Ordained: December 20, 1969
Interview with Father Paul Goh
THE JOY OF the priesthood to me is to see the conversion of peoples’ lives and in the ministry of the sick. When I was first ordained, I was told by the archbishop to take care of the sick. And that has been my vocation, to counsel and prepare them for the kingdom to come, and to give them courage to face the ultimate question of death. We have only one life to live and for me, we are meant to find happiness in God and to find fulfilment in life.
The joy of the priesthood is to bring hope. As a priest, we often encounter people with problems. When I was a young priest, just six months after I was ordained, I counselled this young couple from 9.00pm to 1.00am, who were desperate and thinking of suicide. They had lost a lot of money from being a guarantor to a relative. I encouraged them to live and they are still alive today. They learnt to trust God instead of money. I saw the man about eight years ago, and his life has turned for the better. The family is now very united through their trials.
I don’t feel burdened by the problems of the people I counsel. Instead, I pray for them and bring their problem to God. I tell the Lord that I can’t solve it and ask Him to take care of it. We must (only) handle people’s problems as servants – God is the Saviour.
The difficulty in my priesthood is fighting self-doubt. I always felt a sense of unworthiness. On the day of my ordination, as I was prostrated before the Lord and the parishioners were singing the Litany of the Saints, I asked God to give me the grace of final perseverance.
The trials that God sent me are to help me grow. Trials are good as they form hearts and minds for all situations in life. Since vocations come from God, we must count on God in all kinds of situations as He said, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
A priest’s prayer life is very vital. If he does not pray, he will lose his vocation. All these are part of our growth but we must learn to trust God because if God calls, He also says “My will will not take you where my grace cannot follow you.”
To overcome difficulty, I pray, turning to Scriptures, reading Scriptures and praying the Scriptures to see God’s overall love for mankind. My greatest discovery as a priest is that God loves me and that is the greatest breakthrough. If you reach there, you will let go and let God lead.
This breakthrough came when I went to the Philippines for a retreat at the lowest point in my priesthood and it was there that I was baptised by the Holy Spirit. That changed my life and it was God’s closeness to me that gave me the courage to come back and serve Him with greater fervour. With the help of the Holy Spirit, the delivery and contents of my sermons changed, my view of life changed and I grew to love the Scriptures.
Our roles as priests are to inspire people and I believe that if you do, they will perspire for God in their service of Him. Learning to trust God takes a long time. He will always answer. He may be slow but never late.
The Word of God is alive, one can taste it. I have seen the multiplication of loaves with my own eyes, not once but three times. One day, I was giving a talk where there were about 200 people but only about 60 brought food. During the break, I prayed and gave thanks to God for the food. I prayed, “In the days of old, You, Lord, multiplied the five loaves and two fishes to feed the thousands; today Lord, multiply the food to feed Your hungry children.” The food was multiplied – the volume remained the same in appearance but as everyone partook of the food, the food did not diminish. We all ate our fill and there was still remainder. I understood better the meaning of “don’t work for the food that perishes but work for the food that brings you eternal life”. I also finally understand the parable of the five loaves and two fishes. That is, even if I can’t do plenty, I bring the little I have and God will do the rest. God wants my cooperation no matter how meagre it is. That’s what God asks of us as His priest – to be His willing servants, to love Him and He will do the rest.