There is a joke about newly ordained Jesuit Fr Adrian Danker that he swapped his job with the Ministry of Education for the Ministry of God.
Fr Danker was a school teacher who had received a local scholarship from the Public Service Commission (PSC) for his undergraduate studies.
He later received another scholarship for post-graduate studies in Australia where he did research in the field of critical theory in English Literature.
This earned him a doctorate.
Fr Danker, 48, who had dreamed of becoming a school principal or working at the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) headquarters admitted that “as a scholar, I knew where I wanted to go”.
Thus when Infant Jesus Sr Maria Lau, then principal of Catholic Junior College (CJC) where he was teaching, asked if he would consider the priesthood, he replied that while he had thoughts about this in his younger days, this was no longer the case.
“I aspired to go high in government service. The priesthood wasn’t it,” Fr Danker recalled.
However, the question kept “gnawing” at him and “repeating itself”, so much so that he decided to consult Jesuit Fr Gerard Keane, who was then CJC chaplain.
He began a discernment process with Fr Keane who did not speak to him about the Jesuits but only encouraged him to discover where God was leading him to, said Fr Danker.
It was during an Ignatian retreat that everything fell into place. “It was that sense that everything I had was meant for God and I looked at my life and recognised it was something more...the spirituality of who I am and what I am searching for, how I was meant to live my life,” said Fr Danker.
It was not the great missionary activity of the Jesuits nor the scholarly pursuits associated with them that drew him to the order, Fr Danker said, “but the spirituality which is to find God in all things”.
He added that he finds attractive the Jesuits’ understanding of how God is “incarnate” and “present in our midst”, who comes “to us as we are” regardless of our state of holiness.
The phrase, “A Jesuit is a sinner yet called,” resonates with him, Fr Danker said.
The new priest shared that he was never an altar boy nor active in church activities except when he was heading CJC’s Catholic Activities Council as a student.
He said his time in university was when he was “furthest away from the Church, a time when I thought I wasn’t living a good Catholic life”.
Nevertheless, he still continued attending Masses then. “I’m not perfect,” he shared. “I’ve got limitations, flaws, but in spite of all that, God says you’re good enough as you are for the priesthood.”
Fr Danker is expected to go to Boston, USA, to complete his Licentiate in Sacred Theology in the field of scripture/systematic theology. It would take him another year before he completes his research in theological aesthetics.
Meanwhile, he does wonder what life would be like if he had not left the Education Ministry, as it is “only human” to do so.
In retrospect, however, “I can’t think of being anywhere else other than the Society of Jesus, not being anything but a Jesuit, a priest”, he said.