Breaking Barriers: A Seminarian’s Journey

by Jofintha Josha anak Joseph

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Known to the Church of the Divine Mercy as a friendly face in the crowd, Brother Yoseph’s service to God has been nothing short of unique: between settling in unfamiliar terrain in the West, and settling into the effects of a pandemic, his coming into the priesthood is set to bring a new energy to the Church.

We had an opportunity to sit with Brother Yoseph Jup Matias, a young seminarian who hails from Menggatal, a small town off of the periphery of Kota Kinabalu, to share his story. If you have ever been curious about his quarter-century long journey in the faith, read on to get to know the man affectionately called BroYo by the community here in the Church of the Divine Mercy, Shah Alam.

Brother Yoseph traces his first interest in the priesthood to his childhood, an interest so intertwined with his familial background, it forms part of his identity today. As he is of Sabahan and Indonesian descent, Brother Yoseph spent his late childhood years in rural Indonesia.

Telling this story with a great sense of appreciation, “I had my first true experience as a Catholic there: although I was surrounded by people who are struggling with their livelihoods, the whole kampung lived as a family, as a faithful body”.

He reflects on the families going through hardship and the realities of living in a rural area, and remembers feeling God’s love poured out from each and everyone there. “Though,” he says, “a priest would only come to the kampung once a month for Holy Mass, there was always a full attendance”. It was through this community that Brother Yoseph truly felt the manifestation of God’s love.

It was also in this kampung in rural Indonesia that Brother Yoseph learned about The Magnificat dear to his heart, “I came to know about God and Jesus through Mother Mary,” He owes his journey to our Mother’s praise and humble obedience to the Lord, and how it spoke to him as a child in a lowly village.

Yet in the usual course of life, Brother Yoseph is not immune from the dwindling desire of the holy vocation. As a youth in the year 2005, he returned to Kota Kinabalu and sought to live a conventional life, striving to work, perhaps get married, and live a life in holiness as a parishioner. 

“After completing Form 6, the desire to be a priest returned”, he smiles. Though he enrolled in college, the nudging feeling to join the priesthood remained in his heart. 

His juggle between school, part-time work, and the Church did not remain for long. He soon left college, and with much trepidation, entered into the seminary in 2016.

He recalls the ultimate reason he joined the seminary as his experience with living in the migrant community in Kota Kinabalu. They were the same people from the kampung in his childhood, who, in the advent of modernity, have strayed away from the faith. He decided there and then, as a young adult, to take on the responsibility to be with them and help them grow in the faith. 

At present, Brother Yoseph’s pastoral experience with the Church of the Divine Mercy is coming close to an end. Looking back, he remembers his nervousness about being sent to West Malaysia, knowing full well the cultural and language differences between the East and the West will be a large hurdle to overcome. 

Over time, he felt all trepidations disappear, and he was relieved to find that beyond the barriers, he found that he was able to relate to everyone, and that the shared love for God is all that is needed to have a genuine connection. He highlights his experience of visiting the various BECs, seeing familiar faces during Mass. 

He mirrors the first half of his pastoral experience with his childhood in the kampung. He managed to connect with people from all walks of life - immigrants and professionals alike. “I can meet God in their lives,” he testified, reminding us how God is not only with those who do not have much, but also with those who seem to have everything.

When the movement control orders to control the pandemic were announced, Brother Yoseph remained optimistic about his pastoral experience. 

“There wasn’t too much of a barrier to meet people, a lot of the meetings and activities went online, and I stayed active in participating in them.” However, a pressing concern he had was with the underprivileged, those who have no facilities or the infrastructure to connect with the world. He expressed his anxiousness in ‘getting back out there’ to be with them.

Despite so, Brother Yoseph found blessings in the solitude of the pandemic. He reflects on his increased attention to the prayer life, and found more time to do spiritual readings. 

“There is so much value in experiences. There is always something we can learn from, and it will help us when we go through difficulties later on in life. Experiences give us the strength to move forward.”

As Our Mother Mary professed in the Magnificat, Brother Yoseph strives to forever magnify the Lord in all that he does.