By Lara Pickford-Gordon
The “call” to priesthood doesn’t happen in the same way for all men. For Fr Lindsay John, 43 years, it came as “small nudges” which he can now distinguish in retrospect.
Fr John was interviewed via email and telephone in the days leading up to his ordination to the priesthood. He made the first step last May when he was ordained to the diaconate.
As he prepared to make final vows, he told the Catholic News his feelings were “mixed”. There were days of calm and peace and days of anxiety for the lifetime journey he was embarking on.
Fr John is the son of Selwyn and Diana John; he grew up in Lange Park, Chaguanas and attended Couva Exchange RC, Chaguanas Junior Secondary (Forms 1–3) and Presentation College, Chaguanas (Forms 4– 6). His work experience includes clerical jobs, bank teller and in the Information Technology of a bank, and for five years was a Systems Administrator at UWI, 2003–2008.
There have been many challenges along the way however. Fr John highlighted the “small nudges which came through experience and involvement” in Church.
“For instance, the experience at one Mass during my childhood remained with me, though I am unsure why. There was nothing special or significant about it, maybe the fact that my family was going to the beach immediately afterwards influenced my attentiveness. I followed the Mass from beginning to end, experiencing a sense of awe that stayed with me for much of the day. None of the Masses I attended in previous years had this effect. Whenever someone asks me about my early days of Mass attendance, that one stands out.”
As a teen and young adult, Fr John said he was active in parish life at St Philip and James, especially in youth, and music ministry. This kept him involved in something positive and helped deepen his relationship with Christ. He added, “I saw God’s hand at work in these ministries”.
While an undergraduate at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine 1997–2000 pursuing Computer Studies, the question of vocation arose but he was unsure of God’s call in his life and sought guidance from different persons.
Fr John said, “One piece of advice that stood out for me came from a priest who said not to get worked up about what your call is in life. He recommended developing a personal relationship with Christ, and from there God’s plan would become clear.”
While this stood out, he clarified there were “quite a few priests both religious and diocesan” who influenced his life and whose advice stayed with him.
In 2007, he along with four others participated in a programme hosted by the Archdiocese for men discerning their vocation. It took place over three months for three weekends each month.
“This Aspirancy programme as it was called got me interested in the diocesan priesthood. Included each week was a testimony given by a different priest, on his journey to priesthood. I identified with a number of these stories. At the end of the programme, I was not sure if priesthood was for me, but in order to find out, I continued journeying with them,” Fr John said.
He entered the seminary in 2009 and this provided the environment and community to further discern God’s call in his life.
From 2010–2014 he travelled to the Dominican Republic to study Philosophy at Seminario Pontifico Santo Tomas de Aquino—St Thomas Aquinas Seminary. Training at the Seminary of St John Vianney and Uganda Martyrs, Mt St Benedict had been suspended for three years from June 30 according to the Archdiocese website “for the purposes of improving the facilities and enrolment, increasing resident faculty and developing its financial base”.
The time spent in the DR exposed to a new culture and experiences took Fr John out of his “comfort zone” and was challenging. He explained, “It formed me in ways if I had stayed in Trinidad, I would not have been able to gain or test myself in those areas…I thought it would have been easier than it was. As soon as I landed in the airport I realised ‘Oh ho this is going to be a challenge’.” He described his first year there as feeling like “a long silent retreat”.
While it took time to adjust to the new environment “the culture helped and the people helped; I leaned to music at that time as one of the things that saw me through, not just Spanish music, English music as well.”
As a priest Fr John said he looks forward “to serving God’s people, serving the underserved”. He described himself as shy; when asked if he was comfortable presenting homilies, he replied “not yet” and laughed heartily.