Family Recites Rosary Daily
I am the seventh child of eight children (four boys and four girls) that God had blessed my parents, Anselm Patrick D’Souza (deceased) and Rosemary Joan De Silva with.
My family practised the daily recital of the rosary together an occasionally, my father would introduce charismatic prayers to us. After the death of my father when I was 15 years old, my family still remained strongly bonded – a testimony to the saying, “A family that prays together stays together.”
From young, I learnt to serve my parents, my elders and visitors at home. When I was old enough, I joined the Altar Boys’ and went on to teach Catechism. After my confirmation at 15, I realized that being a nominal Sunday Catholic was not sufficient to develop a strong relationship with the Lord. Upon reflection and prayer, I decided to get more active in church and subsequently decided to join the seminary after National Service. A great influence on my being drawn to the priesthood at that time was my parents’ holiness and some lay people who gave of their time to serve the church.
I Pondered the Options in Life
Yet, I wasn’t completely sure. During my National Service days, I thought about the options open to me – the single life, married life or the priesthood. Using my parents as a gauge for married life, I felt that I could be a good father one day but gave God the option of being His priest first. So, I continued to ponder about becoming a priest.
After completing my National Service, I continued with my studies and left the door open for the priesthood. After a while, I decided to be open and submit my application to the seminary because I felt that if I did not take that positive step to discern further, I would never know if God were indeed calling me to be a priest. My mother was surprised when I asked for a copy of her marriage certificate to accompany an application I was planning to send but didn’t tell her it was to apply to join the seminary. However, when she found out, she was very encouraging and was even excited for me.
I Asked God for a Sign
Though I joined the seminary, I was still unsure if I could make it as a priest. I was still unsure if the Calling were really from God. I wanted to be sure. Hence, one day I asked God for a sign and that was for my sister-in-law to conceive as she yearned for a child having been childless for seven years of her marriage. Meanwhile, I carried on in the seminary. In my first year at the seminary, my sister-in-law actually conceived! But sadly, she had a miscarriage a few months later. Nevertheless, I was sure that God had indeed given me a sign and an affirmation of my Calling!
As I journeyed on in my seminary formation, at another point, I was assailed by doubts about my Calling. Hence, I told the Lord that if it were not His Will for me to become a priest, then let the seminary formators tell me so. After that, I went for a retreat and it was at the retreat that I felt the peace and assurance of God. Hence I stopped asking God for signs and I made a decision to persevere with my studies at the seminary.
Seminary Life Was God’s Way of “Pruning” Me
Seminary life was not at all smooth sailing. I had my fair share of peer problems and being a more sports and technical oriented person, I struggled with the theory aspect of studies. I guess it was a period of “pruning” by God and I took it in my stride. During one of the years, while my classmates advanced to the next year, I had to do an extra year of studies. I was devastated and demoralised.
Prayers were the only thing that kept me going in the seminary. I surrendered everything to God and depended on His grace to get me through. My Spiritual Director also played a role, as he was very encouraging. My classmates in the seminary were my pillars of strength too – Fathers Frederick Quek, Luke Fong and Christopher Lee.
On 7 July 2002, I was ordained a priest at the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea.
Greatest Joy as a Priest
It has been a short few years since my ordination and I can say that the greatest joy of being a priest is being with the people of God and seeing how I can help them. Many of them are looking for meaning in their lives and lack a sense satisfaction even though they may be holding high positions in the secular world. The other joy of being a priest is the close fellowship with my brother priests. We have this sense of being in this vocation together and as such, we understand one another as no one else can – the challenges and even the joys that we encounter.
Greatest Challenge as a Priest
The greatest challenge of being a priest is trying to please people, bringing them to God and bringing God to them. It’s tough. We have all sorts of people, they come from different backgrounds and as you know, Singaporeans have become a very demanding people. There is often a clash of ideas. They find it hard to accept the Ways of God and would rather go with the flow of the world as that is so much easier. However, as a priest, it is my duty to uphold God’s Ways and the Teachings of Christ despite the difficulties.
Only the Priesthood is for Me
Having said that, if someone were to ask me if I would still choose the priesthood again if I were given the chance to relive my life. My answer would be an unequivocal yes and this time I will also be more prepared for it.
Hence, my advice to young people who might be interested to join the priesthood or religious life is to start by leading a holy life; to have a regular prayer life, at least going for confessions on a quarterly basis and getting involved in church activities. Don’t be afraid to approach a priest or a nun to help you in your discernment process as they can be the Voice of God. Many will steer towards what their parents want them to be in life rather than what God wants for them. Hence, be open to God and have a good prayer life so as to be better able to discern God’s Will for your life.
First published by © The Serra Club of Singapore in 2006.