01 Sep 2019

Pathway to priesthood not always clear

The Southern Cross newspaper – September 2019

Fr William Loh OP.jpg

Observing that Christians tend to be “happier people”, newly ordained Dominican priest Father William Loh OP admitted it took him many years of soul searching and discernment before he was completely happy and at peace with his decision to become a priest.

Now serving as the chaplain at Blackfriars Priory School, Fr William (pictured) told students last month that when he was having fun as a university student in NSW he often felt conflicted with his involvement in the parish youth group.

“During this time I maintained a double life between two different cultures – university life and youth group,” he said.

“I saw the faith as a valuable tool for psychological amenity – Christian people generally seemed to be happier people – but the euphoria of the charismatic and youth-orientated praise did not fully satisfy me. I was searching for more and I still lacked true belief in Christ.”

Fr William, now 32, was one of seven young men ordained in Sydney on August 3. He took the opportunity to talk about his journey to the priesthood after celebrating his first school Mass at Blackfriars, on the feast of the Assumption on August 15.  

The former mechanical engineer told students that he graduated from high school an agnostic, but was soon reconnected with his faith after being invited to attend a charismatic Catholic youth group.

In 2008 he attended World Youth Day and the experience “gave me a deep sense of the universality of mankind’s longing for love which truly satisfies, the love of God”.

“I thought of the priesthood but did not believe I was capable of taking on such a ministry, particularly with regard to celibacy,” he said.

Desperate for clarity, Fr William attended a Youth Leaders Formation Course run by the Sydney Archdiocese; a month-long retreat of formation and prayer. There was no phone, no internet but instead guest speakers shared their wisdom and knowledge about the faith.

“It was during the silence of this retreat where I realised that I was simply a person loved by God, and that being a priest would be possible. My return from the course strengthened my openness to the priestly vocation.”

With his university degree now in hand and still wavering, Fr William worked for two years in multiple jobs and “dated with the intention to commit to marriage”.

“But I found myself unsatisfied. The call to the priesthood remained. I knew that even though God would bless whatever decision I made I would only be 99 per cent happy. That 1 per cent would bug me for the rest of my life. God had called me to another way of life.”

He said a pilgrimage to WYD in Madrid, participating in various men’s retreats and forming a bond with the Dominican Order had also contributed to his decision to join the seminary in 2012.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP told parishioners in an overflowing St Mary’s Cathedral that the ordinations of the seven men was a “real symbol of hope for our Church”.

Others ordained were deacons Miguel Campos, 33, from Mexico; Moises Tapia Carrasco, 31, from the Dominican Republic; John Jang, 33, born in Korea; Brisbane-born Joseph Murphy, 27; Ronnie Maree, 27, from Campsie and Canadian-born William Chow, 34.

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