I REALLY CANNOT pinpoint one particular priest or religious who inspired me to be a priest. It’s really a combination of the various encounters with different priests and religious, and even lay friends who encouraged me.

I had no early intentions to become a priest. Many people who knew me when I was young(er) knew that one of my early ambitions was to own and operate a French five-star restaurant. I even had a French name in mind. It was to be called ‘Chez Luc’, which means ‘House of Luke’. And my dream was to live in a huge house and, each Sunday, I would invite all my friends over to the house and we’d have a great party where I would provide the best food around. Then, the call came, and I answered.

Plans change when you heed God’s call. And he does have a quirky sense of humour. I do live in a huge house now – the biggest in the area, I daresay. And each Sunday, a lot of my friends come over to this house, and we do have a great party – the best anyone can ever organize – and the food that I provide is really the best anyone can serve. It’s the Lord himself. And who says God doesn’t have a sense of humour?

Motivations to be a priest and the reasons why I continue to be a priest get purified along one’s vocation journey. But ultimately, it is to do as Jesus commanded – to love one another as he loved us. His is the pattern and model of service that I have to follow, if ever my priesthood is to make any sense at all. I know I don’t live up to that pattern and model all the time, but when I do and, indeed, when any priest does, the Kingdom of God is once again made present in this world. Father Luke Fong

I WOULD SAY that the one person who made a significant impact on my looking at the possibility of a vocation was the late Father Louis Fossion. He was the parish priest at Church of the Holy Spirit. I was quite involved in the choir and youth scene in the parish then and I believe he made an impact on the youth of the parish. His life was given to the parish and he led by example in terms of being available to as many people as possible.

Well, then there is what I suppose would be called a vocation within a vocation.

Generally, people have a vague understanding or discernment whether to become a priest or a religious.

As for me, there was first the attraction to the Franciscan way of life.

Although Father Fossion was an inspiration, I strangely did not see priesthood as the first call.

My discernment was toward the Franciscan way of life. Of course the Franciscan way of life is not just some abstract notion. It had to be expressed by either becoming a lay brother or a priest. Within the Franciscan way of life, I took a few years to decide about becoming an ordained minister.

Am I happy about being a Franciscan and a priest today?

There are two ways of looking at it or rather there are two ways of defining happiness. When asked about how I feel about myself and if I would make the very same decision if given a second chance at life, I would say definitely.

In essence, there is a basic sense of happiness and fulfilment in who I am and in what I am doing. It is important as this basic sense of well-being cannot be covered up with a smile or with excessive work or with raw power.

I continue to believe that I am called to priestly ministry within the Franciscan call of fraternity. We live in community (not always pleasant) but what is essential is that I believe that I am called to witness to the Gospel, working out my personal holiness or salvation within the fraternity of brothers called to be brothers to one another. Father John-Paul Tan, OFM

JOE WAS MY classmate for seven years from Primary Six up to A-levels. He was a quiet, hardworking young man from a simple background. Joe was a man of discipline, unassuming, yet with a great sense of commitment. He was also a good soccer player and youth leader. One could tell that he was cherishing a special dream. For one year we sat next to each other on the same bench. We were not really close. He was boarding in our school as he came from a far away village and I commuted (riding my bicycle). I admired him without ever telling him. That he would become a priest was no surprise. That he opted to become a CICM missionary was surprising. And so it was for me…

I cannot see or imagine a more meaningful life after 50 years in CICM. I joined the novitiate in l958. As a missionary my understanding of God’s dream has widened – the church is worldwide. I grow increasingly excited about discovering God’s presence in all people and all circumstances. One must grow aware… and articulate it as and when opportune: "You are not far from God’s Kingdom!"

As priest and missionary I am amazed and deeply moved by the confidence people have and the beauty of their soul (which is their true self!) There is a hunger for God in all human beings. It is my privilege to journey with people and to see God growing in them. God has no favourites. If he has… well, then all human beings are his favourites. It suffices to open one’s inmost self. God fills us with the glow of his holy presence. I have witnessed it time and again. Happy are the eyes to see it, happy the ears to hear it! - Father Frans De Ridder, CICM

WHEN IN 1936 I told my father I wanted to be a priest, I was inspired by the long tradition of martyrs in my country during the French Revolution (1793), in Mexico (1932) and in Spain (1936). I read books and newspapers about them.

-When I left home in 1946 to join the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP) I had friends going before me and inspiraton from the vivid stories of MEP martyrs in Asia in the 19th century.

-In the ups and downs of my life, I have had friends (MEP priests and lay Catholics) who kept me in the love of Jesus at the service of the church.

-I was ordained at Pentecost on May 28, 1950 and still hoping to rejoice in my diamond jubilee.?

-Rejoice in the Lord, always. Father Louis Loiseau, MEP

IT’S HARD TO say one person inspired me towards my vocation. Apart from the Holy Spirit, inspiration, I feel, came from my growing up in a family which had a great devotion to saying the Rosary together daily and being involved in the church. For example, being involved with the Legion of Mary, the choir, cleaning the church building, flower arranging, etc, has a big part to play.

In school I was inspired by the humility of IJ Sister Justin who was the doorkeeper and loved the small children. Irish IJ Mother Pius Singleton always had a smile on her face and was very humane. She loved fun and took a great interest in all her students. For me it’s the ordinary that came across as extraordinary.

I remain a Sister because I love my life as an FMDM with its ups and downs! And I believe deep within me it’s God’s call and he has given me grace to respond. I find great friendship with those I live and work with. I have no doubt I am happy, but there are times of sadness in any walk of life as expected. This, I cope by asking God for strength and courage. Communication is essential in community living. - Sister Thomasina, FMDM

IT WAS A young missionary from China, Father Baptist Tou, who inspired me and encouraged me to attend the vocation retreat held at the Minor Seminary in the late 1950s. He said that the church needed more Singaporean vocations. That he came from China to work in Singapore, and couldn’t be here for long, inspired me greatly.

I am happy in my vocation and I find fulfilment in ministering to people. I find joy in helping people, happiness in serving them through different ministries and programmes and with Marriage Encounter and CHOICE as well.

Sometimes it makes me sad to see young people not serious about devoting their lives to the church – they are not responding to the call to serve the church, like in school and parishes. We cannot depend on missionaries all the time. But that doesn’t make me feel like giving up because the work of Jesus will never be finished. We have to work harder.

The promise of Jesus to be with his church till the end of time is definitely something we can rely on, in faith. Father Joseph Tan

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