Man for Others
Catholic priests & seminarians talk about their path to priesthood and about those who've helped and inspired them in their vocation.
Many thanks to all the seminarians and priests who've contributed.
Many thanks too to Mike Mangione for the gift of his music.
This miraculous image is of the Turin Shroud - the Holy Face of Jesus.
This Totus2us podcast, inspired by Benedict XVI's dedication of a Year for Priests, is in thanksgiving for all priests who have truly lived their vocation. Papa B wrote "Dear priests, Christ is counting on you. In the footsteps of the Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!"
You can subscribe to this podcast / download the mp3s here on itunes or here from Totus2us's RSS feed. Plus, you can download the free mp3 audio recordings individually by right clicking where you see this diamond ♦
"I have had the fortune to become a priest because when Pope John Paul II came to Senegal to visit our country, I told myself ‘I want to be like this priest, like this bishop, and to dedicate all my life to announce Jesus Christ.’"
"En reconnaissance de ce qui arrivait en février de l'année 1992 quand Pape Jean-Paul II était au Senegal pour une visite pastorale, j'etais là parmi les jeunes de mon pays et lorsque j'ai eu la chance de le voir passer, traverser, quelque chose est passé en moi, c'est comme ca que je peux le resumer, et je n'ai pas pu resister a ce desir de lui ressembler, et c'est comme ça que tout est parti. Aujourd'hui c'est une grâce vraiment ineffable, je ne peux pas exprimer la joie qui m'habite en ce moment d'avoir pu célébrer la messe sur l'autel où Jean-Paul II repose en attendant d'être proclamé saint, mais pour moi il est déjà."
"I love my vocation, I love being a priest, I love being a missionary. And I see mission not only oversees but at home, particularly now in this politically correct society where people are rejecting so many things. I think it's important to stand up for the Gospel values and help people encounter Jesus and, if it's the will of God and the grace of God, accept Him and be his disciple."
72 - Father Fabien Lambert, who's 36 & a priest of the Emmanuel Community from Belgium, talks about how his summer holidays in 1997, spent at World Youth Day Paris & then on the island of Majorca, impacted his life:
"Little bit by little bit during these days at World Youth Day Paris I started to be struck by something. I saw that ‘how come all these people can be in this joy? And how come this old man, John Paul II, can attract so many young people? There is no one else in the world who has such a big influence like this.' And I thought maybe there is something more and maybe God really does exist. It was the beginning of a little openness in my heart. And then I went back home and a few weeks after a good friend proposed to me to go on holidays… We went to Majorca and it was really a very mundane place, where there is only discos, restaurants, beach, and our programme was just to follow the discos, restaurants, beach. What struck me during this time was the contrast between what I lived just 2 weeks before in Paris, a really deep joy, a profound joy, and after something very superficial in this life. After a few days I was alone (my friend had gone to do something) and I felt a big emptiness in me and I said 'How is it possible that I am so sad? This way of life, I thought it was happiness, just to go to restaurants ..' and the contrast of what I was living just before and what I was living now made me feel a very big emptiness in me and I said 'Maybe I should go back to God.' There was like a question in me, it was not an answer but an openness in my heart. 'But if everything I received in my childhood was true, and if maybe God really exists and if He can really fulfil me' I said to myself 'then I should leave everything and I should become a priest.'"
71 - Eric, who's 28 & a deacon from America shares the story of his conversion, the way the Lord worked in his heart and turned his life around:
"I was 21, in my last year of college studying business, and my mother asked me to come with her to Medjugorje, to do a pilgrimage with her. I didn’t really know about the place, but it was a trip to Europe and I wasn’t going to turn that down, so I said yes. I went with my mother and younger brother and we went to Medjugorje and spent a week there. And that was the most powerful week of my life. It was the week in which I finally woke up after having been raised Catholic .. I wasn't really practicing at the time and was more concerned about the party life in college and my own interests in doing what I wanted to do. It was a week that God really opened my eyes, it was a time of prayer, it was a time of really coming to know what my faith was about. I spent some time on the mountains of Medjugorje in prayer, praying to Our Lord to give me some direction, to figure out what He wanted in my life. And all of a sudden came an incredible realization of His presence, of a presence that loved me, that knew me and that I was in his hands, that there is nothing that I need worry about, that I was in his hands, that He was going to take care of me. It was an overwhelming sense of his love for me, absolutely overwhelming and I couldn't escape it. I knew after this experience that I had to do something, I had to change the way I was living. … I came back from that week in Medjugorje with such a hunger to learn more about my faith, to learn more about God."
Father Robert on Blessed John Paul II
70 - Monsignor Rob Panke, from the United States:
"I’m most grateful to Blessed John Paul II because he really helped me find my way to the priesthood, from his example and also from his writings. In the work that I do with priests, he really helped us remember our dignity as priests and the great gift that God has given us in the priesthood."
68 - Padre Juan Ignacio Ovalle, a diocesan priest from Chile, gives his reflection on the gift of his priesthood in English & Spanish:
"At 15 I started to go Mass every day. This was fundamental in my life and in the development of my priest vocation. At about the same age I started to pray everyday one fifth part of the Rosary to the Holy Virgin. After one or two years I was praying the five mysteries of the Rosary every day. I think these two things, the daily Mass and Holy Rosary, helped me very much. .. I have been a Catholic priest for almost 5 years, I've been very happy. Every day God gives me the possibility to share my life and faith with many people in need, and He offers me the possibility of being a father and a presence of God to them. I want to thank God for choosing me, with all my sins and limitations, to minister to Him and to my brethren. Please, pray for me and pray to God that there may be many saintly priests. Thus the gospel will be preached and the Sacraments received."
