Malaysian and Singaporean priests, who are in their first five years of ordination, visited Archbishop William Goh during their young priests’ gathering.
Faith, friendship and fun.
That was what happened when 41 young priests (in their first five years of ordination) from the dioceses of Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Melaka-Johor, Miri, Penang, Sibu and Singapore came together for the annual Regional Young Priests’ Gathering.
The gathering, hosted this year by Singapore from Oct 24-28, began with participants visiting Archbishop William Goh for a “post-ordination lesson” on the priesthood – not a delayed dogma lesson, but a lesson at the most practical level.
Archbishop Goh drew us to the centrality of every priest – his being and his call to holiness before ministry.
Archbishop Goh said, “There is no real ministry without holiness. Ministry is the fruit of holiness, not the other way around. It is wrong to think of a priest as a function. Just as Jesus was not doing a ministry but expressing His Father’s love for Him, so for a priest, ministry is not a job or career but an expression of his being, of his call to holiness in the priestly vocation. Ministry then becomes a means of sanctification for a priest.”
Archbishop Goh further reminded the young priests that knowing their priestly identity takes time and making mistakes is part of the learning. Over time, the priest becomes more integrated and grows in holiness.
The visits to Agape Village in Toa Payoh and the various offices at the Catholic Centre at Waterloo Street (Caritas-Singapore, Catholic Theological Institute of Singapore, Catholic Welfare Services, Chancery and CHARIS) were rich in learning, especially the opportunity for the group to have their questions answered and the chance to see such works.
Visiting Universal Studios Singapore was part of the fellowship experience.
For the local priests, they took with them the knowledge of which Catholic charity they could connect persons in need of help with. Our Malaysian brother-priests saw the growing collaboration among Catholic charities as something beneficial.
In the busy-ness of ministry, priests hardly have time to bond with each other. This gathering afforded the time to renew friendships from seminary days and build new ones with those from other formation houses.
At meals, some would remember to order an extra portion of roast pork because they knew that a fellow priest liked roast pork! There was an opportunity to discover the “special skill” one of us learnt from his days in the seminary. He shared his TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) skills with other priests in need of healing of their aches and pains.
Bonding at this human level does much to add to holiness in a priest’s life. Having fun together is akin to joy in the priestly vocation.
Yes, we priests need to be “boys” as well. It was “serious stuff” to test out the rides at Universal Studios Singapore. Even the long waits for some of the rides were times for sharing and bonding.
As Archbishop Goh reiterated, “You are firstly brothers and confreres, not colleagues”.
Indeed, this annual Young Priests’ Gathering will forge bonds which will be reflected in our lives and ministry – as we share in the one life and ministry of Christ.
By Fr Matthew Tan, SJ