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Fr Chris de Sousa CRS: Being intentional with your discernment at World Youth Day

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Together with 22 Somascan Youth, Fr Chris participated in World Youth Day Sydney 2008 which had a profound effect on his vocation.
Together with 22 Somascan Youth, Fr Chris participated in World Youth Day Sydney 2008 which had a profound effect on his vocation.

By Fr Chris de Sousa CRS

Prior to my vocation as a religious order priest, I worked as a lawyer in Perth and was an active youth leader and serving acolyte for the Somascan Fathers, who took pastoral carriage of my native parish in 2004.

Together with 22 Somascan Youth, I participated in World Youth Day Sydney 2008.

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It was during the Final Mass with Pope Benedict XVI that I experienced a divine call in my heart to give my life to God in a different way to what I had always planned in the vocation of marriage and family.

Returning to Perth, I was greatly troubled by this calling and immersed all my spare time in extra ministry and by offering free after-hours legal services to refugees and migrants, in an effort to appease the ever-increasing request of the Lord in my heart.

Having ensured to keep myself busy, I was left with no time to undertake a proper discernment of my vocation, but kept remaining unsatisfied with my response.

Despite my greatest efforts, only nine months after World Youth Day, I received a further affirmation of God’s call through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the Holy Mass for the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima on 13 May 2009.

Following this intercession, I was providentially transferred by the law firm I worked for to our offices in Sydney, finding myself brought back by the Lord, through my career, to the city of Sydney where he first called me at WYD08.

While I continued to work as a lawyer, during these years in Sydney I intentionally deepened my discerned response to God’s call under the caring spiritual direction of an Opus Dei priest, the late Fr Amin Abboud.

On 20 July 2011, three years after having first received the Lord’s call, I was given the grace during Eucharistic adoration to respond privately to my discerned vocation to become a Somascan Father.

Shortly thereafter, I was one of the Sydney pilgrimage leaders with over 100 youth through Egypt, the Holy Land and Spain for World Youth Day Madrid 2011.

Although I had already made the decision, my time taking care and accompanying young people on pilgrimage and at World Youth Day in Madrid further affirmed my vocation as a Somascan.

Following my return to Australia, I took the necessary steps and entered formation towards religious priesthood in the Somascan Order that has taken me as a missionary to Italy, India, Sri Lanka, Mozambique and now back full-circle, serving for three-and-a-half years as a priest in the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Attending the final Mass of World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, was the beginning of Somascan Religious Fr Chris's journey towards his priestly vocation. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring
Attending the final Mass of World Youth Day with Pope Benedict XVI at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, was the beginning of Somascan Religious Fr Chris’s journey towards his priestly vocation. Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring

For those youth travelling with us on pilgrimage to World Youth Day Lisbon, you can be more receptive to God’s calling by being intentional with these three things.

Be intentional in openness. Do not put limits or resign yourself to the fact that because you have so much on your plate, God couldn’t possibly be calling you to a religious or priestly vocation.

God could be calling you even if you are already in employment or have already begun studying at tafe or university.

Remember that the Lord even called the apostles, fishermen, labourers and even a tax collector, when they were in the middle of their work.

Be intentional in prayer. World Youth Day is a very sweet occasion where you’re chimed away from your everyday life together with millions in prayer with the Holy Father. There is a lot of grace so give the Lord your time and pray with intention towards knowing your vocation.

My vocation was primarily received and affirmed either at Mass, in Eucharistic Adoration, while reciting the Holy Rosary or praying a novena.

Continue frequenting the sacraments and praying devotions for your vocation, even when you return from your World Youth Day experience.

Be intentional in accountability. Make time to discern properly by effecting concrete changes to stay on track with your prayer life and spiritual progression and cross checking this with someone you trust with your interior life.

Being guided by a spiritual director helps keep yourself accountable for your prayer life and talking any challenges through to help discern your vocation.

And as we journey through the Holy Land and Italy to meet millions of our brothers and sisters in Lisbon and treasure all the experiences in our hearts with time in Fatima, may Our Lord Jesus Christ always be praised, through his mother, Mary most holy.

Fr Chris de Sousa CRS is a Somascan Religious and the Assistant Priest of St Joseph’s Moorebank and St Christopher’s Holsworthy.

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