Friday, April 12, 2013


I had some thought as I was watching the seminarians playing volleyball — the only game that the whole community can play together. It brings back memories of my difficulty with community games when I was a seminarian myself. I have never been very athletic. The only thing I was able to do at length was to swim. Even then, I would leisurely swim laps for three quarters of an hour. Team sports like soccer, basketball and hockey were distant dreams for me as hand-eye-leg co-ordination did not seem natural to me. I remember a soccer game in school where a classmate reminded me to keep to the opposite side of where uthe ball was.

Back to the seminary. Volleyball was and continues to be the community game of choice in the seminary. I would try my best and some brothers would cheer me on to keep me motivated. Some brothers keep to the principle of "playing to win" and express their displeasure at my clumsiness. There was one brother who was, like me, not able to play well and expressed the opinion that community games was not really important for priestly formation. After all, priests did not need to excel in sports to be a pastor. He kept coming for community games because he knew that the father formators placed some weight in community games. Except for him, those of us who were terrible in games tried our best and even tried to have individual training on days when we were allowed to have personal activities. We were quite serious in trying to help our team mates to win at volleyball. Nevertheless, whether we were serious about community games or not, we were ordained.

Looking at the seminarians now, I wonder whether the same thoughts are held by the seminarians of today. Community activities are important, even games. When I think of why I even trained, I realised the seriousness of fun. Ironic is it not? I wished that the community would have more fun during community games and so I took training seriously. You could say that I seriously wanted the community to have fun. Thus I worked at what seemed insignificant. Eventually, the 'not-so-fun' training sessions helped me to enjoy the game and because I could contribute a little to the game, I enjoyed the sweetness of the win and the agony of defeat with my brothers in the community. The importance of community games is the sharing of the self when one gets involved in the game. The more we are involved, the more we contribute to community. I believe that community was really important to me because I had involved myself.

The Church is community. Priests can be proficient, efficient and even perfect leaders. However, if they cannot understand community, they cannot be good pastors. Leaders ensure problems are solved and things fo smoothly in the community. Pastors are more concerned with the spiritual welfare of the flock than the efficiency of processes and tasks. I often like to express it this way. What is the use of a pastor who ensures the perfect running of a parish like a well-oiled machine but there is no heart. Better to have a parish with issues and imperfections, and caring parishioners working together to resolve them. This is, of course, my humble opinion.

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