"My priesthood is very, very important to me, without which I do not think I’d be able to live, and I’ve been inspired by many good men in my early days. The earliest inspiration actually came from an Anglican ordinant with Catholic outlook. He didn’t live very long, he became an Anglican clergyman and he died at the age of 49, but he inspired me a lot by his ideas. Then of course I met the priest who received me into the Church when I was 16, Father Hugh Rainam and with him there was Fr John Kenny and Fr Cornelius Leworne, all three were at the Church at Tooting Bec. They were men of such outstanding dedication that I was really inspired. I promised Our Lady that I would become her priest if she would show me the way of right living, which she did and helped me tremendously. Finally of course, I mustn't forget Fr Edward Holloway who was my first professor and helped me tremendously with the studies. But he really introduced me into the spiritual life which is the backbone of priesthood and dedication to God."
66 - Father Wilfred Pais, a Carmelite priest from India:
"There among the poor I was strengthened in my vocation. Somehow they provided me with a vision for my life. I knew as a priest I was called to love and to serve after the example of Christ. In 1997 I was ordained a priest in India and thereafter was sent to Tanzania as a missionary. Since then I have been a part of our mission in Tanzania, making of my life, to use the words of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, something beautiful for God in loving and serving others in little and insignificant ways. There is nothing extraordinary in the way I received my call to the priesthood. It was all a natural process as if everything was planned. The people I encountered, the events that took place all helped me to reach where I wanted to be, or better, where I had to be. Life has not been a bed of roses, sailing was tough at times and still is. But the Lord has been gracious and was there to support me in ways unknown to me at those difficult times. Now when I look back I know that He was there and that gives me the assurance that He will be there throughout and I confidently sing with the psalmist 'The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.'"
65 - Father James Mary Okunbor, from Nigeria:
"I have discovered that my priesthood has been influenced by Our Lady. I have a particular devotion to her and any time I’m in a problem, I run to the Blessed Virgin Mary. And I also believe so much in divine providence. Believing in divine providence means that when things are hard, when there are no resources or talents around, God will always provide. .. What makes the priest is spirituality and conformity with the grace of God and the divine will. The priestly life is not a life of what makes our pleasure or riches, it is a life of following Christ, in accordance with Philippians ch 2 v 5-11: ‘Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not consider himself equal to God. He stripped himself of all human dignity and became obedient unto death. For this reason God has exulted him and at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.’ So no matter whatever problems that come before us in the priestly life, we must revert back and move closer to Jesus on our knees, through intercession. Then we will be able to realise our priestly goal: it is a call to service."
"So God had put Father Nick in my life a year earlier so that when He called me to priesthood I’d be able to respond and feel open to talking to this priest about my vocation."
63 - Father Andrew Kingham, from Scotland & currently the Catholic chaplain at St Andrew's University, describes his path to priesthood:
"I remember Pope John Paul II’s visit to Great Britain in 1982 and in the preparation for that visit in the parish (I was only 14 at the time), the great slogan was ‘Saying Yes to God.’ But my experience with my calling and my vocation was not so much saying yes to God but giving in to God, 'Ok God, I'll do this.' God had been calling me for a long, long time, and He just needed to have me in that right place, in that right time, where I would have enough courage and enough trust in Him to say 'Ok God.' So I would say that saying yes to God is one thing, but there's also that giving in to God, handing everything over to God, and once you hand that over to Him, He takes control and He leads you."
"I’m really happy that the Lord has called me. The greatest gift for every priest, I think, is his calling. You are no better than anyone else but the Lord calls you, you follow Him and that gives you joy beyond explanation really."
60 - Father Piotr Prusakiewicz, from Poland, is a priest of the Congregation of St Michael the Archangel:
"At the beginning I didn't know too much about St Michael but because of my vocation to the congregation, the angels became very close to me and I got to know a lot about the angels, especially about St Michael the Archangel. And I didn't know too much about vows, of chastity, poverty and obedience, I just wanted to become a priest, to answer to the call of Jesus, to serve other people, but when I was in my novitiate it came to me that I must take my vows. But I understood how great is this grace: to have Jesus as a part of you, as your second part. So I discovered what it means practically to have the vocation to religious life and every day I thank Jesus for it and I ask Him that I may be faithful till the end of my life. Because there are 2 things: to be called by Jesus, to have a vocation, and then to be faithful to the end of your vocation. So I ask for prayer because St Faustina said that the devil attacks the priests twice as much because he hates the priest because he gives Jesus to the world. That's why I need a lot of prayer and, on behalf of all priests, I say 'we need a lot of prayer'. So please pray for us."
59 - Father Edmund Neizer, from Ghana:
"I've never regretted one day or one moment in my life of being a priest. I've always enjoyed my priesthood and I know that I will always enjoy it because I live it one day at a time: 'Every day, God, you give me another day. Do you still trust in me? I don't trust in myself but I know that you know what you have the day for. Never permit me to separate myself from you. Grant that I will love you always and then do with me what you want.' That has been my daily prayer, and one of the things that I tell myself always is that I did not create myself, the priesthood is a gift not for me but for the Church, and not because I did anything to earn it, but it's God that gave it to the Church and I am just his instrument, so I live one day at a time. So that's my story. To God be the glory for the great things He has done. I pray that every day I will do his will and may his will be accomplished in my life. Amen."
58 - Father Phillip Harris, from England, describes how God led him by small steps along his road to the priesthood:
"God works with all our unworthiness and through his wonderful grace can actually work and bring new life into the world, new hope into the world. So I thank God every day for the journey he's taken me through, the journey that I'm still on and which He's leading me on. I pray for all you who might listen to this podcast that you will have the trust in the Lord that He will guide your little steps towards Hiw own purpose, His own will in your life and His will for the life of the world too."
