The 12th of February in the year 2017 marks a historic date for the parish of the Chapel of Kristus Aman as Friar Esmond Chua, OFM- a member of the community prior to joining the Order of Friars Minor, is ordained to the sacred priesthood, making him the first member of our community to be conferred the priesthood.
The ordination marks the end of a nine year-long journey of studies, discernment and spiritual advancement for Friar Esmond and a new beginning as he begins his ministry as a priest. Prior to joining the Franciscans, Friar Esmond initially enrolled in the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, commonly called “the Capuchins” which is a reformed branch of the Franciscans, having many similarities but yet differs in certain matters, matters which shall not be discussed in this article. After a few months, Friar Esmond withdrew from the Capuchins, continued civil work for approximately three years, and enrolled into the Order of Friars Minor, the Franciscans where he stayed happily up to present date.
On the 8th of August, 2014, Friar Esmond made his solemn profession at the Church of St Mary of the Angels, marking the completion of his journey to become a fully-professed Franciscan Friar. Two years later, on the 12th of June, 2016, Friar Esmond was conferred Holy Orders by the Archbishop of Singapore as he was ordained to the order of deacons. Friar Esmond was then posted to serve at the Church of St Mary of the Angels where he served the parish as a deacon, assisting in the sacred rites and in other charitable works. On the 12th of February the following year, he was ordained to the sacred priesthood.
The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with sacerdotal ordinations was celebrated by His Grace, the Most Reverend William Goh, Archbishop of Singapore. Concelebrating was Friar Phillip Miscamble, Provincial Minister of the Franciscan Province of the Holy Spirit, which consists of Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore. Other concelebrants include Friar John Wong, Custos of the Custody of St Anthony, together with other Franciscan priests and visiting priests from other religious congregations as well as from the Archdiocese of Singapore. Two busloads of parishioners from the Chapel of Kristus Aman were also present to show our solidarity. The entire celebration was held at the Church of St Mary of the Angels, Singapore, with an overflowing crowd of the faithful present to witness the event.
During the homily, Archbishop William Goh warned the three candidates for ordination on the danger of falling into legalistic minimalism, which was the vice the Pharisees had fallen into based on the Gospel, taken from the proper readings of the 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. With reference to the three vows the Franciscans profess (poverty, chastity, obedience), the prelate warned that these three vows can also be reduced to their bare minimum. The vow of poverty can be abused in a way that the religious simply feeds off the providence from the Church, relaxing in the provided sufficiency, living a good life where everything is given for free, relaxing without working tirelessly, which is therefore contrary to its true purpose- to free the person from needing to worry about his basic sustenance and can thus devote more time serving the Church. The vow of chastity can also be misused, in such that the person finds an excuse not to marry so that he is not troubled by the demands of family life. This is contrary to its true purpose where celibacy is used to devote oneself fully at the disposal of the Church. The vow of obedience is also not free from this vice. Instead of the religious community obeying the superior (which is the proper practice), the prelate remarked how it seems that it is the superiors who now have to obey their community.
His Grace also warned against the common pitfalls of priests, where one can recite his breviary (book of prayers which clerics are obliged to pray), but not pray it devoutly. A priest may be saying Mass, but not celebrating Mass reverently and devoutly. When a priest practices minimalism in his priestly duties, not fulfilling them joyfully but rather looking for loopholes to get around them, that priest has become a Pharisee. The prelate then closed the homily by exhorting the faithful, in light of these dangers to always pray for the clergy.
Before the celebration concluded with the Archbishop’s apostolic blessing, Friar Esmond, now having been conferred the sacred priesthood and concelebrated the Eucharist, was invited to address the faithful. In his short but strong address, Friar Esmond extended his heartfelt gratitude to all the faithful who through their support in his transitory diaconate, strengthened his resolve to be a priest. The goodness of the faithful acts as a reflection, challenging him to what he has to live up to, that he may be a worthy minister to the people. After the conclusion of the whole celebration, the newly-ordained Reverend Father Esmond Chua, together with his two colleagues, the Reverend Father Don Don Ramerez and the Reverend Father Jason Richard, administered their first blessings firstly to their parents, followed by all the faithful.
It was a very touching and glorious moment indeed as Holy Mother, the Church rejoiced in her three new priests. Let us as a community always be kind enough to lend our prayers to them. A long journey has ended, and a new, exciting journey has just begun for them. May their work advance the peace and salvation of the entire world, that every land, every nation and every people may be led out of darkness into the fullness of truth.