By Joyce Gan
Adrian Danker, formerly a Ministry of Education PSC scholar, now a Jesuit Scholastic, is in Singapore at the request of the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools.
BE CAREFUL WHAT you wish for, Adrian Danker (photo) advises with a laugh. Wishes can come true. He should know. When he was a young man, Adrian wished that he would never stop studying. Now, aged 42, he is still studying - to be a priest.
Almost 24 years ago, in 1983, his 'A' Level results won him a Ministry of Education (MOE) PSC Teaching Scholarship to the National University of Singapore. There, he received a second PSC Scholarship to the University of Adelaide, Australia where he earned a Ph.D. in English Literature.
On his return to Singapore, he moved from Telok Kurau Secondary School to his alma mater, Catholic Junior College (CJC) where he taught General Paper and Literature. In 1998, he was transferred to the Planning Division of MOE. The scholar completed his nine-year bond in 2001 and joined the Jesuits, with whom he is now undergoing his Regency formation in the Philippines. While studying to be a priest, Adrian also teaches Philosophy of Religion in the Ateneo University in Manila, and helps in the formation of young Jesuits who have taken their first vows.
Education, therefore, is territory that Brother Adrian is familiar with and passionate about. Adrian's knowledge and the desire to share it has led the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools to invite him here to help with the development of Religious Education in Singapore Catholic schools.
During the two months that he will be here, Adrian will also be holding a course for Catholic teachers in both Catholic and non-Catholic schools to help their students discover God in their lives through philosophy and reason. "Catholic teachers have a role to help students discover their relationship with God," he says.
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"These Catholic teachers will also learn that teaching is a vocation that will help them in ongoing formation in their own lives," he says. "This weekend course will help them and to equip them to help their students to do this, and also to provide them with the opportunity to find the sacred amidst the secular environment they are in, as well as the challenges they face."
"After all, challenges can help us to fine tune [what we do]. They can only be good. No programme will be useful if it doesn't negotiate with the challenges on the ground," he says. Negotiating challenges on the ground (or in heaven) is nothing new to Brother Adrian.
He remembers how a subtle if immature feeling of being called to the priesthood when he was very young completely disappeared when he was pursuing his career in government service as a scholar.
"I knew I would be going places with the government," he adds. Material and professional success were foremost in his life then. Church was relegated to the back seat. However, matters of faith intruded into his consciousness upon his return as a teacher to Catholic Junior College. Then principal Sister Maria Lau said to him one day, "I think you should be a priest. Please think about it." He brushed the thought away. But it "became this annoying thing that I just had to negotiate with God about", he laughs.
At that time, Jesuit Father Gerry Keane was CJC chaplain. Adrian sought his advice. Although Father Keane did not ask him to be a Jesuit but just to remain open to God, Brother Adrian saw how the Jesuit priest lived his vocation, and this, together with the Jesuit charism, attracted him more and more to the Society of Jesus. He could not join the Society while he was still bonded to MOE.
So he waited patiently until he had fulfilled his bond. God's hand was in that period of waiting too, he understands now. "It was a good time for a proper discernment," he confides. "My responses were measured and well-discerned. It was a nine-year bond and I was able to seriously discern for five years."
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"So from the Ministry of Education, I entered the Ministry of God in 2001," he says. Now, as a Jesuit and living in the Philippines, life is much simpler for the man who once wore expensive clothes, went on holidays overseas, collected CDs and enjoyed the material life. "I don't have all that now but I'm more contented," he shares. "God willing, I will be ordained in his time," he says in reply to a question on whether he looks forward to his ordination as a priest.
"At the end of the day I trust God because, looking back, I can see how he's made all the crooked lines straight." More information on Scholastic Adrian Danker's seminar, "God" is available on the advertisement to below.