Five minutes with Mark Ha, seminarian
The Catholic Voice spent five minutes with Mark Ha, who is studying for the priesthood at the Seminary of the Good Shepherd in Sydney.
What was your journey before you entered the seminary?
I was born and raised in Vietnam. I came to Australia as an accounting student and was studying at the University of Canberra. However, during my second year in Australia I felt God was calling me to become a priest. I had actually been searching for inner peace for many years and decided to enter the seminary as a “come-and-see” experience. In 2015, I was accepted into the Good Shepherd Seminary in Sydney.
We understand it didn’t quite work out the way you hoped. What happened?
The application for a change in my visa status to allow me to enter the seminary was rejected. This happened on the very day I was about to fly to Sydney to start at Good Shepherd. Immigration authorities asked me to finish my accounting studies before a new visa could be issued.
This must have been a difficult time for you.
Yes, it was. I was shocked and upset because I was thinking God wasn’t calling me to become a priest after all. I had quit all my jobs to join the seminary and being a foreign student I faced expensive fees at the University of Canberra. Through God’s work, however, somehow it turned out that I got a job at the QT Canberra Hotel. After two years I finished my degree and I started on my journey to become a priest in 2017. Looking back, I always give thanks to God because He led me to face many trials and to help me to realise God’s voice in those times.
What’s been the most difficult thing about your journey of discernment to the priesthood?
The hardest part is saying ‘yes’, and to keep saying ‘yes’, to the calling that I felt deep inside my heart. But being able to say ‘yes’ is the first victory for the grace of the Holy Spirit to come and fulfil our vocation. It’s sometimes a challenge to trust in the long process, to trust in formation, and to trust in God’s calling. At the seminary I felt strongly about God’s calling during the third week of the thirty-day St Ignatius retreat at the end of year one.
What was your greatest fear?
I was always afraid to take a new challenge and fear of failure. But the more I stay in the formation for the priesthood and the better I discern my vocation, the more I gain in confidence and ready to take the challenge. Challenges are opportunities.
What is your greatest consolation?
Apart from developing my understanding about Catholicism, I have learnt so much more about being a human being. Pastoral work is part of my studies. It plays a big part in my vocation because I found that being with people is my passion.