For surely, I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
- Jeremiah 29:11
As a young child, the idea of Priesthood was always very intriguing. But I never found myself enthusiastic about joining the Choir or the Altar Servers. I loved attending mass; not with the intention of celebrating one in the future. But, God had multiple plans for me. So, after my Confirmation I promised to be part of Church activities. With the same focus, in the very first year I was elected as the Secretary of the Youth Council and the following year as the Vice President. In addition, I was part of the Small Christian Community and with utmost astonishment I was also elected as the Coordinator to one of the SCCs and the Zonal head at such a young age.
I must say, I was thrilled with my leadership positions over the years. But there is a small confession to make. There was a voice; a voice of confusion- "Why me?" asked the voice. This confused voice was further accompanied by another subtle voice telling me that these positions could possibly be a onetime experience as it was only preparing me for something. So being the person I am, I grabbed these experiences and lead myself to the path of never-ending learning and growth.
Over the years and with various difficult and joyful life experiences, I was drawn close to God. In 2011 on Vocation Sunday, the cat finally got out of the bag! I confronted my family about my interest in joining the seminary. They were surprised yet happy for me. In 2012 along with 11 other companions I started my journey- the journey to imitate Christ.
Seminary life has always been a question for others. “What do they do?” “What do they learn?” “Do they play and have fun too?” Friends, having completed half of my formation; with confidence I shall tell you that at the seminary, time is distributed evenly to experience life's every situation. We focus on four pillars; pastoral, spiritual, human and intellect formation. Be it play, be it prayer, be it service, or be it joy.
These years of formation, in my perspective, are years of discernment. I did answer my call in 2011, but these years have been 'years of reflection.' It has taught me that God not only calls the qualified, but qualifies the called!
You may wonder what my inspiration is. My mother has a key role to play in my life. Being a hard-working person, she has taught me to be empathetic and not only sympathetic. My own life experiences have taught me the importance of hard work in one's life. It has drawn me to the purpose of my life. You may ask what my purpose ia. Allow me to share few anecdotes.
During my youth days, I visited the underprivileged of my parish. They welcomed me so warmly. They had the richest emotions and feelings. Monetary gains were sure their goal, but loving and serving people was their life's purpose. Through their limited materials, they offered me love and care when I visited them. They gave me my life's purpose; to spread love in my own ways. To care. To show empathy. To listen. To be yourself. The best experience of my Regency in Bhayandar was that, the huge church and school compound enabled me to connect to people, to hear their stories after the Sunday service or daily mass. A huge bunch of all age groups surrounded me. It was overwhelming! They were givers. It pushed me to be a giver too! The brothers in the seminary, the underprivileged families, the people; they inspire and enhance my purpose in life. They taught me that every story deserves to be told and to be heard!
Allow me to share another very close life experience I call a miracle. As a child, during a family picnic at the seashore, I was on my father's shoulder. We were in the water. Without any realisation, the waves swept me off from his shoulder and into the sea. I was drowning. My family was assured I was gone. But, to everyone's surprise my cousin felt tickled on her legs submerged in the water. As she bent to touch, it was me! God had saved me! She was my angel! That life experience stuck with me and till today, I wish I could be an angel to few lives!
My dear people, everyone has a purpose. It could be blurred now but wipe off the mist and search for the purpose. Once you have known your purpose, Life is beautiful. Embrace life.
Br. Christopher Fernandes
St. Pius X College