On Saturday, June 10, 10 a.m., at the Mission Notre-Dame-d'Afrique, Claude Ngodji will be ordained a priest for the diocese of Montreal. In anticipation of his upcoming ordination, the future priest shares some insight about his vocation and himself.
How do you live out your encounter with the Lord?
My family upbringing, especially my initiation into a life of faith, was fundamental. Looking back, my encounter with the Lord was not marked by a precise moment, but occurred over a period of spiritual growth. The Lord took hold of me gradually throughout my catechetical journey, but especially during the meeting with the Archbishop. After the meeting, I understood that I had experienced a wonderful moment of encounter with Christ.
At what age or moment was the question of vocation raised?
Since college, when I was around seventeen years old, I have been saying unequivocally: "I know that the Lord is calling me. He is calling me to something special. But to what?" This led me to pay careful attention to every event in my life, my family and my surroundings. Practicing "the revision of life," a spiritual exercise associated with "the examination of conscience" with the "observe-judge-act" methodology of Catholic action, in particular of the YCS (Young Christian Students), of which I am a steadfast advocate, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I began to discern my vocation and call to the priesthood. That is when I confided in my priest, my mother and one of my aunts, and ended my academic studies.
Did you have any significant encounters during your years of formation (seminary or pastoral internship)?
During my first year working at the parish, I met a young man, very dynamic and learned, who had great faith and was very knowledgeable about the Church. I learned a lot from him. It was the young Pierre Thibodeau in the Unité paroissiale Saint-Laurent. I must also mention that I met two great servants of the Church, Micheline Trudel and Ghislaine, in this parish. Currently at the Notre Dame d'Afrique Mission, the group of elders in the CEVB (Communautés Ecclésiales Vivantes de Bases), faithful that are very engaged in community life, that is a testimony for me. My mentors during my internship have been true pastoral masters. Alain Vaillancourt, a great defender of the family, Bishop Alain Faubert, a man who truly loves the Church, Msgr. Frank Leo, Bertrand Montpetit and Guy Boulanger with their great sense of openness and understanding of others. Sister Rita and Albert Duchesne, people who are always there for the seminarians.
What appeals to you in the priestly ministry? What have you discovered?
The unimaginable and indescribable joy of knowing that I am an instrument of God in the administration of the sacraments as well as being the face and permanent presence of Christ within the community. The joy of being present and of serving at the altar where the Lord offers himself in sacrifice and officiates through the priest. The joy of taking and offering the body of Christ, and of bringing mercy to the people of God at all times.
The most wonderful discovery that I have made is to know that everything leads to the glory of God, and that obstacles can be sources of sanctification and blessing.
What Scripture verse did you choose for your ordination?
"I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not of my own accord, but he sent me" (John 8:42b)
I have adopted these words spoken by Christ. Firstly, because he's the one who called me. My priesthood does not belong to me, because Christ is the only priest, and he sends those he calls where he wishes to send them.
What makes a good priest today?
One who takes the time to lead a life of prayer both in the community and privately. One who is flexible and allows himself to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, capable of developing the abilities and attitudes that are necessary for his integration into his community. To be able to respond to Pope Francis' March 28, 2013 invitation to priests to be "shepherds living with 'the odour of the sheep'," in other words, "among [their] flock," who reach people in "their everyday lives" and all the way to the "outskirts" of their existence.
Is this a path that leads to happiness?
The priestly ministry itself can only be a source of joy. The environment and the situations can be stressful, however. Even in such situations, there is always a positive side, a side that contributes to our growth, and it is that side that is worth looking at and taking into consideration. Everything contributes to our enlightenment, to the church's journey, to God's glory and to the coming of Salvation.