An Interview with Antony

Fr. Ebin, Anthony, Fr. Gregory

As you remember, a while ago we were hosting Seminarian Jithu, who lived with me in the Parish house.  Now Jithu is finishing his formation, he was ordained a Deacon and he is looking forward to his Priestly ordination, which will be very soon.  We pray for him and wish him God’s blessing and enthusiasm, which he will need in his priesthood.  This time I was asked to help another student to get to know the reality of Parish life and Pastoral Ministry. I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to accompany him in his journey.

His name is Antony and he is currently on his third year of study. I think that many of our parishioners would like to know many things about a vocation to the priesthood and about formation in the seminary. Therefore, taking this opportunity, I would like to ask Antony similar questions I previously prepared for Jithu.

Fr Gregory: Antony, could you say something about your family, siblings, how old you are and when did you decide to enter the Seminary?  Was this decision difficult for you, and what or who helped you to make it?

Antony: I am 23 years old and one of five people in my family. I have two younger sisters. I had decided to enter seminary at the age of 19 but I started my formation at the age of 20. When I first received my calling in prayer, I felt quite challenged and afraid as I had my own ambitions. However, I spent a lot of my personal prayer time discerning this calling. The more I prayed, the happier I got in this vocation. Eventually, I became very eager to join the seminary, but before joining, was told to finish my college studies. The decision to eventually join was not so hard, and I have great people in my life who helped me discern, especially an Indian priest named Fr Joseph Edattu, who prayed with me and gave me the advice that I needed.

Fr Gregory: Could you explain very briefly what is the idea of sending Seminarians to different Parishes during their formation and how this is benefiting you?

Antony: Sending us seminarians to parishes is crucial for our formation. By sending us, it gives us practical experience. Spending time in parishes gives us the opportunity to discern whether we can see ourselves as priests in the parish setting. It gives us the opportunity to meet new people and also receive deeper insights to life as a priest. I have personally benefited a lot in these experiences because I am learning new things each day about life as a priest and how I am to approach certain things as a priest.

Fr Gregory: Do you remember the reaction of your parents when they found out their son wanted to become a priest?

Antony: When I told my parents, they were not surprised. My mum is a very strong prayer warrior and she told me that in her prayer, the Lord was telling her, that I will become a priest. Both my parents also realised that I was heading in this direction based on how I had been leading my life.

Fr Gregory: What does a typical seminarian’s day look like at Oscott College? How many Seminarians live there?  How many of them are from our Diocese?  Is there any particular programme for the day? What is your favourite prayer? Can a seminary student have any hobbies and interests besides theology and spiritual life? Do you have time for this? Do you miss your seminary, and do you have contact with your friends and lecturers?

Antony: My day in seminary starts at 6:00 am with me freshening up and saying my own prayers before going down for meditation. Meditation starts at 7:15 am (7:45 am on Sundays) and lasts for 30 mins. We then have Morning Prayer as a community, followed by breakfast at 8 am. We then have lectures from 8:45 am -12:10 pm, with breaks in between. Then it is Mass at 12:30 pm, followed by Lunch at 1:10pm. Once lunch is over, we have time for ourselves for further study, attend any meetings that we may have, or spend some time relaxing. Sometimes there will be things put in the timetable that we may have to go to as a community.

In the seminary itself there are between 40-45 seminarians, of whom three including myself are from the Diocese of Northampton. As seminarians we do have hobbies – some like to watch movies, listen to music, go out for walks, and even play sports, which is my hobby, more specifically football. When it comes to exam weeks, it can be quite difficult to have time for our hobbies. However, we can enjoy our hobbies if we try and make the time for it. At the moment I do not miss the Seminary as I know I will be going back very soon, I don’t really speak to my lecturers outside of seminary unless it is essential, however I do speak to my fellow brother seminarians.

Fr Gregory: What does formation at Oscott College look like and who are your lecturers? Do you have any favourite Catholic writer or favourite book? Who is your favourite saint and why is that?  Do you remember your reaction when you found out that your rector had been appointed by Pope Francis as bishop of your diocese?

Antony: Formation at Oscott can be split into four strands. Human, intellectual, pastoral and spiritual. My lecturers are mostly priests but I also have lecturers who are not priests but are qualified to teach the subjects that we are learning. My favourite Catholic writer has to probably be St Therese of Lisieux. She wrote my favourite spiritual book ‘Story of a soul’. I must also mention Edward Sri, he is a great author who explains the liturgy and the teachings of the Church in a way that is very understanding for us all. My favourite saint is St Therese of Lisieux because she shows us that even in little ways, with great love, we can all strive for sainthood.

When Bishop David became the bishop of my diocese, I was surprised because I didn’t expect it to happen, but I was also very happy because I know that he is a man of prayer, and mission.

Fr Gregory: How do you remember Father David Oakley as a rector? What kind of priest and rector was he for students at Oscott?

Antony: I only had the then Father David Oakley as rector for one year. He was a terrific rector who really understood the community and our needs. At times when the community in general felt quite tense, he came to be the calming voice for us all. More importantly, he was a man of prayer, which is essential.

Fr Gregory: What is your favourite place for a holiday, and why is that?

Antony: I don’t really have a particular place for holiday. I like going to places I have never been before. I mostly like spending my holiday time, with my good friends. I often go to a retreat centre called Divine Retreat Centre, which is where I have time to myself to pray.

Fr Gregory: What would you like to do when you become a priest?  Do you have any plans or dreams about pastoral work in our diocese?

Antony: As a priest, I just want to do the will of God and be of service to God’s people. I do have dream as a priest to try and bring many youth to turn to Jesus, but that can only be done with the help of God. I look forward to working with my future brother priests and parishioners in the parish that I will be placed.

Fr Gregory: What do you think will be the biggest challenge for you in your pastoral work?  Is there anything you are afraid of?  What excites you the most when you think about the future and the priesthood?

Antony: I believe the biggest challenge for me as priest will be making sure I have a balance of having time to myself and as well making time for others. I feel it can be easy to swing into both sides. The people of God deserve a priest who makes time for them, but at the same time, they do not deserve a priest who is burned out.  What excites me the most is perhaps the prospect of working with people in the parish, trying to make the parish a very lively place with zeal for God. I also look forward to ministering the sacraments to the people.

Fr Gregory: Do you have any ideas on how to encourage young people to practise the Catholic faith, the sacraments and to build relationships with God? How could you encourage young men to follow you and join the Seminary?  How can you promote Oscott College?

Antony: I think the best way encourage young people to practise the faith is firstly, by being a good example for them to follow. Secondly, by trying to make the parish a place that the young people can come to for comfort and to feel spiritually nourished and finally, having a relationship with them that is not so distant. I could perhaps encourage young people to follow and join the seminary by showing what life can be like as a seminarian, but also companying them in their discernment. I feel I can best promote Oscott college by speaking about it in places I go.

Fr Gregory: What would you like to ask our parishioners for?  Is there anything you need during your formation and preparation for the priesthood?

Antony: I would just simply like to ask the parishioners of this parish to just keep us seminarians in their prayers. It is not easy, and the world needs more priests.

Thank you, Antony, for our conversation. We all keep our fingers crossed for you and promise you our prayers for you and other seminarians.  May God bless you and please enjoy your time in our Parish!

We would like to invite you to Friday Adoration, which will be specifically for new vocations to the priesthood and it will be led by Antony.

Fr. Ebin, Antony, Fr. Gregory, Saba the cat