“The fundamental question of our priestly life is this: Where is my heart directed? It is a question we need to keep asking, daily, weekly. Where is my heart directed?” Pope Francis.
This question lies at the heart of every vocation. It was what Jaroslav, now at the seminary of Vorzel in Kiev, Ukraine, first asked himself when, more from curiosity than devotion, he began to prepare for his first Holy Communion. Before then he had found “everything boring: going to church; the sermon by a man I didn’t know; praying to a God I couldn’t see…” Now he recalls, “It was curiosity that opened my heart. I asked myself, How can it be that people devote their entire lives to God? That was the way God chose to knock on the door of my heart. And then came the moment when I said ‘Amen’ – an Amen from the depths of my heart. It was the beginning of my vocation, the beginning of a journey of discovery with God throughout my life.” Now he is at the Sacred Heart Seminary, preparing – with 23 others – for a life following the Lord. Pavlo is another of the seminarians who felt the same questions burning within him: “Where is my heart leading? Which road does it long to follow?” He was on retreat when he realised: “The priesthood is the path for me.” But there was still a slight sense of uneasiness. It was only when he entered the seminary chapel, where the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament was taking place and they were chanting the Litany to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“I was overcome by a feeling of profound peace and I knew: this is my heart’s true home.” However, Pavlo, Jaroslav and the others need our help to continue their journey to the priesthood. We have promised the seminary €600 for each of these 24 seminarians for the year ahead. It costs less to train the 23 seminarians who belong to Bongaigaon Diocese, in northeast India. This young diocese is growing fast. First founded, just 19 years ago, with 14 parishes, it now has 34, along with numerous outstations. Priests are in short supply.
Vocations are plentiful, but their training is still costly for this poor diocese – and yet the diocese will not compromise over the quality of their formation. Bongaigaon is classic mission territory. Many people in the villages and tribal groups are hearing the Good News of God’s love for the first time. The seminarians also visit the people, and then share their experiences with one another back in the seminary. They need our help, and we have gladly promised them €9,200 for the current academic year. In Pakistan, in the diocese of Multan, similar experiences of community are vital. Confident of your generosity, we immediately said yes to Bishop Benny Travas when he asked for help (€7,500) to hold weeklong retreats and days of recollection for his 33 seminarians. These are essential for Christians living in such a hostile environment, so they can reflect on their future priestly journey – and find rest for their hearts in God.