Vocation Story: Father Aloysious Ong

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The following is the insert for this week, Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. I hope that this vocation story inspires all readers and visitors to this blog.

The priest, Father Aloysious Ong is the assistant priest of The Holy Family, Katong, Archdiocese of Singapore. The church, situated in one of Singapore's richest heritage sites was founded in 1936 and is around 8500 strong.

Part 1: Call of the Towel and the Basin

When the Lord calls, it is both mysterious and difficult to ignore. Such was my situation during those years of 1993/94 when I was in the midst of my working life and wondering what my next step was going to be. I thought world domination would be the next logical step after getting a degree, having gotten a good-paying job and possessing the power to do anything I want, well, literally. But the gentle call of God for a 'lesser' yet demanding mission in life intruded into my plans and turned my whole world upside down.

Within 2 years of discerning and lots of soul searching I finally took up this invitation to the call of the towel and the basin, an offer that promises not power, money and wealth but a life of a deeper satisfaction and peace that no one, not even the world can claim to give.

On that note, St Francis Xavier Major Seminary became my next home and formative environment as I work out my role in God's plan through this formation and studies towards the priesthood. I entered the seminary in 1995 and have been here undergoing training and formation for the last 7 years. It has been many years of constant discerning and many a times, a painful discovery of my inadequate self in this venture towards the role of being Christ to the people.

But with God's grace I am making sure and steady steps towards what I really should be doing - a labourer in the vineyard of the Lord.

I don't know what the future really holds but it promises to be exciting and challenging even frightening. As long I remain faithful to what I am suppose to do, I believe I can conquer. World domination? I think a better term would be 'world transformation' in, through and for Christ!

Part 2: All Work and Play Also...

It isn't all work, studies and prayer. To keep the body and mind sound and healthy, there's always the opportunity for games and some fun. So there's soccer, basketball, volleyball, swimming, softball, billiards and the weekly community games where the seminarians and the Fathers get together for a game or two.

It is also a great way to let off steam at the day's stress and from each other. Sure, there are arguments and shouting matches but at the end of the day, we shake on it, let bygones be bygones and carry on with life. It's too short to carry a vendetta...

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well, in the seminary there is never a dull moment and opportunities for all forms of recreation available is only limited by the seminarian's own creativity. So, anybody for a game of water volleyball?...

Part 3: Be Still and Know That I Am God

An important aspect of seminary formation is the spiritual. In being formed to be a person of prayer, we must know and live out a life of prayer. With all our other activities and work that call out for attention, we must also take time out to be in the quiet and allow God to speak to us.

There are our daily masses, Morning and Evening Prayers, meditation, Holy Hour and quiet time. They all help us to connect with the sacred and instill in us our need for an ongoing loving relationship with God in our lives and to share that with all whom we come in contact with.

Part 4: Nourishing the Mind

Catechism as we know, scratches the tip of the iceberg as it only teaches the basics and the rest is up to us. Studies in the seminary goes deeper to the core of the faith as they help us to continue our journey through 2000 years of Church history, teachings and tradition that evolved and developed even after Jesus Christ left this earth.

The mind simply boggles at the amount of information and treasures that the Church possesses for her faithful.

With the amount of intellectual studies and work put in, the seminarian should be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills in imparting and teaching the faith to the faithful as a priest later.

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