Fr Ferdinand Purnomo, an Indonesian-Chinese, at his ordination ceremony at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul on Aug 28.

Newly ordained Carmelite Fr Ferdinand Purnomo will be helping to promote Carmelite vocations in Singapore, while acting as spiritual director to the Secular Carmelites and the young adults in the Church of Sts Peter and Paul.

Fr Ferdinand, an Indonesian-Chinese, was ordained by Archbishop Nicholas Chia on Aug 28 at the Church of Sts Peter and Paul, which is run by the Carmelite friars.

While there are plans for him to further his studies, he says he will need to discern his areas of specialisation.

His journey towards becoming a Carmelite priest was no bed of roses.

Fr Ferdinand, 37, who comes from Jakarta, said he first became interested in Religious life when pursuing his university education in Australia, but was advised to experience working life first.

It was after a few years working in the IT field in Singapore that he began his discernment process with the Jesuits in 2000.

An encounter with the Carmelites during a fund-raising event at the Church of the Risen Christ led him to “fall in love” with Carmelite spirituality such as intimacy with the Lord, their charism of prayer and their mendicant tradition.

While he felt God calling him then, he said he was not willing to quit his job just yet as he “was quite comfortable”. It was only at a vocation retreat with the Carmelites when he was praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament that he asked God to guide him in his choice of vocation, whether as a priest, Religious, or married or single person.

He recalled feeling “an overwhelming sense of being loved” by the Lord no matter what decision he made, but “the signs at that time and the attraction in my heart were towards the Religious life and the priesthood”.

“In that experience of being loved by the Lord, I made the decision to join the Carmelites,” he said. He joined them in 2003.

While Religious community life was an attraction for Fr Ferdinand, his idealised perceptions of it were deconstructed as he experienced its realities.

“I realised that we’re all on a journey towards holiness and being on a journey, we still have lots of shortcomings and faults, and so I have to accept the faults of others…in the community,” he said.

His family was also not entirely supportive of his decision to become a Religious.

Although his father was happy with Ferdinand’s decision, his mother could not understand his reasons for doing so.

His family had lived frugally to pay for his education and his mother was hoping he would build a career for himself so that she would be able to enjoy life a bit more, he said.

Although Fr Ferdinand did not receive his mother’s direct verbal affirmation of his decision, he heard from an uncle that she finally accepted it.

She also made an effort to “give me her most beautiful smile” as she lay ill on her death bed, he recalled.

Fr Ferdinand says he is now happy to be able to “participate in the priesthood of Christ” and to “make Christ present” to others.

By Darren Boon
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