A Deeply Rooted Vocation Finally Comes to Fruition

We continue our journey with the three deacons as the day of their ordination draws closer.
Sharing his ‘love story’ with us, in his own words, is Deacon Xavier Andrew.

 

DeaconXavier 01Deacon Xavier Andrew … a 28 year wait finally comes to fulfilmentA seed of vocation to the priesthood was planted in my heart at the age of nine by my pious and beloved mother, Ambrosia and it has germinated and taken sturdy roots, growing into a gigantic tree that it is now. One meticulously nurtured and astutely pruned, weathering catastrophes of sorts and turned out into what it is today.

Such would be the analogy that I represent the journey of my vocation to the priesthood. It is not an overnight feeling or desire but one built over years of earnest prayer and repeated ruminating. I must say at this juncture, my beloved mother remained my inspirer, motivator and vocation promoter. My dad, was always there supporting this aspiration. When I moved to Rawang, Selangor, momentous journeying with Fr. Anthony Naden continued to encourage and affirmed my vocation. He was also instrumental in sending me to the seminary.

Hence, it is not based on any emotional or psychological niceties of a moment or driven by some extravagant incidences but drawn by attractions primarily to a role model in the person of my mother. However, the crux of the vocation has been the nurturing process itself.

Naturally, growing up years as a young man, I had my fair share of attractions and distractions of sorts including that of girls. I specifically mention girls as they would seem to be the main challenge to a young one striving towards a celibate life and undeniably they did become a hurdle to the pursuance of my desired goal. Apart from that, other home front issues including dad’s passing away while in the seminary also had an impact on me; being the only son. With God’s grace the temptations to get away from my focus were well garnered.

DeaconXavier 02With mum Mdm Ambrosia who has been a spiritual force in his lifeThen again, a question will arise. If that has been so, why did it take me so long (28 years) after leaving the seminary and after my ordination to the diaconate to say yes to the priesthood? I do not have a clear-cut answer to that question. I only know one thing, I had much hesitations in the beginning but never lost my communication with God, whether intense or otherwise.

Hence, I kept going back to the archbishop then, for ordination but was asked to continue as deacon which I did for eight years in three parishes. With the passing of time, I felt a little disillusioned and downcast at times. Timely I was sent for a renewal program to India by archbishop that got me all invigorated in my vocation. After my return, one fine day, I was summoned to the archbishop’s office where the auxiliary bishop then tactfully proposed that I go to work as my case was pending a long time. When I was all geared up, a news like that was shattering, with a heavy heart yet without any resistance I obediently went on to work in the secular world.

Amidst such surrounding circumstances I left to work with virtually nothing in my pocket. At that time, I had no place to go except to my elder sister’s home and managed to get a part-time job as a language tutor. While with my sister’s family I had a hard time of non-acceptance where I had to go through some confrontations at home that I had to face both due to my personality and the status quo of not being ordained. The emotional pressure was mounting and I had to leave home, hence I started looking for a place to live by myself.

DeaconXavier 03Generous friend Perry who offered Deacon Xavier accommodation when he was looking for a place to stayBy then, I had already secured a more permanent job in a Chinese High School. A kind friend by the name of Perry in his generosity gave me his shop-lot to live in for which I am greatly indebted. It is here that I opened ‘Noble Shine Centre’ where I was having weekly bible sharing and spiritual talks and on weekends visit homes like orphanages and the like, providing cash and kind with the contributions from regular center members.

While at that I also decided to pursue my post grad studies and another generous soul by the name of Christina Damo sponsored my Masters and I successfully completed it. After that I got into a higher institute of learning (Asia Metropolitan University; formerly Masterskill) and was a program manager for one term and senior lecturer till I resigned. In the meantime, I also opened my own training company called Ambrosia International Consultants and became a freelance HRDF certified trainer.

Ironically, after being asked to go to work by then auxiliary bishop, I was becoming more fervent in my prayer life when I should be less animated. I even went to Australia seeking to fulfill my priestly vocation there. Instead of brooding and whining I was able to pick myself up to move on establishing my career and went on to buy a mid-range car and own a property where I brought my mother to stay with me for seven years and was economically thriving.

My years out in the secular world could have been used waywardly and in contempt on the contrary they had served as great learnings and exposure, increased my horizon of knowledge, bringing inevitable change within and most importantly it has brought me a deeper self-discovery that books alone cannot give. Hence, in a sense, I consider it a very long retreat, done not in the wilderness by withdrawing from the abuzz world but becoming and remaining conscious in the midst of a boisterous environment. Thus, there has been no regrets, only valuable lessons learnt. Through them all I have seen God working immensely in my life; the merciful Potter silently shaping me!

