SINGAPORE – This year’s theme for the Vocation Retreat – "Wrestling with God" (Gn 32:22-32) was intriguing enough to draw the largest crowd ever to a vocation retreat. Fifty-five young men attended the two-and-a-half-day retreat over the weekend of May 16-18 at the St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary at Punggol.

In his welcome address to the participants, seminary rector Father William Goh stressed on the importance to discern if God is indeed calling them to the priesthood.

Father Goh also warned about the need to be aware of the difference between vocation and ambition, "Ambitions, desires and dreams arise from one’s egoism, what one wants and aspires to be, namely to boost one’s inner desires and self-esteem while vocation is God’s divine plan for each one of us and it is for us to discern that call of God and respond accordingly."

That set the tone for this year’s Vocation Retreat. Retreat Director Father Alex Chua, Fathers Frederick Quek, Kenny Tan, Philip Heng, and Brother Colin Wee shared from their personal experiences on the fears and struggles of discerning and responding to God’s call.

Father Alex Chua spoke on how the priest becomes a sacrament for God’s people. Father Alex gave a moving personal account of his own priesthood for the last eight years since he was ordained a priest, which struck a chord with many of the participants.

Nicholas Lye, 27, who was at the Vocation Retreat for the second time, having been at the retreat last year, said: "I went through many struggles in the last two weeks leading up to the retreat. I almost didn’t make it but came after much persuasion. At the start of the retreat, I did not feel anything and was wondering if maybe I was not meant to be here. But after Saturday night’s Holy Hour and Father Alex’s sharing, I felt an immense inner joy and peace which is beyond psychological feeling. God has been faithful and I’m glad to have made it."

Alberto Gamez Villalvazo, 27, is from Mexico but lives in Hong Kong and came to Singapore especially for the Vocation Retreat, commented, "There is no such retreat back in my diocese in Hong Kong. It has been a unique experience and I have learnt much from the people I have come in contact with.This retreat has been much more than what I had expected."

Father Alex told everyone hat this has been the most exciting retreat for him ever.

"I was constantly feeling the powerful presence of God in this retreat so much that I felt I touched the Divine. It is wonderful to see all the retreatants burning with love for God," he said.

Father Alex thanked the participants for affirming them as priests and for sharing their life experiences as these were the same struggles that the priests themselves experienced. Father Alex also gave an open invitation to all the young men present at the retreat to approach him should they need a spiritual director to journey with or just a friend to share experiences with. -By Jacqueline See

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