Giving his best, relying on God’s grace and maintaining a prayer life is how newly ordained Fr Joseph Zhang says he intends to live out his priestly vocation.
The China-born priest was ordained by Archbishop Nicholas Chia on Aug 20 at the Church of the Holy Trinity.
Fr Zhang says he is filled with gratitude as he has experienced God journeying with him over the past 30 years and guiding him towards his vocation. He is also grateful for those who have helped him on this journey.
Fr Zhang says he hopes to be able to meet the demands of his workload such as preparing homilies, which he finds “difficult”.
It is not so much a problem of language, said Fr Zhang, who is from the Congregation of the Disciples of the Lord (CDD), but rather providing good content and delivering the message in a way that is relevant to people’s lives.
Nevertheless, “I’ll do my best, rely on God,” he said.
In fact, Fr Zhang said he had seen God’s grace at work during his seminary years.
“I used to compare [myself] with others,” he shared. “The more I compared with others, the more I felt inadequate. Now God has allowed me to see that each person is different. Each person is gifted in different ways.
“I don’t need to be like others as long as I do what God asks me to do,” he said.
Fr Zhang also shared some instances when he felt God helping him through challenging times, such as during the year in the seminary when he was appointed Head Student or Caput.
He felt he lacked leadership and organisational skills as he has not had any job experience.
He also found it a challenge reaching out to people during his pastoral work stint as a seminarian.
Nevertheless, he said, “I can see God’s hand is with me, training me ... Before I came out to meet the people of God, He allowed me to lead a small group of people in the seminary.”
Fr Zhang shared that for him, a priest has to be like the Good Shepherd, “have a heart for the people” and “be a man for all people”.
To do so, the priest “needs to have a close relationship with God”.
Thus, having a prayer life and being faithful to one’s calling are important to a priest’s life, he said.
“The danger for a priest is to cut corners in prayer because of … work,” he added. “If we are not Christ-centred, we’ll lose our direction.”
Meanwhile, Fr Zhang says he will continue to serve in the Church of the Holy Trinity, adding that he is willing to go wherever his superiors want him to serve.
He is presently handling Mandarin-speaking ministries and some English-speaking ones too. He said he would like to provide formation for Mandarin-speaking Catholics and help young people from this community get more involved in church.
By Darren Boon