DeaconXavier 04Kind benefactor, Christina Damo
who sponsored Deacon Xavier’s
Masters degree
When I am all secured in my career, with only marriage to make my secular life more inclusive; which was encouraged much by my working colleagues at the university, I decided to resign. It is here, at the peak of my career, I was prompted in my prayer and meditation to seek out the archbishop for ordination. Isn’t that ironical! Often people have the distorted notion or perception that a man opts to become a priest or a woman/man a religious (nun/brother) when he can’t make it out there. I am an obvious testimony breaking that false notion!

Then on, another new and fresh chapter began to unfold. I must say where human mind may not be able to fathom and understand or even explain I saw and constantly see miracles unfolding. Consequently, I can assuredly say my vocation is deeply rooted in an appeal that I undoubtedly deem as divinely inspired and unparalleled to any other calling. As I look back, amidst so much adversaries, challenges, doubts and rejections like arrows shooting at me, I have been able to repudiate them. These, I am able to do because of four important factors, my mother’s unceasing prayers, some good friends who continue to trust in my vocation, my own persevering faith and God’s gracious generosity waving through it all.

I saw a praying woman in my mother whose actions kept reminding me of the divine. She fasted and prayed to beget me after being childless for ten years and offered me to God, saying, ‘You gave him to me, he belongs to you.’ I strongly believe her unwavering faith and love for God is seen in her surrendering of me to Him. In fact, she taught me how to fast at a tender age of nine and how to walk in faith.

DeaconXavier 05A dear friend Ethel Fatimah (left) who together with his mum, played a key role in the sustenance of his vocationThe other is my dear friend, Ethel Fatimah. After three years of working in the corporate world; I remember 18 years ago she came up to me saying, ‘I have a feeling, you would one day become a priest.’ Little did I realise, all along she was ardent in her prayers and even fasted for me and encouraged me to pray the nine hours novena to infant Jesus of Prague and of the Divine Mercy. Ethel even challenged me reminding, ‘how can I become a fine priest if I grip on to my ego?’ These two women played key roles in the sustenance of my vocation, if the first 25 years, mother was the spiritual force and in the next 25 years the force was doubled!

Looking back at the years since I was nine years old it, has been 48 years of inner desire and 28 years of waiting since my ordination as a deacon. Based on this scenario I can only see the priesthood as truly my vocation; feeling as if Jesus in His mercy and love calling me repeatedly amidst varied situations, holding firm my hands and leading me to the altar to be His priest. I do not share this as some emotional or sentimental sensation but purely based on faith and love. His faithfulness more than mine, His magnanimous mercy reaching out and His love embracing me.

Consequently, I see my attraction to the priesthood one not prompted by external benefits or status driven, for that may have been an initial prompting as a little boy. Incidentally such were already coming my way during the years of working in the corporate world. As such, I can undoubtedly say there is no escapism from life’s commitment to a ‘comfortable zone’ within the church.

DeaconXavier 06Deacon with Fr Anthony NadenAfter all these years of molding like in a potter’s hand, the promptings within have enormously changed. It has got this basic nuance of wanting to do something noble to humanity in the short life span given me. At this juncture what St. John Paul II said comes to my mind, “all are called to holiness, only holy people alone can renew humanity.” My main desire or even ambition if I may say, is to strive to become holy, a further step is to become instrument in the Lord’s hand and lead others to holiness. What better way to do this than as a priest? Priesthood gives me the avenue to work at it more concretely and dwell in it more intimately and at the same time strive to energise and empower others to do the same as witnesses of Christ.

A sense of being pulled or pushed into the priesthood; propositions from other people that I would make a good priest; a desire to pray more and to take my faith more seriously. A feeling of unworthiness before such an awe-inspiring vocation; a deep sense of service to humanity, a thirst for unlearning and learning, a passion for transforming self and people’s lives, both from the human and spiritual level, and the special bonds that are formed with laypeople and brother priests are consolidating signs of a priestly vocation in me.

In these, the priesthood brings incredible joy, sense of contentment, and hope to others, peace within and above all, love and honour to God in Jesus Christ.

“BE MERCIFUL JUST AS YOUR FATHER IS MERCIFUL” Lk 6:36