16th of July: the Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields, was blessed with the visit by the Archdiocese Vocation Promotion Team (AVPT), who came to conduct their Vocation Promotion Campaign, headed by Rev. Fr. Christopher Soosaipillai. The Vocation Team held the youth session at Dewan Fatima, and Fr Christopher joined them between the three morning Masses.
During the morning Mass from the opening hymn of the liturgical celebration, ‘Rain Down, Rain Down’, Fr. Christopher made a beautiful reference to the Word of God coming down from heaven, made flesh and is dwelling among us. In his homily, he related his journey towards answering his vocation call, which took place in the parish of Our Lady of Fatima. Beginning from life as a ten year old, sitting at one of the back pews in church, he moved to join the choir, and then the ministry of lectors and commentators, each time moving closer towards the altar, until finally he heard God calling him. Today, he celebrates the mystery of the Eucharist wherever God calls him to serve.
The Word of God is wake-up call, and a powerful one, at that. Christ is both within and outside the church, as well as dwelling within us. As a people of God, we need the conviction that the Word has indeed become flesh among us. In that conviction, constant prayer is needed for our children, that they will also hear God calling them and have the courage to respond to His call, whatever it may be. Dedicating one’s life to God is indeed a blessing. Fr. Christopher then sang, “Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest”. He made the connection between the hymn and the action of answering God’s call to the religious life. We need not fear the plunge, for God goes before us always, guiding the path for us. In the vocation as priests or religious, we are privileged to experience God’s divine rest--the peace, joy, serenity and happiness, all the days of our life.
God’s call is like a spark that gets the fire going. He further continued to relate the story of St. John Marie Vianney. The saint was not a man of high intelligence; however his heart was for God. Prior to his ordination, many had told him that he did not have the vocation to the priesthood, but with God all things are possible. St. John Marie Vianney knelt before the Tabernacle and prayed, “I see Him and He sees me”. By his prayer he revealed the heart is powerful. Fr. Christopher then proceeded to introduce the rest of the religious who attended the Vocation Promotion Drive: Rev. Bro. Joachim Heng, a Marist Brother; Sr. Roseling, Sr. Bibianah and Sr. Madeline from the Daughters of St. Paul. They came to share their respective vocation stories at the homily at Mass and youth sessions at Dewan Fatima.
Before the final blessing, Fr. Christopher expressed his joy at being present at Fatima parish that had sparked his vocation and ordination to the priesthood alongside Fr. Ferdinand Magimay. He also mentioned the ordination of other sons of Fatima parish--Fr. Benedict Savarimuthu, Fr. Eugene Benedict and Fr. Patrick Boudville. He expressed his heartfelt thanks to the Parish Priest, Fr. Ferdinand and the parishioners for making the arrangements for the Vocation Promotion Campaign and for their continuous prayers for vocations.
This youth session comprised students from Form 1 to Form 5 and was divided into English and Tamil language groups. A few teachers and parents also attended the session, standing by encouraging the children of the parish as they eagerly presented themselves to discover more about the role of their faith in their lives.
During the session, Rev. Bro. Joachim said many devoted people in his life had guided him towards his Marist vocation: his parents, teachers, and priests. The parish priest in his home town, Penang, played the most important role. On completing his primary schooling, the parish priest brought him to the Marist Brothers’ Juniorate in Singapore to continue his secondary education there, and 50 years later, he continues to serve, without ever looking back. The Marist Brothers guided him, and God and Our Lady inspired and cared for him. In serving His church, the Lord has graced him with abundance of peace, love, joy and happiness.
Rev. Sr. Roseling shared on how her mother had inspired her with her own experience in working with the Franciscan Sisters. When she approached her mother with the intention to join the religious life, her mother advised her to pray about her vocation and finish her secondary education. On completing her studies, her mother encouraged her to gain some work experience before entering the religious life. She had tried her hand in several jobs, one of which was as an assistant pharmacist in a district hospital in Sarawak. After a period of intense discernment and with God’s guidance, she took her religious vow with the Daughters of St. Paul, and has been serving there for the past 15 years. She urged parents to pray for their children, as God will guide and show them the right direction.
Francis and Jasmine Thomas shared their life story as a married couple. They had both served in the Diocesan level organising committee and at the Chapel in Taman Sri Muda, Shah Alam. Francis was attracted to Jasmine as a prayerful person always carrying her Bible. He decided that she would make a good life partner for him as they both enjoyed serving the Lord. A convert from Punjabi to Catholic, Jasmine remained shy and cautious about rushing into marriage. They continued to develop a deep friendship, and after a period of eight years, she saw Christ in him and decided that God had given him to her as a gift; a wonderful man who would care of her, like no other. The lovely couple shared that we need to pray and ask God’s guidance to show and give us the right life partner. Marriage is no bed of roses, since it has its ups and downs. However, with God at the centre of this beautiful union, wonders can take place, as the head of the family is neither the husband nor wife, but God himself. Marriage is a sacrament that demands total respect. As a family, we should continue to pray, read the Bible and encourage our children to read the Holy Word, which promises peace, harmony, love, joy and serenity in the family.
The word ‘vocation’ should not spark fear in us. On the contrary, it should spark the joy of the Lord and excitement in leading a life where we know that God is always walking beside us. However, this conviction does not come when we don’t seek it. The message throughout the Vocation Promotion Campaign echoed the importance of God’s word in our lives. It is in reading, meditating, internalising, believing and trusting in His word that His will in our lives will be revealed to us, with promises of peace, joy, love and serenity following us as we take those steps to walk in that journey of faith with Him, whatever our call may be. Psalm 119:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, a light for my path”.