The Jesuits in Singapore-Malaysia celebrated the ordination of Fr Jerome Leon SJ on August 19 in the Church of St Ignatius in Singapore. Archbishop William Goh celebrated the Mass and presided over the ceremonies. He reminded the new priest to “depend on the Lord” in his priestly ministries, saying, “in your imperfections and inadequacy, this is where people will see the glory of God”.
Fr Leon entered the Society of Jesus in 2007 at the age of 40. “I am what you might call a late vocation,” he said, “but I am also a ‘young’ Catholic, as I was baptised only in 2004.”
Prior to joining the Jesuits, Fr Leon worked in the engineering industry. “Like many other Singaporeans, I started building my résumé and bank balance after graduation. However, I was never truly happy or contented,” he said.
He recalled being greatly touched by a Jesuit vocation poster he saw that read “Sinners, yet Called” while visiting the Church of St Ignatius two days before his baptism. “These words touched me deeply and over the next few weeks, I had a strong urge to contact the Jesuits,” he said.
He did contact the Jesuits and then Novice Master Fr Philip Heng SJ encouraged him to get involved with church ministries while discerning his vocation. One of these ministries was serving at the Singapore Leprosy Relief Association with Jesuit novices. “My experience at the leprosy association helped me deepen my relationship with God and while serving the residents, it was clear to me then that service to God and His people was my calling.”
He continued to feel the call during his pastoral experiments as a novice. He served the aged and terminally ill in St Joseph’s Home, was a cleaner at Jurong Bird Park, and lived and worked with migrant workers in a landscaping company. The experiment with the migrant workers is one he remembers well and describes as an “eye opening and humbling experience”. “They shared with me dreams of returning to their own country one day to buy a plot of land to farm and live,” he said.
He did his Philosophy studies at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines from 2009 to 2011 before returning to Singapore for his two-year Regency. After that he was sent to Boston College in the United States for his theology studies.
Now 50, Fr Leon said he has “relied on the Lord through prayer” whenever he felt alone or lost. At his ordination, he thanked the many people he has met in his life “through whom God has worked in forming me”. Fr Leon began his new assignment as Assistant Parish Priest in the Church of St Ignatius in Singapore on September 1.
To those who are thinking of joining the priesthood, his advice is to seek the support and guidance of a spiritual director and to not let fear get in the way.