazine, and I loved to browse through it and read the section about vocation to the priesthood. As a boy I admired the priests in my parish and wished to be like them when I grew up. I also was a great fan of the Pope, who later became Saint John Paul II. “As a youth I was moved by his words: “Jesus is present in the Eucharist to be met, loved, received and consoled.” I grew to love the Eucharist.
As a child I used to like pretending that I was a priest celebrating Mass, using blankets as my vestment and a biscuit for communion. My brothers and sisters laughed at me, but that didn’t take away my joy and I really wished that one day, I too would become a priest.
In college and university I had many friends and got involved in many programs and activities, but although my life was full, I did not feel satisfied. I was longing for something I did not quite understand.
I started reading at Mass and became a parish youth leader. I tried different jobs and took opportunities as they came along, as I needed to look after myself and to help my family. I was a teacher, an office worker and eventually I went back to study and trained as a nurse. I wanted to serve people, and worked in a poor government hospital, caring for the under-privileged. I found happiness in serving and thought that perhaps this was what I had been searching for… but deep down there was still something missing. I was still longing for peace.
Finally, I started to seriously explore the possibility of becoming a priest. I inquired about becoming a priest in my diocese, but was told I was past the age limit which was 36. I thought it wasn’t meant to be. Then my sister in Wellington told me they were looking for seminarians in New Zealand. Two years later, a chance meeting between my sister and Fr Dennis Nacorda opened another path for me. Fr Dennis put me in touch with Fr David Dowling, vocations director in Wellington. He told me that, if I wanted to come to New Zealand to become a priest, I had to be willing to commit and leave my job. I said ‘yes’. I think there is a purpose for my being here in New Zealand. The Holy Spirit led me here.
If you feel you have a calling, that God calls you to a different way of living, just listen and be prayerful. For me, prayer is a very big factor. Our lives are very busy, but we need to have time to listen and to pray, also to our Mother Mary.