Audrey Lee and
Cindy Elisabeth Lim
For 35-year-old Friar Aiden Peter, who was born into a Christian family in Tawau, Sabah, the thought of entering the priesthood never entered his mind when he was growing up. From young he believed in God, went to church and said his prayers daily. However after he received his confirmation at the age of 14, he found church to be “tremendously boring”. He even started to question the need to go church but under the urging of his parents, he continued to do so.
A turning point came in 1996 when his Godfather roped him in to join the church choir. It turned out to be a memorable experience as there was a Mass specifically celebrated for teenagers, complete with a rock band playing contemporary Christians songs.
The church was packed then and the teenagers came because “it was the most fun thing to do”, shared Friar Aiden. However what started out as “a cool hangout place with the cool kids” turned into something more. It stirred within him a desire to be active in the church.
At the age of 16, he became very much involved in the Catholic Students Association, Altar Servers and the choir. He often spent up to 3-4 nights a week in Church. Happily dating throughout high school, Friar Aiden was at that time contemplating the prospect of becoming a youth minister.
While he was excited about the faith, Friar Aiden had very little knowledge of what it was all about and he felt that he needed a stronger foundation. He subsequently got involved with the Catholic ministry group for schools and in 2000, he was elected as the President of the Catholic Students Association.
It was at this juncture that his faith evolved from the charismatic and evangelical faith that he had adopted in high school, to a faith that was grounded in theology and social teaching.
During those school years, the Catholic Schools Ministry did a series on social issues like what does the Church have to say about poverty in foreign countries. It was at that point that Friar Aiden realised that faith was not simply about praise and worship and that it did not only take place within the church walls. Friar Aiden felt called to serve the poor and work for just social systems from a position of faith.
Being in a serious relationship then, things however remained status quo. In 2005, Friar Aiden began his working life. While he enjoyed a good and stable job at that time, he actually felt spiritually empty and desired something more.
He got to know Srs Julie Banting and Frances Mani from the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Friar Aiden acknowledged that these two Sisters played an instrumental role in his spiritual journey. At that time, they would have prayers, go to the ministry sites, return to have sharings and end off each day in prayer.
It dawned on him that even without his girlfriend, he still had everything that he needed socially and emotionally. In 2007, to continue with his discernment, he decided to fly to Singapore to meet with the Franciscan Friars. He had the opportunity to work, live and pray as the Friars did. Through it, he experienced the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Many months later, he made the decision to be a Friar. Since that day, Friar Aiden has never looked back or doubted his vocation. As with anything worthwhile in life, he has come to recognise that a tremendous amount of work is required to make things happen. “When you can find joy in what you do or who you’re with, even on the worst days, that’s a sign that you’re in the right place. How could I even imagine being anywhere else?” he said.
On Oct 27, Friar Aiden Peter took his sacerdotal vows into the priesthood. An ordination Mass was held at the Church of St Mary of the Angels, presided by Archbishop William Goh, and attended by Franciscan Brothers, priests and consecrated Religious, as well as Friar Aiden’s family and friends who had flown in from Sabah and Sarawak for the event. More than 1,200 faithful were present at this celebratory occasion.
It was a solemn moment when Friar Aiden professed his promises to discharge the office of priesthood faithfully, to exercise the ministry of the Word wisely, to implore God’s mercy on His people unceasingly, and to be united with Christ the High Priest constantly.
Friar Aiden Peter feels called to work for just social systems from a position of faith.