Here I am, Lord

Bro. Kelvin Santis, recently ordained as a Deacon for the Archdiocese of Bombay and to be ordained a priest in March 2020, shares his journey from joining the CFCI community in 2006 and how it helped guide him to his vocation.

What led you to take up vocation to the priesthood?
My first and immediate answer to dedicate my life to God was to be a full-time missionary for Couples for Christ India. I saw it as my ‘Yes‘ to Jesus and my way to thank him for his presence and the gift of the community whose charism was close to my heart.

However, when I was working in one village of West Bengal I remember spending about three weeks with one family completely cut off from all technology and facilities as it was an extremely interior village. Here the family spirituality, their approach to God impacted me greatly. They had absolutely nothing but the joy they radiated was beyond measure. Their only sadness was that the priest came to that village once every month as it was very far and so they longed for mass.

That night I had the small little voice speak the words of the hymn

‘ I the Lord of sea and sky, I have heard my people cry… Whom shall I send?’

That was the first time I felt the desire to be a priest very strongly.

I must confess I had many things stopping me from saying yes to priesthood, but the love of Christ in my heart that was generated that night grew so strong it became like a magnetic attraction pulling me closer to it.

I still had no answer to most of my questions, but I had the assurance that God will not abandon and so with that assurance and the uncertainty of whether I am fit or not, I went to join the seminary.

The rector of the seminary was Bp. Agnelo Gracias who was then the spiritual director of Couples for Christ India and he told me my assurance will help me find answers in the course of formation and I joined St. Pius X seminary on 24th June 2012.

What challenges did you face on the path of joining the seminary?
I had loads of questions when I felt like I should become a priest like is God really calling me or is it my own thought? Am I worthy enough? Will I be able to live my life with all the sacrifice involved? What if I don’t like it once I go, can I leave halfway? What about my parents and their needs?

I honestly didn’t have clear answers for any. What I did feel is a deep love for God and I know that in this love I won’t be alone so I was willing to risk it.

The challenge is first and foremost within you, are you questioning and over discerning because doing that is relying too much on your ability. I am not saying take decisions in a hurry but we all have to reach a point where we can say I think I will just let God lead me now.

“If you are what you should be, then you can set the world on fire.”
~ Saint Catherine of Sienna

How has my life been after accepting God’s call?
My life after accepting the Lord’s call has been one of great unlearning. I realized I knew almost nothing about the magnitude of God and his Church and the whole process of formation has led me greatly to reflect on my own self.

I also carried a lot of baggage which I had to deal with and I had to be able to let go of my ego which becomes an obstacle in service.

Life in the seminary is amazing and so different from what we normally would picture it to be but it does have it’s share of ups and downs. I saw God calling me to move away from being focused on my little world and onto the bigger human community.

My biggest source of strength has been the people in the parishes I serve. Their support, love and care are what sustain you along with your rootedness in Prayer and Scripture.

Overall if I have to say about my life after answering God’s call is that I find it more meaningful and I feel like I’m living
for a purpose.

How did being a member of the community help you in discerning your vocation?
The community mission to the North East was the first time I felt God calling me to the priesthood and after that experience, the only people I spoke to were my close friends in the community. I couldn’t have said yes without knowing there is a whole group praying for me.

The community helped me in my formative years at the seminary. The formation I got in the community through talks, households and relationships was key to help me with regards to working together, listening to one another, conflict handling and so on.

I wouldn’t have been able to go through formation at the seminary if I didn’t have this foundation backing me. Also, how to live in a community and to accept people who are not so easy to live with, was another lesson that I picked up from the values we cherish in CFCI.

CFCI helped me also to find my spirituality. My relationship with God started here and without this relationship, nothing would ever make sense.

What would you like to tell young people discerning vocation?
Love God and do what that love calls you to do.
One bishop in America said, the Church today is like a building on fire, everyone seems to be running out of that building. At such times the people who have his great admiration are the seminarians as they are the firefighters who instead of running out are running into that building, trying to do their bit to ease that fire.

To conclude I would just say, you can pray for signs and miracles and clear answers. But there always comes a point where you need to take the decision irrespective of what signs and miracles you received.

For a believer, no sign is needed and for an unbeliever, no sign is enough.

“Invited to leave everything to follow Christ, you, consecrated men and women, no longer define your life by family, by profession, or by earthly interests, and you choose the Lord as your only identifying mark. Thus you acquire a new family identity.”
~ Pope Saint John Paul II

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