| By Father Eric Gami

A journey of grace and encounter

I felt the call to the priesthood at the early age of 8. Certainly, too early to be taken seriously, some may say, but when I was receiving catechesis in preparation for the reception of the sacraments of baptism and First Holy Communion, the main catechist made it a duty of telling us inspiring stories, preaching, and giving exhortations. One such lecture focused on the seventh commandment, “Thou shall not steal,” of which, at that time, I was guilty.

About a year prior, I was in first grade, and all the pupils in school were obliged to donate money to the Holy Childhood Collection. The class teacher told us that the money was to be used for the training of seminarians for the priesthood. I thought what my parents gave me to contribute was too little, so I made a habit of taking money from my mother’s wallet. Listening to this lecture on the evil of theft made me so remorseful that I remember shedding tears as I listened.

Thankfully, my teacher balanced his teaching with the message of Divine Mercy; mentioning that there was hope for the thief if he repented, asking for forgiveness and making the effort not to steal again. He assured us that those who repented of their evil ways were mostly used by God for His good purpose.

He narrated to us a story of a priest whose mother after his ordination told the reception guests that the newly ordained priest had been a thief and that she never believed he would repent or become a priest. I bowed, placed my head on my desk, told God how sorry I was for my past deeds, and made a promise to never steal again. I told Him I was ready to serve Him as a priest just like the priest in the story.

Perceiving a call to the priesthood is one thing and saying yes is another. Saying Yes to God is not just a one-time thing; it is a journey marked sometimes by doubts, challenges, and obstacles. My journey was a period of twenty years, and within that time, I could have changed my mind. I did consider it, but as it is often said, God will not take you where His grace will not accompany you.

The priesthood and the process of discernment can aptly be seen as the encounter of grace, and it is in this encounter that He provides assistance and places before you people and conditions to respond to Him. The graces God bestowed on me through the Church, family, schools, teachers, catechists, friends, and spiritual directors led me to my ordination day on April 9, 2010. In my journey, all I can see is God’s loving mercy lifting me from sinfulness to mission with His loving and provident hands nudging, guiding, shielding, and leading me to His altar.

Father Eric Gami is the administrator of St. Barnabas and Holy Rosary Catholic Churches in Birmingham.