57 - Father David Marsden, from England & in the Sacred Heart province in Ireland, describes how working at a retreat centre during his GAP year with the Sacred Heart Fathers, changed the direction of his life.
"I believe that God's plan will continue to unfold, a plan that He's had from the beginning of time and He is drawing me along a very exciting, life-giving adventure and I'm really looking forward to that with great hope. I thank God every day for my life and I seek now to help people to understand that God has a plan for each of them, it's not necessarily priesthood but it's a very clear plan, and so I hope and pray that they find that, anyone listening will find their plan, God's plan for them, and seek to respond with generosity and with joy."
56 - Father Bert Koppen, from Holland & a member of The Spiritual Family the Work, talks of his road to the priesthood, which included a pilgrimage to Medjugorje in 1989 where, aged 35, he went to confession for the first time in many years.
"A profession you choose yourself, a vocation is something that comes from God. I did not make the decision to be a priest, God did. I wanted to be an engineer but God wanted me as a priest. And I only had to say 'Yes. Yes God, I will do your will, I follow your way' and then He gives the strength for it; Day by day, not in advance, years before. No. He gives His light, His graces, His strength at the moment you need it. And we have to go day by day His way, to hear His voice, to go His ways, work with the graces you're given at the moment, and in that you can far, far overcome yourself, because He wants it. And He doesn't want us to make borders, 'I can't get over that'. When God wants it, He asks only to jump over that border and go further in Him, with Him, and that is special for the priesthood, something great for religious. It is not something we can, we do, we live, but it is only every day, again and again, 'Yes God. I will go with you. I will follow your way, your vocation you have given to me.' And that is a great fulfilment that gives us a strength and makes us stand hold in all the difficulties life gives. It gives a hold for the 3 vows, virginity, poverty and obedience, That gives you the power to stand hold. And when you trust in God, when go on your knees and ask Him to be with Him, you can fulfil what He has asked you to do. It is not your own strength, your own powers, but it is God's will, God's powers."
Father Philip on Blessed John Paul II
55 - Father Philip Conner, the diocesan youth chaplain for Lancaster in the UK, has chosen JPII as his Man for Others:
"John Paul II really, really inspired me at World Youth Day in Rome and I suppose in my journey to be a priest, he helped me to understand how actually priesthood isn't just something we do for God, or that we've got to sacrifice my life for the Lord, it's a gift. When I came to understand it as a gift, it transformed everything; when you realise something is a gift, you learn how to receive and this changes your whole attitude. It's not something you do for God, it's something God is doing for you; He chose us; we didn't choose Him, He chose us and we respond. John Paul II helped me to understand how it's a real mystery we're entering into and a really amazing privilege to participate in Jesus' life today and to make His life present, and to continue to receive this as a gift."
54 - Doug, who's 22 & from the USA, is currently studying at seminary in Rome. He talks of the witness given by his parish priest who 'raditated the joy of Christ', and of how the Sacrament of Confession was central to his vocation story:
"When the priest was giving me absolution, I just felt the really intense call to the priesthood. It was the most powerful I had ever felt God in my life, and I just knew it was from Him, and I had to answer the call even though I had a lot of fears about celibacy and loneliness. I just knew I had to follow His call because He's God and He really cares for me. So, after answering the call, I've come to realise a lot more joy in the priesthood in following the Lord's will.
"I've always wanted to be a priest, ever since I can remember as a boy, quite young, and probably due to my uncle, who was a Benedictine priest who was good friends with his sister, my mother. But of course I owe a great deal also to many other Benedictine monks ... Well of course I've learnt a great deal since those very early childhood days, when I clearly hadn't taken on board, in fact not until fairly recently really, that the vocation of a priest is to be another Christ, alter Christus, to act 'in persona Christi', in the person of Christ, offering the sacrifice of the Mass. So it should involve and must involve sacrifice and one should welcome suffering. But I'm afraid I don't welcome suffering - I hope I accept it when it comes. It's the same as the will of God. The rule of St Benedict can be summed up I think in the word obedience, or listen, if you like. The first word of the rule of St Benedict is listen, in other words listen and then carry out what the Master tells you to do. Obedience. And that took me a long time to understand really what that means, doing the Will of God. It is the same for everybody, everybody. We're only here to do the will of God but of course we need His help for that."
52 - Father Austin Litke, from the USA, was ordained a Dominican priest this May. His Man for Others was his parish priest when he was a child:
"I started thinking about being a priest when I was 10 years old, because in my home parish there was a young priest who came and I started serving Mass, and the witness of his life, the way that he said Mass, the reverence with which he said Mass, the way that he dealt with people just really struck me and I just had this very deep sense that that's what I wanted to do when I grew up, that I wanted to be just like him. It took me almost 20 years later, when I was actually ordained a priest, to actually understand what that meant. On the day I was ordained I had about 80 people ask me 'Do you feel any different?' And, to be quite honest, the answer was no, I didn't feel different. But I knew that something was different because everyone from my mum and dad to complete strangers I met that day, treated me differently because I was a priest, because they knew that I'd been ordained for them, that I'd been set aside by God, to serve God and to serve his Church and to serve his people. It was no longer my personality or my gifts in particular, but because I was the priest, I was the one through whom God was working and they knew that I lived for them."
