The best quote on Vocation that I have come across is the one by Frederick Buechner. “Vocation”, he said, “is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.” Did I know this when I decided to be priest? Of course not! I didn’t have a clue. And yet, my vocation story proves it to be so true.
The desire to become a priest blossomed in me very early on, when I was around 10. The drawing power came from the Eucharist. Since then, presiding at Mass has been the greatest thing in my life. A closely-knit family consisting of my mother, brother and four sisters (my father had died when I was six) watered and nurtured this desire. They would keep reminding me if ever I deviated.
That remaining the same, I was blown over by another passion to be missionary priests in an unknown and the most difficult place. This time I was in High School. By this time I had heard of the poverty-stricken, oppressed, and un-evangelized people in Odisha, an eastern State in India, near Calcutta. Then and now Odisha has the dubious distinction of being the poorest State in India. In 2008, this place was infamously in the international news arena for the worst ever persecution against Christians in India.My decision to be a missionary in Odisha was met with opposition from the family and other even unexpected corners. My persistence succeeded. After my high school in 1983, I left home and the comfort of all familiarity. It was the most challenging time in my life. I had to learn new languages, culture, customs, and familiarize with new food habits. There were times when I had resented my decision and moments when I had cursed the day I was born. It didn’t take long though, to fall in love with the people and the place. Eureka! I found the place, where my deep joy met with the greatest need of the world.
After 12 years of training and having completed my seminary and college studies concurrently in Calcutta, I was ordained a priest in 1995 for the diocese of Berhampur, Odisha. For 12 years from then I worked in various capacities before I came to the US. It is to this place I am returning after my assignment here at St. Martin. With your blessings, I will go back to be missionary again.
Not very long ago, Steve Harvey, a well-known TV host had said, “Career is what we are paid for. Vocation is what we are made for”. Who and what I am today is because of HIM who has made me and strengthens me for this. God has convinced me through people like you that this is what I have been made for.
My take away: The pattern of calling-listening-responding takes place in the context of our family, community, relationships and support systems. More often than not God’s call comes to us as spoken through the needs of other people. We will become greater men and women if we listen for the voice of the Lord speaking to us as we listen to one another.
Thank you for praying for the priests this past Sunday, especially for Fr. Sergio and me.