Welcoming Brother Francis | 9 Apr 2022

On his Attachment with COTT
Recently, you may have noticed an unfamiliar young man, dressed in a white cassock, standing and mingling with parishioners, usually, at the entrance foyer of the church main hall after Masses. I, too, have wondered who he is.

Your questions are now answered. He is a seminarian, in his fourth year of formation from St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary. He is currently attached to Church of the Transfiguration (COTT) for a duration of one year.

So, let us warmly welcome Br. Francis. And I had an opportunity to have an interview with him, as a way to know more about him.

Br. Francis Tan

Vyner Jr: Hi Br. Francis. Welcome to COTT. It is a pleasure to meet you. Can you tell me more about yourself?

Br. Francis: Hi Vyner, thanks and nice to meet you too. I am Br. Francis Tan. I am 31 years old this year and am the eldest child with two younger sisters. I enjoy journeying with people, sipping a delicious cup of coffee, exercising as well as reading. My favourite book is “The Lord of the Rings”!

Vyner Jr: Which year are you currently in, on your formation for diocesan priesthood?

Br. Francis: There is a total of 8 years of formation for diocesan priesthood. I am, now, at a halfway mark in my 4th year (also called the Regency year). The Regency year is a period where I will be attached and lived in a parish for an entire year instead of living in the seminary.

It is quite a special year of being fully exposed and immersed in both the joys and struggles of the realities of the priesthood.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
Psalm 16:11

This is also part of my formation and discernment journey, which also include a 30-day silent retreat, sometime later this year.

Vyner Jr: What made you want to choose this path of priesthood?

Br. Francis: I did not really choose this path for myself. In fact, it was never part of my plans or dream in my life. When I was still a small boy at a very young age, there was already a desire within my heart to help others.

My parents did, in fact, asked me if I wanted to be a priest when I was 6 years old, but I gave them an immediate no! At that age, all I wanted to be was Batman so that I can help people and save lives!

Besides, I also had the wrong impression that a priest’s life is very mundane and boring (haha, what an irony!). Even though my parents never asked me this question again, somehow it stayed in with me in the depths of my heart.

Br. Francis & family (when he was 6)

I finally explored and wondered about this question when I was about 20 years old, after being posted overseas for an internship programme. I asked my parents, “How can I find out more about the life of a priest and they directed me to my own godfather, who is a Jesuit priest, in the same country that I was posted overseas. We had several email correspondences with basic questions such as, ‘What does a priest do? Where does he stay? What is his life like? etc…

However, after coming back to Singapore, I completely brushed this question aside once again and immersed myself back into my studies and computer games.

However, the simple desire to help people never left me, which led me to sign on to be a Police Officer for 5 years. It was in this juncture of my life that I fell deeply in love with Jesus Christ after attending the Conversion Experience Retreat. It was the first time in my life that I encountered Jesus, as a person, and felt His love for me in the depths of my soul. It completely changed my perspective of life and I began to live my life very differently. My priorities and the only desire that I had was to grow closer to the Lord and to live for Him.

It was here that the question that my parents asked me when I was 6 years old came up again. Once again, I approached my parents to ask the very same questions that I asked before. They were very surprised and told me that I have asked this before and had even emailed my godfather about it. It was only after checking my sent emails that I got a shock and began to realise that this might truly be something real and that I should give it proper considerable thought. This led to the start of a very intentional discernment process of discovering the priesthood and God’s Call for me in my life.

This process coupled with the desire to live for the Lord grew in my heart, which led me to work as a youth coordinator for the Office of Young People. It was through this journey, with the help of my community, colleagues, family and spiritual director that my relationship with the Lord deepened to not only discover my vocation, but also who I am as a person.
“Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.”
Psalm 40

It is only through this process that I discovered that the simple desire to help others, and even the desire to be Batman is brought to its greatest fulfilment in the priesthood. The life of a priest does not seem to be boring to me anymore but instead, attractive and fulfilling! I couldn’t have discovered this without first encountering the love of God, which is the pinnacle for all vocations. After all, it is God who calls and He uses everything to call us to Him, even superheroes like Batman (haha!).

The Seminary Community of 2022 (Br. Francis is standing 5th from the right)

Vyner Jr: How has your journey been for you? Has your faith in God deepened?

