Instrue me et Vivam! Newly ordained priest Fr Jean Claude Schembri shares his experience

This odd-looking Latin phrase which in English would translate into ‘Teach me and I will Live’ is the motto of the College that the MSSP runs in Rabat, Malta. My College! Yes, because I’ve had the great gift of attending this College for five years between 2006 and 2011, and I’d like to briefly share with you how these years have formed me into what I am today.

Let me first introduce myself. I am Jean-Claude Schembri, a 25-year-old man from Malta, simple, joyful, sometimes clumsy, and last May 8th I’ve been ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Malta by Archbishop Charles Scicluna.

If you’d ask me what I remember from the College of 10 or 15 years ago, I’d answer back with what I miss. I miss the family environment which was so vibrant at the school, everyone knew our name, our habits, our strengths and weaknesses, and our background. We weren’t just a number on the attendance sheet – we were part of the family! I also miss how seriously certain things were taken. Even though the teachers and the whole staff were always jolly and ready to help, there were many instances when they were adamant that we do our job, and that we do it properly. For example, I still remember that day when I brought the homework with me to school in the wrong-coloured folder. I still got a report for incomplete work that day, and I was furious, but today when I look back I appreciate how the School always looked beyond reaching the academic requirements and onto building our characters to form us into fully-fledged men.

I also remember the missionary spirit which the MSSP brothers instilled in us. Their presence amongst us, in the simplest of ways, was always enriching to witness. I must name certain people to give you a glimpse into what I’m saying. Surely, the names Fr Gerard Bonello, Fr Karm Debattista, Fr Stephen Mifsud, Fr Martin Galea, Fr Hector Attard, and the late Fr Maurice Caruana all mean something to many of us. Their strength of character and the same time their humble attitude towards their mission and us who were being ministered by them has enlightened the way, not only for myself but also for all who have crossed their paths.

From the reflections I’ve made through the years, I have come to know and appreciate more how the College has changed the way I perceive life. Rather than life as a possession that I was given for a limited number of years, I come to see life as a gift that I’ve received to share with others. That is what makes life beautiful, and that is what makes life a MISSION. If I live my life alone, for my own comfort, in an egocentric way, I would only enjoy the benefit of my own life; but if we all agree to share our lives with each other, to share time, love and compassion, we would be more enriched with not just the one life we have but with all the other lives of the people we share it with.

This is what the College – and the motto ‘Intrue me et Vivam’ – mean to me. They have literally taught me how to live, not for myself, but as a missionary, in whatever vocation I am called to live. I believe that Saint Paul’s Missionary College has shaped not only myself as a person but also my priesthood as a total service for others. I pray that I can live up to what the MSSP has taught me through the years, and for all that they’ve done with me I am very grateful, and I hold them close in prayer every time I remember of them.

Leave a Reply