51 - Father Tom Dubois, who's 30 & from England, talks about his year spent in a parish with Canon Liam in preparation for his priesthood:
"I think for me being with someone who'd been a priest for so long (he celebrated while I was there his 50 years of priesthood), just still had this incredible energy and this incredible joy in his ministry and just a real vibrancy about him, really encouraged me, who was just on my way to priesthood. I think it really encouraged me to see the heart of priesthood, to see that heart founded in Jesus. As St John Mary Vianney says, the priest is the heart of Jesus for the world, open to the world. I think that was something I saw very real, in a very simple way, in Canon Liam and something that really inspired me in my own journey to priesthood."
50 - Brother Reginald, from the USA & a Dominican brother studying for the priesthood in Washington, talks about his own patron in religious life, Blessed Reginald of Orleans, and the function of Marian devotion in the mission and life of the Order of Friar Preachers:
"Blessed Reginald was one of the first Dominicans, a companion of St Dominic, and received a special grace from the Blessed Mother - he actually received what we call the scapular of our habit from the Blessed Mother herself (which is the large rectangular white piece which hangs on the front and the back of the Dominican habit), as a sign of protection and motherly affection from the Blessed Mother. Blessed Reginald received this grace on what would have been his deathbed; he was about to enter the Order and fell deathly ill, but instead of dying St Dominic prayed for him and he received a special grace and was healed, by the intercession of Mary. At this instance Mary showed him the full habit which included the scapular .. So when Dominicans wear the habit, which is the sign of our life and our mission, you see integral even within the habit itself a sign of Mary's protection for us. And it's integral to Dominican prayer and to Dominican preaching so that when we think about the role of Mary in our life, we see her as deeply integrated in our own consecration to Christ, so that her motherhood of the Word of God becomes the motherhood of us as well. ... So when we live the Dominican vocation, in contemplation of the Word of God and in preaching, I like to remember this in particular, it helps me to remember the protection of Mary and her role in my own life, as a religious and a Dominican."
49 - Father Neil Brett, from England, talks of his conversion and the role his spiritual director, Father Bob, played on his road to the priesthood:
"One day my spiritual director asked me a question and that was: "Have you ever thought of being a priest?" Well the answer was, yes, I had, but no-one had ever asked me, until then. And of course it was as if the flood gates opened and I said yes, and from then on the rest is my own history because I began to follow God more closely in the way of a vocation to the priesthood... Here was God calling me through one man, a priest."
"From this parish have come 10 priests. It has also been an experience of brotherhood among us; I can rely on them on my 10 friends. In the life of a priest it is a very important thing to have other priests as your brothers. .. I think we are not supermen, we are very ordinary people. That is what amazes me is that God has chosen us to be priests. I have discovered along the years that God knows me better than I know myself, He knows me very well and even though He knows how I am, God has chosen me."
47 - Father Raymond Gawronski SJ, a professor & spiritual director at St John Vianney Seminary in Denver, USA, talks about his vocation to the priesthood and some of the priests, including Fr McMann & Fr Tom King SJ, who inspired him along the way.
"It is the most wonderful thing in the world to be a priest; the greatest joy I could have. I have so many spiritual children, I feel like an endless life of Abraham who bears children in his old age, it is a delight. And a delight to be part of the priestly brotherhood, the greatest privilege of course is to stand at the altar and confect the Sacrament and to bring the Body and Blood of Christ to others. And along with it, the greatest joy I have is being able to absolve people of their sins, even as I myself have profited and continue to profit endlessly from the graces of Calvary given me in the Sacrament of confession. And then of course the other sacraments. It is the greatest life you can have. I bless and thank God for the wonderful priests I have known and it is the greatest blessing God could have given me to help me now form other young men to serve the Church of Jesus Christ as we wait for His second coming in glory."
Father George on St Francis, his parish priest Monsignor Joseph, & Blessed John Paul II
46 - Father George, from Onitsha archdiocese in Nigeria, was influenced on his road to the priesthood by St Francis of Assisi, his parish priest Monsignor Joseph and by Blessed John Paul II (who was a pilgrim to Nigeria twice):
"St Francis lived a life of humility, he attended to the needs of the poor, he lived a life of chastity. Because also of his humility after his diaconate ordination he refused to be ordained a priest because, according to him, when a priest celebrates Mass, he conceives Christ during that Mass and then gives birth to Him and then he gives Him to people, and as a human being he didn't feel worthy of that honour and so he stopped as a deacon.
My parish priest, Monsignor Joseph, he was down to earth when he was with us, he served us as a servant, he took care of our spiritual needs and he was just like a sheep shepherd.
And John Paul II, he said 'Totus Tuus', that is 'I am totally yours' and that is seen in his life. Even when his health was telling on him he was still struggling to serve the people and that is the spirit of the good shepherd, which Christ exemplified. The lives of these 3 people have been influencing my life, influencing my parish work as a priest. I continue to pray to God that He will continue to give me the grace to try to live as they did, so as to draw souls to God and at the end of the day to inherit the Kingdom of God."
Father Peter on Fr James & Blessed John Paul II
"As a young boy I observed him meeting people in their situations of life in their various houses. He usually visited us in our homes, so by that, his presence among the people of God, I was highly inspired. I started from there the idea of being a priest because, due to his disposition to people, to meet them in their various situations, people loved him, so I had an expectation that one day I would be like him ... his attitude towards the people of God made me want to become one and I am happy to be a priest. And I can't say everything without John Paul II, his personality .. He influenced me how he shepherded the people of God of his own time, he used everything, even at the point of his death. Some people said that he should step down, he asked them 'Did Christ step down at the point of his agony?' He continued to be at the cross, to carry the cross until the appointed time and now he has been glorified as one who has triumphed. So I pray that God will give me that same spirit, to understand people and come down to their situation and lift them up and lead them to God, because our ultimate end is going to God, so whatever we do on earth will have meaning only when we lead people to God because that is our final destination and I pray through the intercession of Blessed John Paul the Great I will be one like him now and after, to the glory of God, through Christ our Lord."