Br. Francis: Honestly speaking, the journey has not been easy. The greatest struggle for me is not outside of me but actually within me—growing in self-awareness and knowing who I am as a person. I am still in the process of learning more about myself each day, wrestling especially with my own weaknesses and insecurities, but also learning to embrace them with the help of God and the community. As much as it is my greatest struggle, it has also been one of my greatest joys too! It is only in this process that I am being transformed and even transfigured into a person that I never thought was ever possible. It is a miracle indeed and I am truly very grateful for the graces that God has provided and all the help and guidance from the people of God too!

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11

Vyner Jr: Now that you are on attachment with COTT, how has your experience been thus far?

Br. Francis: I am learning so much and really appreciate the willingness and availability of the priests here to guide and expose me to as much as possible. I am also so thankful and edified by the many volunteers and staff of this parish.

All of them work so hard, dedicating their time and energy to serving and building this church. Truly a church cannot be built by the priests alone and being with the parishioners here has shown me just how vital the role of the people of God is! Thank you all for loving Jesus and His Church, let us work hard together for the kingdom of God!

“Because there is one loaf, we, who are many are one body, because all of us partake of the one loaf.”
1 Corinthians 12:27

Vyner Jr: What do you want to do or learn during this attachment with COTT?

Br. Francis: Honestly, I do not have any specific goal but only desire to learn and experience as much as I can. I would like to deepen my own understanding and appreciation of what it means to be a priest of our Archdiocese of Singapore with both its struggles and joys. If this is God’s call for me, I do not want to be only a priest, but desire to be His holy, faithful and loving priest. Please continue to pray for me and all our seminarians and priests too!

Br. Francis Tan with a statue of St John Mary Vianney

Prayer of St John Mary Vianney
(Patron Saint for Parish Priests)

I love You, O my God, and my only desire is to love You until the last breath of my life.

I love You, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving You, than live without loving You.

I love You, Lord and the only grace I ask is to love You eternally.

My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love You, I want my heart to repeat it to You as often as I draw breath.

Vyner Jr: Who is your favourite Saint and why?

Br. Francis: St John Mary Vianney!

He is the patron saint of not only diocesan priests but all priests.

Besides his own vocation story, I am especially attracted to his deep love and simplicity after the heart of Christ and the Church.

He would teach,

‘Here is a rule for everyday life: Do not do anything which you cannot offer to God’.

This single-heartedness and virtue of purity is something which I greatly desire to live out in my life every day. It is through this total dependence on the grace of God that this humble man was transformed into the saint he probably never thought he could be!

Deep within me, I also believe that it is through facing all of my own trials with the Lord’s help that He is also forming and shaping me to become the saint that He wants me to be! And this is also true and possible for each and every single one of us!
“With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26

Vyner Jr: What is your advice for those considering the Diocesan Priesthood?

Br. Francis: I understand how daunting it can be to even think about or consider the possibility of the Priesthood.

“Don’t be afraid, just believe!”
Mark 5:36

Discernment is a process and considering the Priesthood does not necessarily mean that you will and must become a Priest.

However, if you feel a certain attraction or desire, why not just seek to find out more information first?

Attending our retreats or speaking to priests/seminarians can help to correct certain misconceptions and misunderstandings.

For me, the most important thing is to be honest and present with God and with yourself—only then can a true discernment be made.

Life is truly a Miracle with Jesus Christ. Your life too is also a Miracle with Jesus Christ! Do not be afraid to discover and respond to God’s call for you in your life.

After all, we only have one life to live. What kind of life do you want to live?

Vyner Jr: Wow, what an inspiring encounter you had! Thank you for sharing, Br. Francis.

Vyner Jr’s Thoughts and Reflections

Finding your calling in life or your true purpose in this universe, created by God, could result in great anxiety for us. And our calling or purpose is different in each one of us.

But nonetheless, we are all still God’s children. And that “each of us should use whatever gift we have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms”1 Peter 4:10.

The work ahead will be challenging. But God is with us and He will help and guide us with fervor, wisdom and humility. And at the end of it all, we will experience great joy and privilege in God and through Jesus Christ. To him, be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Signing Off,

      Vyner Gerard Albuquerque Junior

And don’t forget to say hi to our friendly Br. Francis when you see him around. Don’t be shy. He will be more than happy to connect with you. ?

To find out more about the seminary, visit https://seminary.catholic.sg.

Reflection Questions

  • Have you encountered God’s call? Have you experienced His presence? What are your greatest doubts about your call?
  • How do you view the relationship between what you do in your life and what Jesus did during his life? What experiences make you feel you are accomplishing His work?
  • What do you find most fulfilling about your work? Are you doing what you do today in response to God’s call?

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