During my Christology exam I was asked how will I apply my theological learning to my future apostolate in Cambodia. Intellectually I knew the answer to the question. My answer was spot on, but something strange happened as I was answering the question. I could not hold back my tears. The reason is the deep-seated truth that I see God’s hand in my vocation. This has been very real for me before I left for Cambodia from Mumbai, when I was in Cambodia, during theology in Melbourne and now that I am ordained.
On 21st August, Dn. Michael Gaikwad (THA-Cambodia) was ordained a priest by Bishop Thomas Dabre, Bishop of Poona Diocese in Sacred Heart Parish Yerwada, in Salesian Province om Mumbai-India. Those allowed for the Eucharist were my parents, brother, sister-in-law, nephew and a few close family members.
Before going to Cambodia in May 2015, my parents, my younger brother Daniel and I had doubts, worries and anxieties, it was not an easy time for us. At that time, I was all set to begin my theology studies in India. However, deep inside me I felt God calling me to go to the missions. I knew I would have my challenges of climate, food, culture and language.
However, trusting in God’s plan I landed in Cambodia on 4th Oct 2015. I was really happy to be welcomed by the Salesian family there. They really made me feel a part of who they were. I did have my challenges nevertheless I always recalled the advice I had received that God waits of me in Cambodia. Yes, I did meet God in Cambodia through the members of the Salesian family. This is a blessing of God for me even today.
Then as life progressed, I went to Australia on 6th May 2017. Once I was here the process of being re-born (John 3:5) continued. In that country I was able to grow in various dimensions of the intellect, spiritual growth, human development and wonderful pastoral experiences.
In my moments of prayer, I had this question – why was I ordained a Salesian priest during a global pandemic? I had this question even before I was ordained. Since 2008 I was looking forward to the day of my priestly ordination from my novitiate days.
I will never be able to answer this question completely. On the one hand, in moments of prayer I feel that the Triune God is telling me that his plans for me are greater than my petty expectations. On the other hand, I feel that the Lord wanted me to be ordained during such a critical moment in human history. I feel that my Salesian vocation is a mystery and it will gradually unfold amidst the Salesian family and will be constantly nourished by God’s grace.
In this joyous moment, I am thankful to the Triune God for my parents, Daniel my brother and Sharal my sister in-law. Thank God for the gift of baby Daryl to my family. Many have supported me in my vocational journey. Especially my Salesian formators and the members of the Salesian family in Mumbai, Cambodia and Australia. The Lord almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1: 49).
Written by Fr. Michael Gaikwad from Mumbai, India.