Vocation story: Learning to balance the ‘ups and downs’ of priesthood
Fr Cornelius Ching’s advice to those thinking of joining the priesthood: ‘Be true to your heart and be ready to take that leap of faith.’
By Jared Ng
Since his ordination to the priesthood in August 2016, there have been many “ups and downs” in his vocation, says Fr Cornelius Ching.
However, “nothing has surprised me,” he said, adding that his time in the seminary benefitted him and other seminarians as they were able to “share about their pastoral experiences” after returning from respective attachments to a parish.
Fr Cornelius, 41, said he enjoys accompanying people through good and bad times, and also couples through the joys of marriage.
“Another thing is watching the youths grow, especially their faith life,” he said.
Throughout his journey so far, one challenge for him has been balancing the expectations of laypeople.
“Sometimes they forget we are human too,” said Fr Cornelius.
Also, people today are more educated, therefore the questions they ask are more complicated, he said. As priests, we must really know what we are preaching, he added.
One major challenge is serving people going through vastly different life experiences.
“There was one day when I had a funeral to do in the morning. Afterwards I had to go celebrate a wedding Mass before leaving that for another funeral. It was not the easiest of experiences,” said Fr Cornelius.
Despite the challenges, he said he constantly reminds himself of what Archbishop William Goh once said: Bring everything back to your prayer life and the rest will fall in place.
However, there are certain trends in the Church that bother him, such as the rise of individualism.
“People are more self-centred, the word ‘I’ is very strong and it’s something that needs to be addressed,” he said.
Even in marriages, there is a lot of individualism which harms the relationship, he added.
Another concern is that young people have become sceptical about the faith. They do not make time for prayer because of their busyness, said Fr Cornelius.
“It makes it difficult to reach out to those with such a mindset.”
One way that the Church can reach out to those estranged from it is to “better understand the challenges of the people,” he said.
This would involve journeying with those seeking to know more about the faith and meeting them where they are at in life.
Also, “seminarians should have some working experiences” so they can better understand people’s situations, he said.
His advice to those thinking of joining the priesthood: “It will be a challenge, especially for those seeking stability in their lives. In the priesthood, everyday has new challenges and you never know what can happen ... However, be true to your heart and be ready to take that leap of faith.”