"There was a big battle inside me and I couldn't support this. One day, after Communion, I sat down in the last bench in an old church in Mostar and I told Jesus, "Jesus, I will die a healthy sportsman, because I can't support this pressure. And I have to decide and right now I decide, I will become your priest." At that moment, I felt like a burden of about 500 kilos that had been on my shoulders just disappeared. And at that time I saw that I guessed. Now I have been a priest for 11 years, I am 41 years old and if I had to be born 100 times I would choose to become a Franciscan priest, because I am very happy, as a priest, as a Franciscan and as a man, because Jesus calls me and gives me the grace to say 'Yes, I go with you'. ... If somebody is in the cross to be or not to be a priest or not, I recommend: Do not be afraid, go ahead, and Jesus will give you big grace. What's important - don't be afraid."
"Then it dawned on me that to be able to forgive sins would be more wonderful and I thought of the priesthood. To be able to forgive one serious sin, just once in one's life, to be the instrument God used to bring that person back into union with Himself, to turn that person's life into a thing of beauty, and that is what happens when a Catholic gets his sins forgiven, I thought that would be worth everything .. Then, more and more, it dawned on me what the Mass was - I haven't got used to it yet! That I'm used by God to bring the moment of the Passion of Jesus, actually present in that church, and to bring the moment of the Resurrection, actually present in that church. And that the Lamb of God that I hold between my fingers, is present in that church, that heaven has transfixed earth there. Now if that is the case, and it is, what a privilege!"
42 - Mark, who's 20, is a seminarian from England.
"The message of the Gospel is that God loved us so much that He came in Christ to reconcile us to Him. So I think that my vocation to the priesthood is about sharing the immense love that God has for us in coming among us as Jesus Christ. I think that what the priesthood has to offer the world is Jesus and that's what the world needs to hear. And of course we receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, and in my life the Eucharist has been the centre and the foundation of whom I am as a Christian and hopefully who I will be as a priest."
"I knew that if the priesthood was what God wanted for me, that was where I would be happiest. That was so key for me. I did not really want to be a priest at that point still, and yet I said 'Lord, if you are calling me, then I know that that is where I will be happiest.' I think I had heard that somewhere before but it just stayed with me and I used it, in a real time of crisis I guess, or a real moment of grace if you want to look at it that way. And that was when He started to give me the desire, because that is what I had said, 'God, you are going to have to give me that desire, if that is what you really want.' ... If you are being called, then that is where you will be happiest. You may not realise it yet, but God will give you the joy of heart."
"A thing that Father McKenna said to me before the novitiate was a great help (and I've found it's been a great help to quite a lot of seminarians and young Jesuits that I've been able to help since), he said 'If you ever think of leaving, wait 2 weeks.' It's very good practical advice, so you're not just swayed by emotion and you reflect a bit more.. Not long before my vows, when I was seeing the novice master, I said "Do you really think I have a Jesuit vocation?" And there was a long pause that seemed to last forever, and he said "Do you?" That's a very good way of treating a vocation, I think: it has to come back to the person, to reflect, to look at their own heart and their own mind and not to be swayed too much by other people."
39 - Father Peter Nkomazana, a Mariannhill Missionary priest from Zimbabwe, talks about his own father who was a great inspiration to him, about the priests from the Spanish Mission Institute who served his out-station, especially Fr Alphonse, & about Fr Anton Yansen to whom he spoke about his vocation:
"Talking about my own story of my faith and the story of my vocation, I was inspired mostly by my father, who was a catechist.. In the family he has been my source of inspiration; seeing him dedicated and committed in evangelisation and working with different priests as well; being active as a youth, as I was growing up, through his influence and encouragement. He was not forcing us in any way to go to church but it became part of our life as a family. We would not sleep without praying together as a family, this was mostly his encouragement. The prayer in the evening was so important. And getting involved with the youth, that was so interesting and motivating for me.. From an early age I was very clear what I wanted to do; I thought of myself as a priest.. this was deep in my heart, this was what I wanted."
38 - Daniel, a seminarian from England (& a member of the Totus2us team), describes how he visited Auschwitz during a trip to Poland when he was 18 and how the lives of St Maximilian Kolbe and Cassie Burnall have inspired him.
"In my prayer about this, it occurred to me that the yes of Maximlian Kolbe, the yes of Cassie Burnall, weren't the first yes that they had uttered to God. In order to say yes on the big occasions, I believe you have to practice it, you have to practice saying yes to God and that means saying yes to God in small things. Saying yes in the every day means that when the time for the big yes comes, we'll be so practiced at saying yes to God that it'll just come out of our mouth naturally just like Mary, when she said yes to the angel. 'Be it done unto me according to thy word' - that comes from a life of saying yes to God and that's what strikes me about Maximilian Kolbe - his life of saying yes to God. It cost him his life but in doing that he followed the way of our Saviour Jesus. Jesus' yes to God in the Garden of Gethsemane and throughout his whole life led to the Cross, and it should also lead us to the Cross. And that's why Maxmilian Kolbe to me is an inspiration and, as I'm training to be a priest, a real person to look up to, to follow and to say 'He followed Christ with his yes to God every day and I'd like to be just like that.'"
37 - Father Stanislaus Bondoko, a Mill Hill Missionary priest from Congo, grew up in the mission as his own father was a teacher with Catholic schools. Here he encountered the Mill Hill Missionaries and was touched by their witness which opened his eyes to see the necessity and meaning of priesthood.
