Newly ordained Carmelite priest Bernard Wee says he has always had an inclination towards the priesthood and Religious life, and liked the idea of living in a supportive community.
Fr Wee, who was ordained on June 21 by Archbishop William Goh at the Church of the Holy Trinity, told CatholicNews that he had “some difficulty” finding an “appropriate” community initially.
He had completed his undergraduate studies and was working in Canada when a friend urged him to enter the diocesan seminary in Vancouver.
He decided to do so although he felt “hesitant”. However, he left later as he preferred the charism of a Religious life and community.
Back in Singapore, he worked as a teacher and also with the Singapore Pastoral Institute (SPI) in the area of catechetics.
It was through his work at SPI that he met a Carmelite priest who invited him to visit his Religious community. As he had “nothing to lose” and was “curious”, he took up the offer.
“I was very much impressed with the prayerful atmosphere and the reverence. I felt at peace and thought that this was where I was possibly called to,” said the 46-year-old.
He said that through the charism of the Carmelites, the struggles and sufferings in life began to make sense to him, and he found a certain “peace, a certain acceptance” in doing God’s will.
Nevertheless, he still felt hesitant about changing his lifestyle but after “getting certain assurances”, he decided to take the plunge.
His early years in Religious formation were not without difficulty. During his novitiate year in the Philippines, when his freedom was most restricted, he wanted to give up, Fr Wee recalled.
He said he felt angry when the year-long formation period was extended by six months, and thought of returning to Singapore.
However, upon further reflection, he decided to stay on as he felt this was what God wanted of him.
The additional six months proved beneficial as “there was an intense growth” in his prayer life as he “came to depend more totally on grace”.
He recalled that during moments when he felt like packing up and leaving, grace would always be given to him at the “last minute ... just at that right moment”.
The seeds of Fr Wee’s vocation appear to have been planted early in his life.
The former altar boy at the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour remembered talking about becoming a priest with the other altar boys.
This “seemed like a natural progression” for someone who has grown up “around the sanctuary”, he said.
He felt a stronger calling during his undergraduate days. Experiencing God’s love also made him wonder what he could do to express his gratitude to Him.
Priesthood then became an option.
Fr Wee said that he had not wanted to wait until he was a priest in order to serve the Catholic community. He thus gave talks and classes at SPI and elsewhere before he was ordained.
He shared that he would like to teach and give retreats, but is open to other ministries too.
He is currently the chaplain to Montfort Primary and Secondary schools where he provides support for teachers in curriculum planning and a spiritual presence for the boys.
“At this point of time in my life, I am pretty certain that this is where I’m called to be and I’m living my life one day at a time,” said Fr Wee.