“Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Mt 10:8)
My Vocation story- Fr. Paulus Marandi, CMF
Let me start with telling you who I am and where I come from. I was born in Babupur, a small village in the state of Jharkhand in East India. I was born in a poor family. My parents used to work in the farm day in and day out to earn their living and support my three brothers. I started my school when I was 5 years old with the help of an aunt. I would walk nearly 4 miles to get to school. It was getting difficult to walk to school back and forth but I hardly cared about the distance and fatigue. I wanted to become to become someone great but I did not know who I would be. Meanwhile a local priest noticed me and was impressed to see my interest in studies; so a few years later, he found me a sponsor (Unbound: A Catholic charity organization) from USA who would eventually pay my tuition and boarding in the school.
Thus I began to live in a missionary run boarding school. Even though I missed my parents back home, I did well as a student. My parents visited me once a month and I was also able to visit home at every major vacation. It was during those days when I was in the boarding school, I learnt about religion and my faith as Christian. The priests and nuns who taught us were very inspirational. I looked up to them with respect and admiration for who they were and what they were doing for us. It was during those days something was stirring me to be like them but I did not really know if I had the religious vocation.
When I was in High School, a certain Claretian priest visited our school and he talked to us about the vocation to religious life. He talked about how missionaries serve people of God and how they travel wherever needed to serve those in need. I felt like I should give it a try. Some of my friends and I gave our contacts to that Claretian vocation director. The principal of my High School, a diocesan priest was also encouraging and was very supportive. He was like, “just go and attend the discernment program. If you don’t like it, come back and we will look for some other places where you can do your higher studies.”
After finishing the 10th grade, I attended the Claretian discernment retreat in Ranchi, India together with my 3 High School friends. Fortunately, or unfortunately, only I was selected to part of the formation program. I was not willing to go the seminary alone but then one again the principal came to my rescue and he persuaded me to give it a try. He booked a bus ticket for me and one day June 12, 2002, I entered the Claretian seminary for priestly formation.
The life in the seminary was no different from what I had already lived in the boarding school run by the missionaries. Getting up early in the morning, doing the Morning Prayer, mass and then study were all the same. The only difference in the seminary was that we were not able to talk to girls anymore. As the days passed by, I really felt at home in the seminary. I really enjoyed the community life and the ministry we did from the seminary. I felt like God was always calling me to do this. The thought about going back to home or getting married never crossed my mind. I was happy with the way of life and I wanted to do better in the formation. I was looking forward to work among the poorest of the poor, the indigenous tribes of North India.
When I was finishing my theology formation, one day our theology rector called me to talk to me personally. I thought I was in trouble because the rector doesn’t really talk to a student unless it is a serious matter. He took me for a walk and he told me that I was chosen to be a missionary in the US. I was like, “what? me a missionary in the US?” He said, “Take a week time and let me know if you are ready to go to USA.” After a few consultations with my spiritual director, I wrote to the rector and the provincial that I was willing to go to the US.
The idea of going to USA was exciting and also frightening. On August 15 2013, I took my first ever flight to come the US. I landed in Chicago and after enjoying a brief summer in the Windy City, I saw snow fall for the first time in my life. It was all very exciting. It was a difficult winter but with the support of the formators and the seminary companions it was easier to adapt to a new place and culture. After 3 years of seminary formation in Chicago, I went back to India for my ordination. I was ordained a priest on May 27, 2016. It was great day. People from my village and the surrounding region, Christians and non-Christians, all came together to witness my ordination and my first mass. The dream of a young boy who wanted to become someone great was now a priest.
To me my vocation is a gift from God. I have received it freely and I want to give myself and the fruits of my vocation to people freely. I try to live out my vocation with gratitude. I’m so happy to be a priest. It is such a joy to serve. When I help people and people appreciate it, that makes me feel worthy to have been ordained. When I see people happy because of what I am or what I do, that makes my life worthwhile.
Could you be called to a vocation to serve the people of God as a missionary? Check out www.myclaret.org to find out more and contact a vocation director who will be happy to accompany you on your discernment journey.