"When I was ordained a deacon, I was touched very much by the words of admonition: "Receive the Gospel of Christ under whose head you are. Believe what you read, preach what you believe and put into practice what you preach." Those words really touched my heart & I took it as a challenge in my own life as someone dedicated to this vocation. By virtue of ordination I have joined a ministerial priesthood, I was made an ecclesial person & I understood that I have to become now an agent of Christ. .. In the process of my ministry I have learned to be a shepherd of the people and, in the words of Kasper, the priesthood is understood as a service towards Christ and so whoever does so becomes what he does, one who lives for others as Christ did. .. It is a privilege to celebrate the Eucharist, the sacrament of the Church, the sacrament which unites the people of God .. It is a blessing to be the channel through which the Lord offers humanity the food of eternal life, the sacrament of holiness, the medicine of immortality, according to the words of St Ignatius of Antioch."
36 - Father Martin Pratt, a priest from the archdiocese of Birmingham in England, has recently been inspired by Père Maurice Bellière, St Thérèse's 1st missionary priest friend in Africa:
"Father Maurice lived in France in the 19th century and I've just finished reading the extraordinary correspondence he had with St Theresa of Lisieux. He was struggling both as a priest and as a Christian. He opened his heart to the Little Flower and she told him "Confidence, nothing but confidence leads us to God's love." She also gave him great courage by saying 'When we are in heaven, we shall share in the infinite mercy of the Lord.'"
35 - Fr Jon Bielawski, a parish priest from England, reflects upon 2 driving forces that keep him inspired in his priesthood: a sense of fatherhood, which is lived out in priesthood, and a great sense of hope in all that he does.
"The sense of fatherhood dawned on me more powerfully when I was first given my parish after 5 years of ordination. After the first week-end of Sunday Masses the thought came to me very clearly and simply that I was able to feed these people with Jesus in the Eucharist. Just like a father would feed his family .. as a spiritual father I have done much the same thing in a spiritual way feeding them with Christ Himself to build them up and strengthen them for the week ahead. .. We are called to be messengers of hope .. everybody needs a sense of hope .. the hope we're talking about is a hope rooted in Jesus, in his kingdom, in eternal life; it's a hope that is based on Jesus' death and resurrection. It's the surest, greatest, deepest hope we're going to ever come across and that should always inspire us and be part of the message we're passing on. I think that's vital as a priest. "
34 - Fr John Rea, a Marist Father from New Zealand, looks back over 55 years of priesthood and recalls some of the priests who have inspired him, in particular, from the early days - Fr Alex, Fr Joe, Fr John O'Connor; from his trips to the Pacific Islands (Fiji in particular) - Fr Lucien Souberonne, Fr Mickey Bransfield; and 3 chaplains in the 2nd World War - Fr Jess, Fr Leo & Fr Wilfred.
"All through these 55 years there have been other priests who have inspired me. In my earlier years they were elderly priests, men who had born the burdens and the heats .. All of them were what I would call big men - big in mind, big in heart. A broadness about them that made them affable and friendly towards all, wonderful priests. I retain these memories all my days, examples to me to live up to. Amen."
"Truly a man for others, his priesthood was characterised by his faithful witness to Jesus Christ, his faithfulness to the Holy Mass and the prayer of the Church, and his availability to God's people, day and night, in moments of joy and sorrow. Today I am aspiring to be a priest because of Father Sean's example of a priest being in the person of Christ."
32 - Father Francis Selman, from England, reflects on why he became a priest, on those who helped him in his vocation (especially his parents) and on the living mystery at the heart of priesthood.
"One way of being a man for others is to be a priest. A priest quite clearly gives up some of his life for others. It is probably true to say that no-one can lead a life for others without making some sacrifice. This is not just true of priests or religious, but what the priest gives up is so that he may bring the source of all life, Christ himself, through the Mass and the Eucharist, to others.. A priest not only gives up things in his life, he receives consolations.. The greatest consolation is simply to offer the sacrifice of the Mass every day. Every time that I hold up the Host before communion and say 'This is the Lamb of God', these words are still as fresh and full of wonder as on the first day that I celebrated Mass on my own. The great thing is to have gratitude to God for one's vocation, every day."
31 - Jacob June, a seminarian from Kenya, speaks about Cardinal Maurice Otunga, the Archbishop of Nairobi, who died in 2003 and whose cause for canonization has begun:
"All my life I have been meditating on the life of Cardinal Otunga - he lived a very simple life, a life of celibacy, of simplicity, the life of poverty, of obedience, and this really attracted me .. At seminary, he was a very humble and hardworking man. He was the first Cardinal in Kenya and was a man who lived life to the fullest.. He really fought for the injustices in Kenya. He really was very free and spoke clearly to the people, telling people now to shun all the injustices and that people should embrace love. His main work was 'Love your brother as you love yourselves.' And the most of the time in his life he would meditate on the scripture of John, chapter 17; that I pray the Christian prayer that all my brothers and sisters may be one, and that they may be consecrated in spirit and in truth."
30 - Father Anish is a Mill Hill Missionary from India:
"In my childhood I was an altar boy and I helped with the Eucharist. Seeing the life of the priest, especially my parish priest, the way he speaks, the way he was dealing with people, his way of life itself, was an inspiration to me. So when I was a child I decided, I had that desire in me, that I would like to become a priest."
29 - Fr Anthony Meredith of the Society of Jesus, from England, observes how his vocation was inspired by the parish priest of his childhood, convert Fr Clement Lloyd Russell, and later by his fellow Jesuits Fr Cyril Martindale SJ, Fr George Walkerly SJ (his master of novices) and Fr David Hoy SJ.
