Article written by Jofintha Josha anak Joseph
“I was chosen”
CDM is currently blessed with an assistant parish priest. Newly ordained Fr Michel Dass arrives at a time when the parish is keenly hoping for one of its own to hear the calling.
If the Church of the Divine Mercy, Shah Alam, was a young man, he would be 17 years old this year. The exact age Fr Michel Dass said he felt the desire to join the priesthood. It was at the tail-end of his secondary school years and the teen felt, while serving mass as an altar server, a strong desire to become a priest.
He told his then parish priest Fr Paulino Miranda, who advised him to continue discerning for a life of vocation to the priesthood as he finished his studies.
Looking back to that time, Fr Michel said while it was a calling felt deep in his heart, he realised he was taken in by the externals of the priestly life – the vestments and the celebrating of mass.
“I loved serving in the Church,” the 35-year-old tells us one bright Saturday morning, some weeks after moving in to CDM. The parishioner of the Church of St John Vianney, he served in many ministries as a young boy and youth. He was an altar server, a youth leader and liturgy coordinator.
After more conversations with Fr Paulino, he attended seminary stay-ins, but subsequently felt a dwindling desire in his heart between the years 2008 and 2012 as he sat on the idea of living a prayerful life from the pews instead.
In reflection, Fr Michel said that the priesthood is no simple call. It requires reflection as well as spiritual guidance.
This he had in good measure. Fr David Arulnathan journeyed within him for about a year before he attended a discernment camp led by the then vocation director of College General, Fr Christopher Wilvaraj.
This, together with spiritual direction from Fr Paulino, built self-assurance in the twentysomething. He signed up to improve his English language skills and sat for the IELTS proficiency test. Fr David stepped in to mentor and prepare him.
Then on December 21, 2013, after a year of studies and spiritual formation, he received a call from the then Archbishop Murphy Pakiam, who said his application to join the seminary was accepted.
In the month after the phone call, Fr Michel admits to feeling as confused as ever.
“It was either staying back to care for my family or leaving to follow my calling,” he said.
Putting everything in God’s hands, he left for the seminary. The uncertainties and doubts, however, were to linger right into the 11th hour, the eve of his ordination on December 29, 2021.
But there were moments of consolations too. He said his journey of faith blossomed in the seminaries of Penang and Kuching. While he found the studies difficult, it was through the pages of his books that the beauty of formation shone brightly and kept him going even through the toughest of courses. He is also grateful to Fr Peter A. and his fellow seminarians who journeyed with him.
He said he witnessed the love of God in this path of life he had taken. This led him to celebrate his ordination day as a truly blessed day.
The Tampin boy returned to his childhood parish just three weeks upon being ordained. The altar server, the youth leader, the liturgy coordinator is now a minister of God, serving His people.
He said it brought him great joy to return to serve in the parish which nourished his relationship with God and planted that seed of vocation in him. He recalls the youths, his family, and the community of St John Vianney, who had organised his ordination, and who had made his pursuit worthwhile.
While it seemed as if he had accepted the calling, that he had chosen this life for himself, his eight years in the seminary had shown him otherwise. That it was God who called him. It was God who chose him.
He picked for his ordination theme ‘I Chose You’ taken from John 15:16. “God chose me,” he said explaining that as it was God who spoke to him throughout his journey of faith.
He said his first mass was a beautiful celebration of thanksgiving held in his family home, with the guidance of Fr David, who incidentally came to the house and celebrated mass just before Fr Michel left on his journey towards priesthood.
As Fr Michel counts down to 100 days as a priest (coming soon on April 8, 2022!), he is keen to strengthen the community at CDM. His focus is on the young men and women of the parish who have taken to him, thanks to his youthfulness and his jovial spirit.
He will surely be seen as an inspiration to them and perhaps, to the one or two now hearing God’s calling, he may prove to be that priceless companion.