– Robaird O’Cearbhaill
Hong Kong Correspondent
A devoted Catholic, Patrick Davis describes himself as a “social serial entrepreneur.” His successful years of building and managing a non-profit company, benefitting many in Asia, have shown his passion for helping the poorest of the poor in practical healthy ways.
However Davis wants to move on, to develop himself spiritually and professionally, thus a desire for a wider life, in religion. Davis has been attracted to the priesthood since childhood, when priests in his parish were “inspiring”, implanting respect for the vocation of priesthood, while living within his religious family. Davis is fully aware the divine calling to be a priest must be fully realized before approaching a seminary education and be approved before taking Holy Orders. Likewise, he is aware of the reality that a priest’s life maybe “of sacrifice and hardship” but said that the rewards are high: “very rewarding personally and spiritually.” Also unlike some potential priests he does not think being unable to be married and staying celibate may be difficult but believes it will be an acceptable sacrifice.
You were on a good charitable, Catholic path with your NGO, but you said you wanted a change of career. Why?
My experience managing Soap Cycling, a local Hong Kong charity, over the past 5 years has been very rewarding, allowing me to meet many interesting and passionate people across the region. Everyone needs change from time to time. It’s a natural need for all human beings to further develop themselves spiritually and professionally. My journey with Soap Cycling has seen the organization grow its impact dramatically both in Hong Kong and in many new markets, drawing all sorts of people and talents to our mission. Looking back today on the state of the organization from when I started as a student volunteer, I feel comfortable stepping away as it is in good hands with lots of support to keep it growing sustainably. The goal of every good manager should be to create the circumstances where they are no longer needed. I hope I have achieved that with Soap Cycling.
Why and when did you decide that priesthood was your possible choice? What aspects of being a priest attracted you to the aim?
Since childhood I’ve always considered joining the priesthood a potential option for my career path. Growing up in a religious household, we were always taught that service to mankind and to our Church is the highest possible ambition. We had many inspiring priests serving our parish growing up, and they instilled in me a great respect for the priesthood as a vocation. However, becoming a priest is not a choice, but a calling. If called to serve, I would not hesitate to answer the call. It is a life of sacrifice and hardship, but one that is also very rewarding personally and spiritually.
There are many self-questioning interrogations, raising potential doubts, and, or conflicts, in the priesthood formation. The path is complex and requires thorough self-examination proving yourself to your seminary teachers. Tell us how have you thought about these issues, completely through or not. How far have you gone until now?
I have very little understanding of what the process to become a priest actually entails. All I know is that if I were called to take Holy Orders, the obstacles that must be faced to make that happen would seem insignificant compared with my motivation to see it through. Every life choice entails some sacrifice of personal wants and desires with the reality of a new living situation. For example, pursuing a career in the NGO sector in Hong Kong necessitated a very jarring rebalancing of my lifestyle in a foreign land from what I was used to back in the States. It has been a life of uncertainty and stress on many fronts. The rewards of that decision have far outweighed the negatives, and I would make the same choice again, if offered.
Men with your attitude and spiritual disposition must, of course, wonder if they can forgo marriage to be a Catholic priest. How would you accept that sacrifice?
There are sacrifices we all must make no matter what life path we choose. Personally, I’ve never considered marriage to be a life goal. As with receiving the call to become a priest, I leave my future relationship or marital status in the hands of a higher power. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, it wasn’t meant to be.
Do you have any good advice to Catholics to maintain their faith in our current world?
I am in no position to lecture anyone on how to remain a good Catholic. My personal philosophy is to take each day as it comes and to maintain an attitude of optimism and humility, and gratitude for what I have been given in this world.
Fr Thomas Berg a professor of moral theology from a New York seminary suggested asking potential priests the following: “Ultimately, your primal motivation should arise from your intimate friendship with Jesus Christ. In the best case scenario, you will be able to share with them ( seminary formators ) how you feel a call to priesthood the emanates from your love for Jesus Christ, how you want, like Jesus, to take on the Church as your bride, and serve her exclusively and unconditionally throughout the rest of your life.” Do you agree with this view and imagine being there at some point?
I do see the priesthood as a partnership, similar to marriage. We are all seeking, throughout our lives, to find either a person or organization that shares our values and is willing to share our joys and sorrows for the long run. Personally, becoming a priest in the future, only that if I felt the call to serve, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so.
You said priesthood is a life of sacrifice and hardship, but one that is also very “rewarding personally and spiritually”. How do you imagine those rewards if successfully achieving priesthood?
As with any partnership, the opportunity to share a common vision, as well as burdens, with another party, provides support for what can often be an arduous journey through life. In modern times we are constantly bombarded with multitudes of choices that we can take as to careers, living situations, relationships, goals. In many ways that defines our progress toward a modern living condition. However, there is also the negative side of not always being able to rationally evaluate and decide what is best. By taking Holy Orders, I would imagine the greatest reward would be knowing ultimately that you have a partner that can provide mutually support and remove the uncertainty that many people struggle with day to day.
As you said: “We had many inspiring priests serving our parish growing up and they instilled in me a great respect for the priesthood as a vocation.” Why were they so inspiring for you and was that why only they instilled that respect?
I grew up in a very small parish in the north Georgia mountains (Our Lady of La Salette, Waleska, Georgia). Catholics were definitely very much in the minority in the rural, mostly Protestant, community. The priests who served our parish were very much a window to the wider world of Catholicism, from which we had very little contact, providing a global perspective on the Church and its impact globally. Being quite isolated and inward-looking, the parish community relied on the priests a great deal, to offer a sense of community and purpose in this small corner of America. I remember them always being available to any parish member who needed to discuss faith or life issues. They all took a keen interest in youth activities and CCD, making sure that our youthful exuberance for life never strayed into negative paths. They also made lots of inroads into the wider community, which was often ambivalent or even hostile, towards what was seen as a foreign religion.