"His wise advice to me on one occasion: When people come to you asking for advice or help, you will immediately stop listening to them and think to yourself, 'What on earth am I going to say?' "Don't," he said. Very often people really want someone to listen to them and they will work out the answers to their problems by themselves, and they simply want an intelligent and interested hearer and ear, in order to discover themselves and discover their deepest needs."
Father Stan CFR on Pope John Paul II
"Karol Woytyla, who wound up becoming Pope John Paul II, was and is an inspiration to me because he is a man who allowed God to let his humanity flourish and lead him into the depths of the mystery that God is and that is essentially love, to the point where, as he himself has said, it is love that has explained everything to him.. He was a man familiar with suffering and, in a certain sense, he was a man himself of sorrows, like Jesus and the suffering servant in Isaiah. And that did not beat him down and it could not keep him down but it helped him to learn how to be lifted up and how to lift others up. And his insights into and his experience with Jesus in his suffering and in the love and the victory of love that overcomes this suffering and that helps us to be transformed by this suffering is something that helps me to learn how to make meaning out of what I have suffered through, so that I can help others in their suffering, and to know something by experience about the victory of love."
27 - Père Martin Sabathé CSJ, from France and a brother of the Community of St John, talks about the priests who, by their prayer, helped in his vocation, the Jesuit priests who educated him and his brother priests in the Community of St John.
"There is something very special when you have a very, very good friend who is also a priest. The friendship is not exactly the same, and I think it is very important for a vocation and for a priest, especially as a member of a religious community, to be able to be supported by friends who are priests. So I thank the Lord for this gift of priesthood, men who are so deeply connected to Him, and who are able to give so much. They are poor instruments in themselves but God is really, really giving so much through them and in them. So, thank you, Lord."
26 - Father David Nixon, who's a Missionary of the Sacred Heart from England, describes the two priests who've particularly inspired him: his school chaplain Father Douglas Lamb and Father Tommy Hughes MSC, a 'true Missionary of the Sacred Heart'.
"He was somebody who presented an experience of faith and showed us the face of God in a very down to earth, a very human way, a very friendly, warm and compassionate way and that really showed me that priesthood was a great way of serving people, of being close to people, of bringing God's love to people and people to God's love."
25 - Mgr John Walsh, who's from England, describes the parish priest who was the crucial influence on him when he was a child.
"He himself was the greatest influence on me because he was a priest through and through. He was very priestly in his behaviour, he was caring, he was good and he was a man of prayer."
24 - Andy, who's 33 and a seminarian in England, describes his old parish priest who has been an inspiration for him.
"In terms of his preaching, I always felt he had a very positive view of humanity; I think he was largely inspired by St Vincent de Paul - very much that thing of putting contemplation into action. I was always struck really by the good news that I heard from him, very much about salvation rather than condemnation."
Father Filip on Pope John Paul II
"At World Youth Day 2000 Pope John Paul II talked very personally about his own priesthood .. with so much zeal that everyone listened very attentively .. And then he said "Dear young men, do not fear to choose the way of priesthood; the world needs you, all people need you; do not fear." And then he said with so much strength and confidence these words: "With God and grace it is possible" and then he paused and in the whole of St Peter's Square there was a deep silence, a holy silence of listening. And then again this old Pope, affected by Parkinsons, said with a loud voice, 'With God and grace, it is possible." At that moment I was touched so deeply in my soul and in my heart. Never had a person touched me so much by a word. All the obstacles I had made in the years before, all the reasons I thought I had found for not becoming a priest, vanished at that moment. I understood in the deepest of that moment in my heart 'Yes, it is clear. I have to become a priest. Of course, I have to become a priest. If this old sick Pope says this with so much strength then it must be true. It is possible with God and grace.'"
22 - Father Alexander Sherbrooke, from England, describes some of the reasons why Father Michael Hollings is his Man for Others'
"What you saw with Michael was someone who was in love with God and wanted to take other people to God. For those of us who came into the radar of Michael, he has left an enduring memory which is probably summed up by that simple adage that we are called to be here for people. If we are here for people, we are being like Christ, because Christ was always here for people, Christ was always present to people, even those who rejected him, those who turned their back on him, Christ was permanently present. Michael endeavoured to walk the same way and as he did so he was able to touch many with the love of Jesus."
"Overall my reflections of a very varied ministry is one of thanksgiving ..To me the power and the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ shines out more clearly than ever.. Very much the role of the priest is to lead people in prayer, to give them a meaning to life. A little poem I remember from my early days which influenced me in the priesthood: 'I search and seek I know not what, I only know it must be there, for in my heart there is a quest for something more than earth lays bear.' So it's a search for meaning, and for me Jesus has given me the key to that."
20 - Father Dominic Adeiza, from a Moslem family in Northern Nigeria, gives the story of his vocation and of the encouragement he received from his own father and from Sister Adelaine, a nun at his junior seminary.
"I give my vocation, the praise of whoever I am today, to all those who have supported me to become a priest of God I lived in Italy, in Rome, where I studied. For those times I studied in a strange and difficult language, life appeared unbearable but many years down the line it has become a bliss. In totality, my priesthood, the Catholic community, are for me one inseparable figure of love."
Father Matt OCD on Saint John of the Cross
"John gives us a way through the difficulties. John does not present us with superficial answers. John, rather, constantly draws us to Jesus Christ, to the Cross of Jesus Christ, to Jesus as the way, as the truth and the life. John, then, and his teaching, will not fail us and he has not failed me, and he has given me a well, a source of wisdom and of inspiration that I can constantly draw upon, and that sustains me on what is at times a very difficult road, but also a road that is filled with richness, with beauty, and ultimately a road that makes known to the world the greatness of God and the greatness of God's presence in each of our lives."
