The Divine Word Missionaries AUS Province had cause for great celebration earlier this month when five young confreres from three different countries made their Final Profession of Vows and were ordained to the Diaconate.
The profession of vows and ordination to the Diaconate took place over the weekend of March 13-14 at St Paschal’s Chapel, Box Hill.
The young men making their commitment were Nicholas Duc, Marius Razafimandimby, Francois D'Assise Andrianihantana, Edward Okletey Teye, and Hai Nguyen. They are from Ghana, Madagascar and Vietnam.
Delivering the homily at the Profession of Final Vows, Provincial, Fr Asaeli Rass SVD reflected on the experience of Samuel who heard God’s voice calling him in the night, but didn’t at first realise it was God.
He said while not many of us may have heard God’s audible voice calling out to us several times through the night, most of us may have experienced “something mystical or transformational”.
“It is true, God does work through our human experience,” he said.
He said the five candidates for final vows were testament to God’s action in their lives and their willingness to respond to God’s call.
“They are here because they also want to testify that God has been working through their human experiences,” he said.
The following day, the Bishop of Parramatta, the Most Rev. Vincent Long OFMConv celebrated the Mass of Ordination to the Diaconate at St Paschal’s Chapel.
“God sure works in mysterious ways by bringing these five men from various places around the world to Melbourne to be ordained,” he said.
“God called you and he continues to guide you into the great unknown.
“If you are sensitive to this guidance and willing to go further, he will make you into His instruments.”
Bishop Long told the young men they were being ordained to the diaconate at a watershed moment for the Catholic Church in Australia. In the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, the Church is reduced in numbers and impact and the priest’s aura and prestige has evaporated, he said.
“But the Word of God on this Sunday in Lent gives us the courage to press the re-set button and begin the task of rebuilding the Kingdom afresh,” he said.
“You are called to be part of the rebuilding of the Church. The Church might be smaller, humbler, but if we follow Christ and his Kingdom vision it will be a Church of humility and inclusivity.”
Reflecting on their Final Vows and ordination to the Diaconate, the five young men all thanked those who had helped and supported them along the way, including their families, friends, teachers and members of the Society of the Divine Word.
Francois said the two days of celebration were “remarkable and joyful” days in his vocational journey.
“Doing God’s mission delights my soul, following the footsteps of Christ and Arnold Janssen our Founder gladdens my heart and becoming a perpetual member of the SVD gives me joy. I am excited to embrace my future and my mission,” he said.
“This may come with some challenges. However, I believe that with the prayerful support from God’s people, with the steady help from God, together with my personal commitment and effort, I will be able to offer my best.”
Marius said that as a young man flooded with today’s culture of entertainment, Facebook, Whatsapp, YouTube and Netflix, he realised he also needed a purpose in his life.
“For me, what I want is to do something that makes my life more meaningful, in which I do something with consequences that matter to others. So far, my way of responding to the SVD religious missionary vocation has served that purpose and made me more charitable,” he said.
“I am very grateful to God for calling me and many young people to commit themselves to proclaim his love, in their very own way, to all. My journey has just started in the Society and I believe the best is yet to come.”
For Nicholas, the taking of final vows and ordination to the Diaconate was a cause of great joy.
“I am experiencing the coming down of the Holy Spirit as Jesus gave the Spirit to his disciples and sent them to bear witness to the Good News. I feel the spirit within my heart. He gave me the strength and courage to continue living and bearing witness to the Lord,” he said.
“Perhaps in the future, there will be many difficulties and challenges. But in God’s hand, with the grace of God and the support of my parents, brothers and sisters and friends, I hope that I will become a fruitful missionary to build the Kingdom of the Lord.”
And Hai, drew on the beautiful prayer of Mary, the Magnificat, for his reflection.
“As Mother Mary praises God for what God has done for her; I also feel that taking Final Vows and the Diaconate are great gifts I have received. I praise and thanks God for the two precious gifts,” he said.
“Looking back to my vocation journey as a SVD seminarian, I have experienced joys and peace and happiness, but also challenges, difficulties in religious life. In the darkest moments of my vocation journey, I believed that God was always with me; God gives me courage to face and overcome challenges. I desire to be an instrument of God for doing God’s will, not for my own intention.”
Finally, Edward said his religious journey has been a long wait for God’s amazing blessings and favours.
“Looking back to where I started from and where the Lord has brought me now, I say, it is just by God’s grace,” he said.
“Trusting in God’s providence, I kept my focus on what God can do for me in Christ Jesus. So, having been blessed to take my final vows and instituted as a Transitional Deacon, my song is of gratitude to God, my formators and everyone who helped me to come this far.”
The young missionaries have received their first assignments, which they hope to be able to take up as international borders open: Edward - Zimbabwe Region; Hai - Colombia; Francois - Australia; Marius - Netherlands-Belgium; Duc - USA Chicago Province.