Running for the call of God

Holy Spirit Seminarian Jason Irawan has several motivations for entering this weekend’s City2Surf fun run.

The 27-year-old sees it as an opportunity to bond with his fellow seminarians, priests, and parishioners over a shared challenge, exercise and fun, while also ‘normalising’ the call to a life of service.

“When I first joined the Seminary, I noticed that people don’t see you as a normal human being as much anymore,” Jason said.

“So, this is like showing people that yes, we can run, maybe poorly I suppose, but we can run and have fun.”

Jason is one of 20 seminarians, priests and parishioners walking or running in Sunday’s City2Surf for the Parramatta Catholic Foundation’s #Active4Vocations team. All funds raised will support our seminarians’ education and spiritual formation, helping them to achieve their dreams to become priests. Click here to donate.

Jason joined the Diocese of Parramatta Holy Spirit Seminary in February this year, having resisted the call to the priesthood for around nine years.

He first seriously thought of a vocation in the Catholic Church when he was 18.

“I kind of bargained with God and I was like, ‘I’ll just get my HSC mark and go from there’,” he said. “But then I got a good mark and told God, “I was just kidding, I’m going to do engineering’. And then halfway through the degree I also was like, ‘Maybe I should just quit and see about the priesthood’.”

The toing and froing between finishing his double degree in material science and biomedical engineering at the University of New South Wales and quitting to join the priesthood continued throughout his degree. The calling was still there on graduation, and as he entered the workforce.

“Then I thought this is happening quite regularly, so I decided that I owed it to myself to at least work it out. That is what the seminary is for – it’s not like I’m irreversibly committed. But I decided to really seriously and intentionally try it.”

While Jason appreciates that not everyone understands his decision, he has the full support of his family and friends.

“I think it’s hard for people to understand why I would leave a job that paid me well and you are good at, to do something that will not ever lead to financial independence or my own family etc. And that’s fair enough,” he said.

“I just think this is the way that I would like to serve the community and serve God. Everyone can serve God; you don’t have to be a priest or a religious sister. Everyday people serve God. Being a good friend is serving God, being a good neighbour, being a good son or daughter, a good parent. But only a priest does it this way, and I think this is the way that is most right for me.”

Answering God’s call to a life of service as a priest requires an incredible leap of faith. Show your support and spur our seminarians and Active4Vocations team with a donation – click here to donate.

While Jason likens his first year in the seminary to adjusting to life with a newborn baby, he says he is in the right place.

“It’s tough at times but good in the end,” he said.

Living at the seminary, Jason says he is making good friends with his fellow seminarians who are a wonderful support during those ‘tougher times’. The group prays together daily, attends Mass and classes together. Every Friday, Jason teaches scripture at a local public primary school as part of his community service.

“It’s a throwback,” Jason said of teaching scripture at a school. “Before I joined the seminary, I was a volunteer youth leader at my Church.”

While his study routine is intensive, Jason – a former rock climber – finds time for his favourite pastimes of volleyball, squash, and board and video games.

“I have been a drummer since I was 12, so 15 years now,” he said. “But I’m obviously not practicing much in the seminary.”

During this National Vocation Awareness Week from 6 to 13 August, Jason encourages those who are feeling the call from God to vocations in the Catholic Church to be open.

“If It feels like a calling, then come and see!” he said.

The concept of ‘vocation’ applies to every person’s life, for if we listen well, we discover that God calls each of us to play a part in His mission here on the earth.

Whether in single life commitments, relationship and marriage, the religious life, priesthood, or diaconate, each such commitment of loving forms part of Christ’s dream of life and unity.

Discerning our vocation enables us to work towards greater goals, using our gifts and talents to serve others, bring glory to God, and fulfill the purposes God has ordained for our lives.

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