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On Being a Celibate "Father"

Columban seminarians with the bishop

By Fr. Frank Hoare

“I really only understood the Our Father when I became a father myself,” said the Anglican vicar to me. I believe he was just sharing something of his spiritual experience but it reminded me that, as a Catholic priest, I would never be a father.

Pages from a Missionary's Diary

A Hindu man, who used to join our small prayer group years ago, surprised me one day when he said, “It is right that we call you ‘Father.’ You left your country, you gave up a good job and a family, and you came here to show us the way to God. You are indeed a father to us.”

In recent years, I have been in charge of the formation of our Columban seminarians in Fiji. I encourage them to do their best in their philosophy and theology studies. I help them in personal discussions to know themselves and their motivation more deeply. I guide them in prayer and worship so they can come closer to God. I organize their pastoral work and help them to reflect on their experience and learn skills to help parishioners. 

I actually feel like a father to these young men – supporting, guiding and caring for them. We have guidelines for living together. But I trust them with freedom to make choices and decisions and I help them to discern the outcomes. I have had to apologize for some mistakes. But I enjoy the banter at table. I admire the qualities and growing maturity I see in these young men. They will make good missionary priests in the future.

I think I too can say the Our Father, sensing something of its meaning.

Columban Fr. Frank Hoare lives and works in Fiji.  

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