Today, Sunday, 28 July, three young men will be professing for the first time their vows within the Missionary Society of St Paul. These are Br Anthony Cuong Van Pham from Vietnam, Br Augusteen Maseeh from Pakistan, and Br Ryan-John Aquilina from Malta. They are doing so at the end of their novitiate, which is an intense year of formation, laying the foundation for the MSSP consecrated way of life. We asked some questions to help them share with us their experience of the past year, how they feel, and what is next for them.
Augusteen, can you explain what is the scope of this year and what is it like?
During the year of novitiate, we focused more on prayer and contemplation. We learned about the different types of prayer. We also learned about the vows we are going to profess and the charism of the Missionary Society of St Paul. All in all, we had the opportunity to go deeper into our inner being and listen to God’s voice and deepen our relationship with Him.
Anthony, during this year you had plenty of time reflecting on our MSSP Community. What is it like for you now joining the congregation with our religious vows?
During the past two years in formation, I have been prepared to embrace the vows wholeheartedly. I feel blessed to be set part for the Lord through these vows, and with the abundant grace of God, I consider them as a powerful means that gradually shape me and make me more MSSP.
Augusteen, during this year you had substantial time of pray and reflection. How can you maintain it now that Novitiate is over?
Yes, we did have a lot of time for reflection and prayer. At the same time, it seems a bit difficult in the future to find that much time for personal prayer. However, it has become a habit for me to get up early in the morning and spend some time with the Lord and so starting the day in His presence. I also found it very helpful to precede this moment with some physical exercise. I will try to continue in the same manner.
Ryan, you are originally from Malta and the youngest among the group. Was it difficult for you to integrate and face another culture and new reality?
It was quite difficult to face a new culture and with them new realities. In the formation community in itself there are five different cultures and therefore different perspectives how to see the same situation. Nonetheless I learned from these cultures and they helped me broaden my perspective on how to see things from different point of views.
Anthony, can you tell us briefly your vocation story?
I was brought up in a farming family of 9 members and I am the youngest. At the age of 11, my family migrated to another part of Vietnam, far away from my birthplace, hoping for a better life. In doing so, they had to leave me behind, entrusting me into the care of a priest, who later on became my godfather. Living with my godfather in different parishes for many years, I was inspired by my godfather’s vocation and ministry, and the desire to offer myself to the Lord gradually grew up in me. After graduating from college, I decided to seriously discern my vocation, ceaselessly seeking God’s will in my life. While searching for a suitable community, I encountered the MSSP through Br. Peter Can, my Vietnamese close classmate from university, who had joined the MSSP a year earlier. After some years discerning my vocation in MSSP, I have come to believe that God has a plan for me to follow him in this community.
Ryan, who is God for you after this year?
My relationship with God has deepened during this year. We had a lot of time to become in touch with ourselves and how much we depend on Him; how much He loves us and how abundant is His mercy. He is the one that I want to give my life to. He is a Father, a Lover and an intimate Brother and I am willing to give my life to Him and follow him wherever He calls me to be.
Anthony, what is the most interesting experience you had along the year?
One of the most interesting and essential experience I had during this year was the discovery of my type of character and that of others. It was like a door opened for me to appreciate the unique gift that is given to me and to others. As God forms me uniquely in his way, so He calls me as I am, and invites me to relate to Him and to others through my uniqueness.
Ryan, today you will receive for the first time our four Religious vows. Can you explain what do they mean to you?
The vow of Chastity for me is the call to be available for those around me; to love them with an undivided heart. The vow of Poverty for me has two meanings. The first is to have no attachments but God. The second is to embrace my poverty and limitations as a human being. The vow of Obedience for me is the willingness to listen and do what God is calling me to do. The vow of Missionary Service for me is to follow Christ wherever He goes and serve Him among those to whom he sends me.
Augusteen, what’s next for you in the formation now?
For the coming years all three of us will be in Malta for our philosophy studies. And this is what I’m looking forward to after my novitiate. I believe that God will continue to help us throughout this journey as He has been doing so far.