Jean-Noel Antoine Marie, fifth Year student, St Charles Seminary
I was born on Christmas Eve in 1959 into a poor family on the island of Mauritius, the ‘land of the dodo’. At the age of 20 while I was discerning a call to the priesthood I won a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom.
Although I took a different path, the priesthood was always on my mind and in my heart. I became involved with the Catholic chaplaincy of the University of London which helped keep the flame of my vocation burning within me until one day, out of the blue, one of the Marist Sisters who got to know me well asked me whether I had ever considered the priesthood. I quickly changed the subject because I thought that that avenue was definitely closed.
I thought I could drown that voice by focusing on my studies but wherever I turned it was there. I soon discovered that God’s gentle voice is also irrepressible.
I graduated at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1984 and migrated to Australia to be reunited with my family in 1985. In 1986 I joined the Department of Social Security as a public servant. While there I assumed various roles and worked with people from all walks of life – people with disabilities, sole parents, the elderly, nursing home residents and farmers. I also dealt with issues that affect people’s livelihood. Under the auspices of Centrelink I conducted free financial seminars for the general public and also got to work very closely with the finance industry.
The recurring theme for my financial seminars was: Securing Your Financial Future. One day I suddenly realised that the future that we are being called to secure transcends our financial needs and the fleeting pleasures and comfort of this transient world.
Looking back on this chapter of my life I can now see that God was grooming me for something that will endure long after the pyramids are dust. Working at Centrelink has been for me like graduating from the academy of life itself, a training ground for what lies ahead. In 2002 I decided to take seriously my vocation to the priesthood. After two years of discernment and soul searching I entered St Charles Seminary in August 2004. In spite of my age (I am currently the oldest at the seminary) and my many weaknesses I know that the Lord has not abandoned me. He has given me a second chance. To those who are being called into the priesthood I would like to echo the encouraging words of Pope John Paul II: “Do not be afraid”. Personally I have learnt that it is never too late to respond to God’s call.
As I forge ahead with great expectation I thank my parents, my God-parents, my parish priest at my little village of Souillac in Mauritius, my teachers for nurturing the faith that I treasure and for instilling in me a great love for the Church. I am also blessed to be sharing this extraordinary journey with my brother seminarians who are for me a great source of inspiration. As I listen to their testimonies of trust and commitment, my own faith and trust in God’s will is vindicated.