The special calling to serve God is so huge and powerful that one can explode if he doesn’t answer that calling. -Father Nilo
Having a beautiful wife, a great career, and having financial wealth were one of his dreams. But God called him to be His servant when he almost reached his dreams. “Are you REALLY a REAL priest?” Almost everyone he meets always ask this same question to him. In this rare opportunity, Father Nilo will share his inspiring life testimony to us.
Being a priest must be one of your biggest steps in life. Have you ever thought about it before?
I had never thought about becoming a priest. I was born in Catholic family but I was assured 101% I didn’t want to be a priest. My parents only have two children, my little sister and I. Being the only son in my family had pushed me to pursue the same common dreams as my own relatives had. When I was a little boy, I wanted to be a lawyer or a philosophy lecturer. My family was not the faithful one. Even we felt it is enough for one member of the family who attended the Sunday mass. So we attended the mass in turn.
However, God used my ex-girlfriend in university to prepare me in my calling as a priest. Studying philosophy for two years turned me into an atheist. My ex-girlfriend was very religious. She never got tired to draw me closer to God. Every day, she attended the daily mass the church, she prayed the Rosary, prayed the Novena, and prayed other devotions. I loved her too much so I always made my time to receive her invitation, not for the relation with God in prayer, but just to spend my time with her. We followed the daily mass at our university’s chapel. The sermon brought by the priest from the Dominicans Order of Preachers (Ordo Praedicatorum) touched my heart. Slowly but sure, I started to realize my calling as a priest. My spiritual experience before I fulfilled my calling as a priest was so ordinary and I never thought how it would felt like to wear the priest’s robe, which I was once consider it like women’s garment.
How did you cope with yourself before eventually answered “Yes” to this special calling?
My first struggle was my ex-girlfriend. She released me because she felt she was the one that draw me closer to God so she would not be the person who stands between God and me through my calling. At first, she prayed for me to become a believer not to become a priest. But her willingness to release me so that I could enter the seminary showed how she loved God and me. My second battle was my own success. I have received the doctoral certification from Vatican that allows me to teach as philosophy lecturer everywhere. But one day, the certification was damaged because I unintentionally spilled out orange juice over it. It became clear for me that God wanted me to serve Him as a priest not a philosophy lecturer who pursues career and worldly wealth. My third struggle was my family. They were hardly burdened when they eventually allow me to live my calling as a priest. The power of prayer was the key of success in overcoming my own resistance and my family’s confrontation. The special calling to serve God is so huge and powerful that one can explode if he doesn’t answer that calling. In the same way, I eventually answered “Yes!” to God.
Have you ever thought to stop when you are dealing with your challenges? What makes you stay faithful in living your calling as a priest?
The challenges for me are losing my energy in the mind, heart, and physical body. As a priest, I have a very tight schedule from early morning to the evening, both in my personal activity such us prayer, and in serving people. Praise the Lord, I have never thought to quit, but I always think, will this worth? I have done many things for others. But, how about myself? How about my family? When I have such discouraging thoughts, when I am weak, I remind myself my main reason why I am where I am. I have chosen to answer God’s calling and I have taken a decision to bear the responsibility serving God as His personal servant. Every morning when I wake up, I remind myself: “Nilo, you are a priest! Don’t do anything that against it. Don’t be anything except being a priest. God’s grace of commitment encourages me that I do all things to God. This decision and commitment rebuild my passion to live my calling.
By being a priest, you must understand and love the Catholic Church. In your opinion, what makes Catholic special?
The Catholic Church is so special because of our founder who is Lord Jesus Christ, the Whole Truth itself. I‘m not saying that there isn’t any truth outside the Catholic Church. But we can learn more about the Truth through the Holy Sacraments. We also have many devotional prayers and guardian saints. We can pray in adoration to draw ourselves to God. We also have and love Mother Mary who always pray for us. We are given the free will and a chance to repentance through the Reconciliation Sacrament. There are many things the Catholic Church offers as the door for us to reconcile with God.
What is the main focus of your ministry in the Catholic Church?
My main focus of ministry is to build up people. I have been given an assignment to guide young seminaries in Indonesia. As the coordinator in my congregation, I draw myself closer to the Catholic communities of young people, both in Philippines and in Indonesia, especially in Surabaya. I do the best I can do to help young Catholic people to find and answer their calling. I involve myself in many prayer meetings and Bible study, especially as speaker. Through this personal approach, I greatly hope the young people will be encouraged to find support from me as I can help to guide them to the next level such as entering the seminary.
How do you see the role of young Catholic people today and their future impact to the Church?
The young people are the Church’s future hope. First, they have a massive energy that is very useful to build the Church. I strongly hope they can use it in positive direction and not to waste it in useless actions or damaging themselves. Second, they have unlimited creativity. I aware that the Catholic Church is full of tradition, by which it may serves as barrier for their creativity. Though so, I believe God will guide them personally to develop and use their given creativity to build the Church. For example, through praise and worship, musical drama, or any creative ways. Third, they have love to be shared so that many people can come to God through their life. I strongly hope the young Catholic people can focus on these three things: energy, creativity, and their love, to build the Church.
In your opinion, how can we place our plan in line with God’s unfathomable divine plan for our life?
I think the only way to know that is to open yourself to God. In my past, all I wanted is to possess great wealth, expensive cars and houses, a wife and a happy family. Now, I have none of it, but I am happy. I realize it is all God’s work in my life. It is for my goodness so that I can stay humble and meek. If I didn’t open myself to God, if I refused to answer God’s calling, I might not be as happy as I am today. I believe when I put God first, when I allow God’s plan to come to pass in my life, and when I surrender myself totally to Him, He will take care of me and the people I love.
Do you have any message for the young Catholic people?
First, be a Catholic! Be 100% Catholic. Don’t move anywhere. When we become a Catholic, we have the responsibility to understand our faith. The second and the most important is, love your faith. By loving our faith, we can understand our ultimate purpose, that is Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
Jurnalist: Lidya/Mei Ling / English translation & editor: Erica