OUR FATHER AMBROSE VAZ
Bible scholar Father Ambrose Vaz wants others to be as excited as he is to know the power and love of God through the word of God
FATHER AMBROSE VAZ was rather worried when he was first asked to take up Bible studies at the Catholic University of America, Washington D.C., by Archbishop Gregory Yong in 1986. He thought the study of Scripture was daunting because he had to study various ‘Bible languages’ and he wished that he could go and study other courses. But “now I am so glad I did it”, he said. Today, he (and his brother Msgr Eugene Vaz) are among the Singapore archdiocese’s most respected teachers of the word of God.
He has also earned a Licentiate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.
The studies “have given me the opportunity to know the word of God so much better and helped me as a person and priest”, he said. Father Vaz has been imparting his knowledge and his charism for the benefit of others and the Church through his many roles: He is formator and lecturer at the St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary, Director of the Singapore Archdiocese Biblical Apostolate Team (SABAT), and he conducts many classes at the Singapore Pastoral Institute (SPI) and at parishes.
Thousands have benefitted from his classes, which his students, almost all of whom are mature adults, describe as “enriching” and “fun”. During classes at SPI, he hands out little slips of paper with questions based on the lessons he has given, and asks the students to answer and return to him. He marks every piece and returns them to the students at the next lesson. Many moan and laugh at the same time over how well or poorly they had ‘scored’, and especially at the remarks he writes on their paper.
“Father Vaz would patiently explain the questions and answers, often able to point out the smallest detail that gives the passage a whole different level of understanding and application,” said Peter Lock. “I am always waiting eagerly to spot such gems of wisdom, which my current reading of the Bible and understanding will never otherwise unearth.”
His gift for bringing the Bible to life, providing fascinating and enlightening insights that few would be able to unearth on their own, has created a big demand for his services. Some parishes have even “booked” him one year in advance.
Don’t all these Bible-based classes, talks, lectures, homilies, seminars, etc, and often of the same books, wear him out? No.
“With each class, my faith and knowledge grows ever deeper,” he said. His role as a Bible scholar, he said, is “to make others as enthusiastic and excited as I am to know the power and love of God” through the word of God.
This enthusiasm is infectious.
Shirley Lee who was in his catechism class at Church of the Holy Cross some 20 years ago still attributes her passion for the faith to him.
She recalled how impressed she was at how he “made the Bible come to life, and made the faith so real”.
Father Vaz’s involvement with SABAT and desire to reach out to more Catholics hungry for the word of God has led to the growth of many parish-based Bible Apostolate Teams.
This same desire to inspire others to know the word of God led him to the priesthood. n
? Father Ambrose Vaz was ordained on Jun 5, 1981 at Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour (OLPS). He celebrated the Silver Jubilee of his ordination in 2006. What he values most about his priesthood is the “privilege to act in the person of Christ and in serving others”.
? Father Louis Amiotte, parish priest at OLPS during the 1960s, was one of many priests whose life and encouragement made a difference to Father Vaz.
“I felt an attraction and excitement to do the same for others – administering the sacraments, teaching the truth of God’s word in homilies and classes, leading them to experience God as life-giver, saviour, comforter, etc and motivating them to holiness – and I still feel the same way!”
? Father Vaz takes pride in his family for bringing him to God. Daily family prayer and regular family meals “helped me grow towards an openness to God’s will and an attentiveness to the needs of others”.
? His favourite time of the day is “the time spent chatting with the Lord, before going to bed at night” .“It provides me with closure for the past day and confidence for the next”.
? Father Vaz said there is so much good in the people he meets. “Unfortunately, not all believe that about themselves. Among those who do, some sadly don’t see the need to share that in love and service for others.”
? If Father Vaz were not a priest, he imagines he would have been either a teacher because he likes “to communicate knowledge to others” or a regular in the army because he likes “physical discipline”. Providentially the priesthood provides him with both.