In Australia, we are celebrating Vocations Awareness Week from August 4-10.
Below is a personal story from Br Laurensius Woda SVD about his vocation to the life of a religious missionary.
By Br Laurensius Woda SVD
I am most thankful for the Lord’s steadfast love in my life. He has led and guided the journey of my vocation, and strengthened me to be able to walk this special path. God holds me up when I experience difficult times. I am blessed in my vocation by the joy of his great love. He has always been with me in my journey as a seminarian. This teaches me to totally surrender to God, and understand that being a religious missionary is such a huge blessing for me.
The desire to be a religious missionary, however, is not born overnight. It certainly is full of stories, both attractive and unattractive. My long journey to be a priest started before I received my first holy communion. My Religion Teacher asked me about my goals for the future. Spontaneously I replied, "I want to be a priest because I like to drink wine like a priest usually does”. Looking back on it, I know it was just a silly answer but I was only nine at the time.
When I entered my adolescence, the motivation to be a priest gradually changed. However, God’s grace was still leading me on. God called me through an SVD priest in my parish back home. His simplicity, hospitality, and spiritual life made such an impression on me, and I was blown away. I remember one day he called and asked me to find some friends to follow a kind of preliminary test to enter in seminary. At that time I was a bit surprised, "Why should I?" For one week I reflected on this experience. Then, my eyes were opened again to being a priest.
After graduating from minor seminary, I applied to join the Divine Word Missionaries (SVD). The main reason was that I really wanted to be a religious and missionary. I spent two years in novitiate (2005-2007), and on August 15, 2007, I took my first vows. In 2007 I began studying philosophy for four years (2007-2011). Early last year I was chosen to do OTP (Overseas Training Program) here in AUS. I am very grateful for this opportunity. It has certainly been a blessing that enriches my pastoral experience.
I started my OTP with learning English and culture in New Zealand for several months. I struggled a lot being in another country. A couple months ago I was asked to do the parish pastoral training at Mary Mother of the Church Macquarie Fields for the year ahead. I feel very welcome in this parish. I am also glad that I can meet people who come from different ethnic backgrounds. This, of course, will enrich my cross-cultural experience as a seminarian.
Here, I have the privilege of taking part in ministries like visiting and giving Holy Communion to the sick, getting involved in the youth group and choir group. I am really sure I will learn a lot of things in this parish; it is certainly a new challenge on the journey of my vocation.
The Lord is my shepherd. He is always with me in every moment of my life. He calls me as who I am to be a worker for him. I know I am still only half way along this long journey, but for me, being on this journey, in every situation I have encountered, is a blessing in life. “He who had set me apart before I was born...called me by his grace” (Gal 1:15).