Martin on Saint Louis de Montfort
"I think he's so relevant now because for one his theology, particularly his theology of Our Lady and how she leads us to God, is worth exploring much more; but his radical commitment in a time of relativism I think becomes even more inspiring and interesting and becomes a real witness for being able to commit oneself in complete confidence and trust to God and to God's will, without fear."
17 - Father Juraj Semivan, from Slovakia, describes his time with Pater František Paňák SJ, known as the 'angel of the city of Košickej', when they were both serving at the Cathedral in the 1980s.
"Seeing a priest like that I thought 'Oh God, thank you.' I know there is no way I could be a priest like him but that's great because you can see that priesthood makes sense in one's life. I could see everyday all those people who visited him ... he was always so good to everyone, always laughing, just in a good mood, despite the suffering he went through, maybe just because of the suffering, did he handle it."
Father William SJ on Blessed Rupert Mayer SJ
"The priest who had most influence on me was a priest I never met … Rupert Mayer was like a parish priest to the whole of Munich in the 1920s and whose resistance to Naziism took him into prison and out of prison and then concentration camp .. This man's personality, his history, his resistance to evil, the pastoral quality of a man who could continue to function as a priest even when denied being able to speak publicly and who became a focal point for hope for the people of God .. this man was a presence in that room."
14 - Father Emmanuel Mansford, who's 36 and a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal based in England, talks about 3 priests who have helped and inspired him: Father Harry, from his childhood parish, and CFR Fathers Glenn Sudano and Jean Fulton.
"So this is for me a priest: someone who's normal, someone who's in touch with the Holy Spirit … and also and primarily a father, one with whom you can be yourself, through whom you experience the love of God the Father."
13 - Tom, 24 and a seminarian at Wonersh in England, thanks 3 priests who have particularly helped him on his road to the priesthood.
"And it's through his prayers and his support that I am where I am today."
12 - Father Stefan Park, an Augustinian priest from Scotland, chats about his route to the priesthood and how Father Lawrence OSA helped him to really search out his vocation.
"It was such an inspiration how from early morning till late at night, he'd give himself for the benefit of the people."
"You see this self-sacrificing love which is the route and heart of any good priest - they follow in the footsteps of Christ, "persona Christi" … He just lives his life sacrificing himself for the needs others and I'd certainly say he's one of the world's modern day heroes."
10 - Father Antonio Santos Marizane, from Zimbabwe, reflects on his vocation and the influences on his path to the priesthood - in particular his Catholic family and his parish priest, Father Anthony Huber (from Germany).
"This path I now understand to be one of service, service based on my personal relationship with God."
9 - Brother John Mary Jesus, who's 28 and from England, talks about the priests who inspired him in his youth:
"I really give thanks for these priests who are humbly and with great poverty living their life of total service, total gift to other people, treating other people as their sons and daughters in Christ, but above as God's sons and daughters and giving themselves so that we might be holy, so that we might become sons and daughters of God."
"I consider him to be wise because he guided me from the very beginning, he set me completely free and this is exactly what God does with us when we need to take an important decision. And the most important thing is that we're happy with the decision we make otherwise it will never succeed."
"The priesthood is really a special gift and as a priest is a servant, now as a servant he is supposed to follow Christ and Christ is the first servant. And as a servant he is supposed to sacrifice his life for the sake of the Gospel; sacrifice his time and energy for the expansion of the Church."
"It wasn't just that he was available for everyone but there was a depth and a quality to his love and the way he listened to you, and how sometimes he said very simple things. It was the quality of his love that drew me to the priesthood… it made the presence of Jesus real."
4 - Father Justin CSJ, 31 and from Hong Kong, talks about Father Michael, the English priest who baptised him when he was 15.
"He never pushed me into anything but He always wanted to be very demanding to show me that I'm not looking for anything that is second best. He says to me that my best may be someone else's second best but I must look for what God wants for me that is the best. But he is open to all the bests that God can offer me. And He would help me to be attentive to where God speaks and he insists on me not closing any doors to God. Now that's a father."
3 - Graham, a seminarian from England, talks about his experience of priesthood when on placement in a London parish.
"Being a priest is not just about knowing things .. a lot more is about being a witness to what you talk about, a witness to the Sacraments and being there for people."
2 - Father Iain Matthew, from England, describes fellow discalced Carmelite, Father Ronan:
"He was very focused on Christ; that union with Christ is all that mattered, or anything that matters flows from that, or leads to that."
"What really spurred my vocation was a fellow Mill Hill seminarian who is now a priest - the way he lives his life is something like living for others. He is truly a lover of God and you can see who is love."
Pope Benedict: "To the Most Holy Virgin I entrust this Year for Priests. I ask her to awaken in the heart of every priest a generous and renewed commitment to the ideal of complete self-oblation to Christ and the Church which inspired the thoughts and actions of the saintly Curé of Ars. It was his fervent prayer life and his impassioned love of Christ Crucified that enabled John Mary Vianney to grow daily in his total self-oblation to God and the Church. May his example lead all priests to offer that witness of unity with their Bishop, with one another and with the lay faithful, which today, as ever, is so necessary. Despite all the evil present in our world, the words which Christ spoke to his Apostles in the Upper Room continue to inspire us: “In the world you have tribulation; but take courage, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). Our faith in the Divine Master gives us the strength to look to the future with confidence. Dear priests, Christ is counting on you. In the footsteps of the Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by him. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation and peace!"
This podcast began on the 31st anniversary of the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope - 16th October 2009.