Don’t be an ordinary priest: Dominican

If you are finding a genuine vocation for priesthood, commit yourself to it. But dare to be different. Don’t aim at becoming an ordinary priest but a person who can really become another Christ through words and deeds. The story of a different priest written by Lijo Mampoothara and pubished in Matters India. 

Nagpur: The Catholic Church is observing the Year of Consecrated Life now. Each religious is called to wake up the world by being real witnesses to a counter-cultural way of life that relies on generosity and self- forgetfulness. It is fitting to highlight those who have become real witnesses to many in their day to day life.

One such person is Fr. Sunoj K M who belongs to the order of Preachers (OP) or popularly known as Dominicans. He currently serves as the Dean of Philosophy at St. Charles Major Seminary, Seminary Hills, Nagpur. Many seminarians are attracted by his simplicity and prayer. He shared his views and experiences with Fr. Lijo Mampoothara in a recent interview.

Where were you born?

I was born at Kasargod in Kerala

When you were young what were your plans for the future?

I wanted to study for the sake of acquiring some profession like teaching.

When did you first think about becoming a priest?

When I was studying in the 8th standard.

Why did you decide to dedicate your life to God?

Experiencing God is something exciting. The hide and seek game which God started with me since my childhood continues till today. I feel fortunate to experience the touch of Jesus which I hold very dear to my heart and that touch takes me ahead even through the hurdles and struggles of life. I have decided to dedicate my life to God in order to extend that gentle touch of the Lord to others in whatever way I can.

Did you have doubts and questions?

Yes. I have my own doubts and sometimes there were questions arising in my mind due to various reasons and situations.

How did you resolve your doubts?

By taking recourse to prayer and the guidance from trustworthy persons I tried to resolve my doubts. These doubts and questions are in a way enabling me to grow, therefore I am not so worried about them. What were the happiest moments in your life?

My religious profession, ordination and the opportunities I had to become a ray of hope for those in serious difficulties and the moments when I was able to touch the lives of those who are in formation. Even the moments of sufferings have turned to be the happy ones because they were indeed hidden blessings in store.

What was the saddest moment in your life?

The death of my parents.

What are you proudest of?

The privilege of being a religious priest, a humble instrument so fondly and providentially chosen by the grace of the Almighty.

What is the most common question people ask about the consecrated life?

What I have heard from people regarding consecrated life is mostly positive. They express their genuine appreciation towards the consecrated persons who strive to witness the values of the Kingdom in this modern world. They often ask questions regarding the challenges one face to live a committed consecrated life today.

Has living the consecrated life different than you imagined? How so?

It is different from what I had imagined. Because I thought it was heaven on earth but now I realise it is up to me to make it. It is more challenging to transform my own life as a consecrated person to follow the Lord, and this transformation is an ongoing process.

What are your future hopes for consecrated life?

As long as the consecrated life is animated by the Holy Spirit it is full of hope. I hope that there will be an amazing revival in the consecrated life. It will recapture its own real spirit of aiming always to do something beautiful for the Lord. There will be a major transformation of self centred life to Christ centred life.

What is your understanding of the mission of the Church today?

The mission of the Church is to become the channel of the living presence of Jesus today. The embodiment of the Gospel and the compassion of Jesus should assume a visible form through its members. Evangelisation which lies at heart of the mission of the church can be carried out in today’s context only through a powerful witnessing.

How are the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience helping in the mission of the Church?

Vow of poverty solemnly proclaims that the Church is of the poor and for the poor by imitating Christ who emptied himself. Those who are sincerely committed to the vow of celibacy will be able to become all things for all people without selfishness and lust. Obedience enables a person to give priority to the mission of the church above everything by seeking God’s will in all things.

If given a second chance, would you still become a priest? Why or why not?

Yes. If there is a second chance I would still prefer to become a religious priest, because I am fully convinced that there is no other form of life than this which is fully centred on Christ and there is nothing above the opportunity one gets to serve others.

Did anyone influence you to become a priest? If so, who and why did they want you to dedicate your life to God?

There are some people such as my own relatives, teachers and the members of my own congregation who influenced me to become a religious priest and I am grateful to them. They wanted me to dedicate my life to God because they were able to sense something in me that was fitting for dedicating one’s life to God. I still get a lot of prayerful support and encouragement from many people who are really happy to see me as a person dedicated to God.

How are you living the mission of the Church?

Through prayer, preaching, teaching, administering the sacraments, spiritual direction and helping the formation of those who are aspiring for priesthood. I think it is not enough because ultimately my life should become a source of inspiration for others to fall in love with Jesus and His Church.

What words of advice would you give to someone who was considering being a priest?

If you are finding a genuine vocation for priesthood, commit yourself to it. But dare to be different. Don’t aim at becoming an ordinary priest but a person who can really become another Christ through words and deeds. Therefore, be a person of prayer and a person for the poor, and then you will become a person of power.

(This interview first appeared in the August issue of the Messenger, the newsletter of Nagpur archdiocese)

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