I’m often asked the question, “Why?” Why did I join the Passionists, and why do I want to be a priest today, with all that’s going on in the church? It’s something that I ask myself, from time to time: “what on earth am I doing?” Well, simply put: I’m following where I believe God is calling me.

It all started on a Sunday morning in 2007, when my family was late to 8am mass at our parish, and knew that the Passionists had public mass that started at 8:15am down the road. Once we arrived, we never left. It became a place where we, as a family who had recently migrated from South Africa, found a new sense of belonging: a new family. There were young families with kids running around, it was loud, and it was an energetic community. Simply put, it felt like home. For the rest of my time in school, we went to Sunday mass at “The Fort,” as it’s affectionately known.

Towards the end of my time in school, Fr Ray Sanchez started questioning me as to whether I would join the Passionist Youth Retreat Team, which he ran. I wasn’t overly keen, but in order to make Ray happy, as well as mum and dad, I joined after graduating. This began a period of my life that ultimately ended (or began?) with a move down here to Melbourne in order to, in the words of my beautiful mother, “follow my heart.”

I knew there was something different about the Passionists

My experience of the Passionists has always been grounded in their down-to-earth nature, and the sense of community that permeates everything they do. From the moment we arrived at The Fort all those years ago, I knew there was something different about the Passionists, people who’ve never cared for status or prestige. Their focus was instead the people around them. The people whom they serve by accompanying them on their journeys, through the good times and the bad.

So, why did I join? I joined this group of gospel wanderers because I believe the message that St Paul of the Cross was preaching 300 years ago is just as relevant today as it has ever been. We are called not to heal the hurts of the world, but to journey with those hurts, to be present to those hurts, and to enter into those hurts. This is what I have gleaned from the 13 years of contact with the Passionists: where hurt is, there we must be, too.

My Passionist journey has started with the opportunity to live this “charism” through youth ministry: walking with young people through their own struggles and hurts. However, the blessing of this congregation is that our charism isn’t one that is limited to a particular ministry, it is able to be lived through “… any means possible,” as our founder encourages us.

We Passionists are never in short supply of Christian hope.

There are many challenges that we are yet to face as a church, and as a congregation. However, what comforts me is this: we Passionists are never in short supply of Christian hope. You can see it in the joy that is so present in our communities, in our willingness to evolve, and our ability to embrace that which is different and new.

It is this hope that is going to continue to drive and inspire us to do more, to seek more, and to be more. As St Paul says in his Letter to the Romans, “… hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” Amen!